Leading article: The test for Mr Cameron: will he take on his party?

Share

It will come as no surprise that The Independent agrees with the majority of the recommendations in the Conservative Party's Quality of Life policy group report. We have been calling for such measures for several years now. Take aviation. The report demands the removal of effective tax breaks on flights and a moratorium on the expansion of UK airports. This is sensible. Aviation is the UK's fastest-growing source of carbon emissions. If we are to have any chance of slowing climate change, it is vital that the runaway growth of the aviation sector be curtailed. The argument that such measures would merely penalise the poor is weak. It is the middle classes, not the less well-off, who are responsible for the massive increases in the use of budget airlines in recent years.

The report also sensibly balances proposals for penalties on environmentally damaging behaviour with incentives for those who make more environmentally sensitive choices. For instance, it proposes that higher tax on fuel-inefficient cars be balanced by a substantially lower rate for smaller, cleaner cars. It calls for a reduction in council tax on energy-efficient homes and a lowering of business rates for greener offices. While air travel would become more expensive if the report were implemented, the travelling public would benefit from greater public investment in the train network. Despite the slurs of the vested interests in the transport industry, there is as much carrot as stick in this report as far as the general public is concerned. And the report's authors are careful to stress that there is no contradiction between economic prosperity and environmentally sound policies. Again, this is an approach The Independent has championed over the years.

David Cameron deserves credit for drawing attention to the plight of the environment since he became Conservative leader. Of course, he finds himself treading in the footsteps of the Liberal Democrats, the most consistently "green" of the major political parties. But most Liberal Democrat supporters have long been conscious of the need to protect the environment. By pushing environmental concerns so strongly over the past two years Mr Cameron has been going against the grain of his party. And this focus on the environment from the main opposition party has increased pressure on the Government to live up to its own rather modest promises in this area.

But despite the merits of these proposals, what matters now is that they are transformed into party policy. In recent weeks Mr Cameron has moved in a rather unsavoury direction, talking about "anarchy in the UK" and highlighting issues such as immigration and crime to appease his party critics. The question is whether this is merely a short-term stutter to shore up his position in the polls and fend off an early election, or whether Mr Cameron is retreating into the same reactionary comfort zone that doomed his predecessors.

If Mr Cameron wants to convince the electorate that he is fit to be prime minister and that his party has really changed, he must make a stand on green issues. He has to accept that the free market has failed to protect the environment and argue that a more interventionist approach is required if we are to confront climate change.

This will be anything but easy. Already there are complaints in his party over the implications of these recommendations. But to row back on his environmental pledges now would deliver a fatal blow to Mr Cameron's credibility. This policy group has furnished the Tory leader with the intellectual arguments for the adoption of a revolutionary environmental policy. He must now use them. The defining moment of Mr Cameron's leadership has arrived.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world