Boris Johnson condemns his past self for ‘sneering’ at wind power

PM said wind power could not ‘pull the skin off a rice pudding’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 06 October 2020 12:38 BST
Boris Johnson says he remembers how people used to 'sneer' at wind farms

Boris Johnson has accused his past self of “forgetting the history of this country” in his speech to the Conservative party conference in a new defence of wind power.

Pre-released lines from the prime minister's keynote address show will accuse critics of wind power of "sneering" at the technology, now one of the most cost-effective electricity sources.

"I remember how some people used to sneer at wind power, twenty years ago, and say that it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding," he is expected to say.

"They forgot the history of this country. It was offshore wind that puffed the sails of Drake and Raleigh and Nelson, and propelled this country to commercial greatness."  

But the prime minister will fail to mention that the only person known to have made this colourful claim about wind farms is himself, in 2013.

Just seven years ago, rather than twenty, he told the LBC radio station: "Labour put in a load of wind farms that failed to pull the skin off a rice pudding. We now have the opportunity to get shale gas - let's look at it."

After social media users pointed out the contradiction,  Downing Street claimed that the allusion to his own comments was deliberate and meant to be “tongue in cheek” – though the reference is unlikely to be obvious to anyone but the most eagle-eyed fan of his work.

But whatever the intention, the comments appear to be a tacit admission that he has changed his mind about green energy.

Asked about the contradiction as he did the media rounds ahead of he PM's speech, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "I don’t know about then.

"The difference now is wind power, we know it’s clean, but it’s also now cheap and affordable, and it’s something we're very good at in this country.

"We can be a global leader in it. It can be a brand new industry for us, create lots of jobs."

In the fourth quarter of 2019, 40 per cent of Britain's electricity came from renewable sources, including 20 per cent from wind, according to an analysis by the website Carbon Brief. 

Both onshore and offshore wind have dramatically reduced in price in recent years amid rapid advances in technology. It was reported in March this year that the government is expected to reverse a ban on subsidies for onshore wind introduced under David Cameron.

The PM is expected to unveil an investment package to support offshore wind power in his speech later today.

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