There was a great deal of irritation among voters at the prospect of expensive and unproven heat pumps in their homes and having to drive expensive electric cars by 2030 without a full charging infrastructure.
So, is it sensible for a pragmatic politician like Rishi Sunak to recognise these anxieties and put the brake on the Net Zero drive; for that is what it is, despite denials?
The answer is probably yes from a narrow Conservative point of view, particularly because Labour has said it will reimpose the 2030 deadline for petrol cars. We will see if that remains their position remembering the retrenchment on a £28bn a year green spending plan. There will be a nervousness by the ever cautious Sir Keir Starmer to open a gap with the Tories ahead of the election.
So, the Prime Minister can live with the protests of green Conservatives and continue feeding red meat to the Tory Right without consequences?
Well not quite Lord Copper. The green U-turn is in the great tradition of how we have been governed for decades by politicians who are never prepared to do the right thing for future generations because of short term considerations. From social care and crumbling concrete to HS2 and regional devolution, we see chronic delay and pragmatism. They are rarely prepared to try and win over fickle voters by gaining admiration for telling hard truths and looking over the horizon.
It sends business nuts. Firms need certainty for long term investment but all they see is constant changes of ministers and policies. If we take Sunak’s announcement this week, it could have serious consequences for investment in green jobs. They are vital to our economic future both because of the high skills they require and the scale of jobs potentially available to insulate our homes and generate secure energy.
Stellantis have just turned their Ellesmere Port plant over to all electric van production. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders are worried about uncertainty being created in a market where drivers were already taking a lot of convincing to make the switch.
It is true the new date for the ban lines us up with the European Union (don’t tell that to the Leave fanatics) but we were gaining a reputation as a world leader in green technology, and that may be damaged, particularly in the vital area of battery production.
And finally, there is climate change. With catastrophic evidence globally of a warming planet one does begin to fear that the world’s politicians lack the courage to make the really big moves needed to make a difference.
With an October election the most likely next year, these may be the last party conferences before the General Election. So, every effort will be made to make them well behaved showcases for policies. The Lib Dems meet in Bournemouth still suffering from an identity crisis despite spectacular by election and local election victories.
The two big parties meet in the North West. Starmer’s control of his party is now strong, some would say excessively so, so irritation at the cautious approach being adopted by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves will be confined to the fringe.
The Tories in Manchester are bound to have a better gathering than last year when Liz Truss Premiership was visibly imploding as the conference went on. However, the lady is back seemingly preparing the Conservatives for a debate about low tax and spend in opposition.
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