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14 July 2022

Prime Minister candidates – not what they say now, but next

As the UK Conservative party begins to get to grips with appointing a new leader, it finds itself in jeopardy that whomever it appoints it will have zero chance in the next election. Net zero chance. That candidate has to perfect the art of saying things that it does not quite believe to get into power, and then change their tune come 2025 and the next election.

That is certainly the case as every candidate lays out their promises which only need to convince Conservative party MPs, many of which are Climate Change deniers, who want to prioritize oil and gas investment, cut green premiums, and put the party’s zero emissions ambitions on the back burner. So that’s what all of them are saying.

It invites each candidate into behaving just as Boris Johnson behaved, they must lie to the party or lie to the people, because they can’t serve two bosses at once.

In the race to party leadership they want to emphasize that they have the answer to spiraling inflation, which is as much driven right now by currency shifts (which politicians can do little about) as by over spending. Having the right ideas to insulate the common man from natural gas global market pricing, means banging the drum for short term gas storage and the opening of more North Sea gas.

But once the present crisis is over and in the 3-year time frame leading to the next election, the Conservative party must be believable in its unwavering promotion of zero emissions once again, or risk a Labour landslide. Climate change is ever present in the mind of the electorate and by 2025 that will be ever more true. Only an out of touch politician can think anything else.

So the party that has spent less than all of Europe on EV subsidies, energy efficiency and heat pump subsidies, will have to convince the common man that it truly cares about zero emissions in 2025 or lose out to what would likely to be a 12 -year three term Labour government which transforms the country and leaves the Conservative party in the cold.

Ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak has always been lukewarm on zero emissions, because he doesn’t want to pay for it – his leadership bid mentioned only inflation and jobs, and had no room for zero emissions and talked up unspecified handouts for the poor this winter.

Brexit campaigner Penny Mordaunt, said she would slash fuel duty by 50% to help people heat their homes this winter, which is a popular policy, one copied from the opposition Labour party, but not really sufficient to get the job done.

Kemi Badenoch went for the jugular and she talked about UK climate targets as “unilateral economic disarmament” and promised she would axe the policy if given power – which is 2025 election suicide, and really hard to retrench from once completed. Liz Truss simply promised tax cuts, but not specifically for those who cannot afford their heating bills. She wants less government, which means almost no policies on green premiums.

Nadhim Zahawi, promised to cut taxes, to reduce the cost of living, lower energy bills, increase defense spending and get tough on tough on crime. No mention of net zero and no mention of where the money would come from. Jeremy Hunt, tax cuts, Tom Tugendhat, a 10p fuel cut, it goes on.

The Conservative party really needs to understand that it will end up losing a no-confidence vote at some point if zero emissions policies are dropped. It will then have an early election and get slaughtered at the polls. Which is pretty much what happened in Australia already.

But the candidate that can tell MPs it’s all about inflation, and who has a credible policy to fixing natural gas pricing, and then changes tune by 2023 and becomes a born again net zero enthusiast, would be accused of being like Boris Johnson, a liar which does U-turns, but such a person might survive – just.