The Red Wall, Blue Collar Conservative, Old Labour, Workington Man – or whatever name you wish to attach to this loose coalition – will be unimpressed by Boris’s ‘green industrial revolution’. This group of voters, many of whom had never turned to the Tories before, backed Boris Johnson to ‘get it done’. Their vote for Brexit was a vote for the economic prosperity that has eluded them for decades. Boris would be wise to remember this.
Would Red Wall voters have got behind David Cameron? It’s not likely, given that Cameron arguably saw his mission as being to ingratiate himself with disaffected Liberal Democrats and the great and the good on the international stage. But if these people shunned Cameron, they were, at least, impressed by his Eton and Oxford-educated contemporary. Why? Because of Boris’s pledge to ‘level up’ the country.
It will be devastating for them now to hear him revert back to Cameron’s type with his regressive and ill-thought out green agenda. Boris has become a master of U-turns but his ‘green industrial revolution’ could come at the expense of the core promise on which he was elected.
By announcing the end of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030, he has just hit the value of all such cars without explaining how the replacement of a 10-year-old Fiesta worth £1,000 with a new £20,000 electric one could be afforded. Perhaps he is planning on not being around in 2030 to answer that question?
Boris’s pledge to make Britain the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’ is equally daft. To do so could, on some estimates, double the cost of electricity. How will Boris help households already struggling to make ends meet if their fuel bills rise? And with the extra demand created by new electric cars, is an over-reliance on wind power a wise idea? Johnson once described turbines as moaning seagull killers; he would be best advised to stick to that assessment.
The government’s plan, revealed today, to ban gas boilers in all new homes in the next three years, also doesn’t appear to be viable. A source told the Times, which revealed the story, ‘there hasn’t been any stakeholder engagement on it yet but it’s definitely the plan.’ This is hardly going to win over sceptical voters, reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic.
Under the Paris agreement bid to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, these are the sorts of measures which would be required. But a green plan must not come at the expense of downtrodden and disaffected Brits.
The Prime Minister’s green revolution is not just a smack in the face of those that trusted him to see them right. It flies in the face of commercial common sense. The only way to recover from the economic self-harm of lockdowns is through lower taxes, reduced regulations and investment in infrastructure which provides a genuine monetary return. His green revolution is not it.
Theresa May’s parting bid to build a legacy as prime minister was to sign the country into carbon neutrality by 2050. Instead of building on this pledge, the current Prime Minister should reverse her undertaking. Rushing out a ‘green industrial revolution’ plan won’t help anyone. Instead, Boris should focus on the reason why many voters backed him and ensure he does not sign a Brexit deal which goes back on the referendum result. The only way the UK can recover, as a whole, is if the Prime Minister urgently discovers what it means to be a Conservative.
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Ben Habib is a former Brexit party MEP