Matthew d’Ancona: Has David Cameron Become “More Lawsonian”?
Where the politics of climate change are concerned, the Cameroons have been on a long journey which is about to reach, if not its terminus, then a very significant station.
[...] At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Cameron, under pressure, announced a review of green energy taxes which, he said, were helping to drive up household bills to “unacceptable levels”. On hearing of this, Clegg was dismayed. “Until we know what we are going to do,” he told senior colleagues, “we should attack Miliband and defend our present stance, but not wriggle about.” Too late: the wriggling has already begun, in preparation, clearly, for announcements in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on December 4.
Where the politics of climate change are concerned, the Cameroons have been on a long journey which is about to reach, if not its terminus, then a very significant station. Greenery was at the heart of early Cameronism, a means of connecting modernity to the Tory party’s ancestral love of the countryside. Steve Hilton (still the PM’s senior adviser) ditched the movement’s old logo – a flaming torch – and replaced it with a tree: eco-friendly and rooted. The electorate was invited to “Vote Blue, Go Green.” Cameron said he wanted to lead “the greenest government ever”.
Yet, as I recount in my book on the Coalition, In It Together, Osborne was never persuaded even of the science – the orthodoxy reaffirmed in September by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – preferring the sceptical analysis of his mentor and predecessor at the Treasury, Nigel Lawson. Many natural Tory voters have been outraged by the impact upon the countryside of green policies, specifically wind farms. But the greatest pressure has been economic: the imperative to remove as many obstacles to growth as possible.
When Ian MacGregor and I interviewed Cameron a month ago, on the eve of the Tories’ conference, he specifically denied that he had become “more Lawsonian” and compared the price paid by the taxpayer and consumer for green policies to an insurance premium. Last Wednesday, however, the PM’s announcement suggested that in the three-way debate on greenery between Cameron, Osborne and Clegg, the Chancellor is prevailing.