group within the Conservative Party is calling on the Prime Minister to abandon unpopular and expensive green policies in anticipation of the upcoming general election.
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent member of the party, cited the recent Conservative win in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election as evidence of a potential surprise victory in the next polls.
The expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) in London, implemented by Mayor Sadiq Khan, has been blamed for Labour’s failure to secure a win in Boris Johnson’s former constituency. Tory candidate Steve Tuckwell won by a narrow margin of 495 votes.
Sir Jacob argued that this result demonstrated the need to reassess and discard green charges that burden both the public and businesses, stating that there were alternative approaches that could lead to electoral success.
The real opportunity lies in getting rid of unpopular, expensive green policies
The Conservative Party suffered significant defeats in two other recent by-elections, with Labour overturning a 20,000 majority in Selby and Ainsty, and the Liberal Democrats winning against a 19,000 majority in Somerton and Frome.
However, Sir Jacob noted that similar by-election results before the 1992 general election did not accurately reflect the final outcome. He emphasized the importance of reassessing policies and focusing on what is electorally effective.
“The real opportunity lies in getting rid of unpopular, expensive green policies,” he told GB News.
“Currently, there is an energy bill in Parliament that will burden British consumers and businesses with endless costs. We want to avoid that.”
While expressing support for working towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Sir Jacob voiced his desire to remove the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars, which was announced during Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister. He argued that the ban was formulated in different circumstances a few years ago.
Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, suggested delaying the car ban by at least five years to 2035.
“My focus is on eliminating policies that impose direct costs,” Sir Jacob stated, emphasizing the importance of implementing environmental improvements that are proportionate and affordable.
These remarks follow Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s warning against treating environmental issues as a religious crusade and his call for thoughtful environmentalism.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Gove expressed a desire to relax the 2028 deadline for landlords in the private rented sector to make energy efficiency improvements to their properties, stating that the current expectations are too demanding.
Regarding the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles, Gove, who was the environment secretary when the 2050 net zero pledge was made, affirmed that the target is achievable.
Lee Rowley, a junior minister in Gove’s department, denied speculation that the Tories were considering abandoning environmental commitments. He stressed that any changes would be phased in over several decades, ensuring that the public is engaged in the journey towards achieving net zero.
Senior environmentalists within the Conservative Party have also urged both the Tories and Labour not to abandon green policies for short-term electoral gain. Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park, a former environment minister, called dropping climate change-tackling policies “politically suicidal,” given the increasing support they receive from voters.
While Labour managed to defeat the Tories in Selby, attention has focused on their failure to secure a victory in Uxbridge. The party required a smaller swing in London compared to North Yorkshire, but fell short against Tory candidate Mr Tuckwell, who framed the vote as a referendum on Ulez.
Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor, intends to extend the daily charge for vehicles failing to meet emissions standards to all London boroughs, beyond the capital’s north and south circular roads. His plan has faced legal challenges.
According to The Sunday Times, senior advisers of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had anticipated that Ulez could be a vote loser and had repeatedly urged Khan to scrap the expansion. Khan is currently exploring options to mitigate the impact on Londoners without compromising the effectiveness of the policy.
A spokesperson close to the mayor stated, “Sadiq has made it clear that he is attentive to the concerns of Londoners following this by-election.”
Khan’s team defended his plan, claiming that only one out of 10 cars in outer London would incur the charge. They also highlight the availability of a £110 million scrappage scheme to assist lower-income individuals in upgrading their vehicles.