Reshuffling the green pack isn’t enough, Mr Cameron
Yesterday’s reshuffle lead to big changes in the ranks of Conservative faces in the UK Government with the commentariat pouring over the nuances of every move. From an environmental view, the bad news was the loss of junior minister Greg Barker and his puppyish enthusiasm, the better news the retirement of climate sceptic Environmental Secretary Owen Paterson and the shifting of Michael Fallon to defence.
We don’t know a huge amount about their replacements – Matt Hancock, Liz Truss and Amber Rudd – yet. I did find evidence of positive messages about the green economy from all three, although Hancock did sign a letter against onshore wind (while saying he was pro-renewables). My take is overall the balance has improved and there will be less drag on the two key pro-green Liberal Democrat ministers, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey and Business Secretary Vince Cable.
But, at the end of the day none of this matters too much.
Because, as always, it all comes down to leadership.
David Cameron set out to detoxify the Tory brand with his husky-hugging in 2006 and, on becoming Prime Minister in 2010, declared that his Government would be “the greenest ever”, but after that it has been mixed messages and a decided lack of strategic direction. It’s not as if there isn’t a story to tell with renewable energy nudging 20% of the country’s electricity production and a booming green sector. But, buffeted by the UKIP threat from the right, climate sceptic Tory backbenchers and a sometimes hostile right-wing press, Cameron has tacked this way and that on green issues, meaning that opportunities have been missed and investors have blown hot and cold.
Unfortunately with the election looming, the polls unpredictable and Cameron’s strategist pushing him to “scrape the barnacles off the boat” (ie simplify the overall message), I can’t see a bold new green direction from the PM.