Whither the UK’s Green Economy now?
So it’s the week after the week before. The Conservative Party defied all electoral lore and increased its control over Westminster, the first Tory majority since 1992. Their erstwhile coalition partners the Liberal Democrats (my party, sniff) lay shattered on the floor and the opposition Labour Party slumped on the ropes battered and bruised.
I will leave the whys and wherefores to other places, but what are the implications for the UK’s green economy?
It is well known that for the last five years it was up to the Lib Dems to fight for sustainability. Despite PM David Cameron’s (pic) pledge to lead “The Greenest Government Ever”, Lib Dems Chris Huhne and latterly Ed Davey had to fight for every inch against the Treasury and the green-sceptic Chancellor George Osborne. While Tory Greg Barker was an early ally for the green cause, he was later unceremoniously ditched as his party leadership “scraped the barnacles off the boat” in the lead-up to the election. Cameron continued to blow hot and cold, and another climate hawk, William Hague, has hung up his hat.
So all eyes are on who, if anyone, will get the pivotal job of running the Department of Energy and Climate Change?
It is possible that to placate the right wingers in his party, the role will be split and folded back into the Business and Environment Departments. This would relegate the topic back down the agenda, as suggested by the Tories election manifesto. The ‘muddle-forward’ option would see the competent but hardly cheerleading Amber Rudd promoted into the role which would fit with Cameron’s stated aim to see more women in the Cabinet. The radical action would be to pitch the charismatic and feisty Zac Goldsmith into the role, but he may be seen to ruffle too many feathers, particularly amongst the noisy right of the party.
My money is on Amber Rudd. Instead of seeing Government support for the green economy collapse, we’ll see it decline slowly to a lower priority issue as attention turns to the Tories’ traditional internal battleground, Europe. I believe the surge in the green economy has enough momentum now to carry it along regardless, but we have to accept that the days of looking for Government to lead are over for the time being.
Let’s make the future the one we want to see; let the Government claim credit afterwards.
Update: As soon as I hit “Publish” on that post, Cameron tweeted that I was right…
Amber Rudd is to be Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 11, 2015