Conservative leadership candidates spare a thought for the environment
Both of the final candidates in the Conservative party leadership election have announced that they believe in the importance of environmental issues, with Kenneth Clarke promising a commission designed to produce new and radical solutions to environmental problems, and Iain Duncan Smith calling for greater encouragement of public participation in environmental protection.
A radical overhaul – or even outright abolition – of regional planning bodies, the protection of both existing and new green belt land as well as a new designation of ‘blue belt’ land to protect the areas around rivers, wetlands, lakes and coasts, and a re-thinking of the UK transport system, including greater private investment in the railways, are being promised by Kenneth Clarke. Reflecting the opinions of both the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats, Clarke also doubts the effectiveness of the Climate Change Levy, although he has not yet finalised any specific tax policies. As leader of the Conservative party, he would also introduce four commissions to examine party policy, one of which will be concerned solely with the environment. “Under my leadership the Conservative Party will fight to conserve the most distinctive and agreeable feature of British life – what remains of our historic countryside and environment,” said Clarke.
“Ken has made it clear that he has made [the environment] a key policy area to be developed over the next few years,” Damian Green, Conservative party Environment Spokesman, and Kenneth Clarke supporter, told edie.
Iain Duncan Smith has also emphasized the importance of preserving the UK’s natural heritage, although he is less specific in his aims. However, he has highlighted, in particular, the importance of renewable energy, proposing tax breaks to promote the installation of solar cells, with the intention that every home should have one. Duncan Smith is also keen to ensure the support of the general public for environmental policies. “Presenting people with choices that bring them no benefit makes those on marginal incomes less likely to be environmentalists,” he said during a recent speech on the environment. “They need to see a direct benefit from the process. The job of government is to align people’s best interests with their self-interest.” The current Labour Government’s policy of greater taxation and regulation is not the answer, he says.
Over the next couple of weeks there will be a series of regional hustings in order to allow party members the opportunity to assess the two candidates at first hand. Those who have been party members since at least 28 March are eligible to vote, and ballot papers have to be returned by 12 noon on 11 September, with the winning candidate announced in the afternoon of the same day.