Britain's Tory party, which has been flailing in the polls since defenestrating Boris Johnson in the aftermath of both Brexit and Covid, has recently been gaining a bit of ground by back-tracking on some of their former leader's "green" commitments. It turns out that in order to have any sort of a showing in the next election they will need actual conservative voters to show up, and the net-zero enthusiasms of Johnson and Theresa May were almost calculated to turn them off.
As our founding editor, John O'Sullivan, discussed the other day, this has been slowly -- far too slowly -- dawning on current leader and prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and so he's begun to tap the breaks by, in O'Sullivan's words,
Letting it be known that he intends to delay the ban on the sale of new petrol-driven cars from 2030 to 2035, water down the ban on gas heaters from 2030, and in general adopt a general attitude that the U.K. economy cannot be sacrificed to unrealistic Green targets of energy reduction.
Well, it's small beer, but it's better than nothing.
But it turns out that not everyone in the Tory party, or even in Sunak's own cabinet, is as dedicated to their political survival. Baron Callanan, minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, gave a speech the other day at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, in which he controversially called for increasing green levies (essentially sin taxes for using carbon emitting products) on gasoline and diesel, while reducing them for electricity, in the hopes of driving Britons towards electrifying as much of their lives as possible and eventually achieving net-zero. Callanan called this "rebalancing" so as "to make electricity cheaper and gas proportionately more expensive."
Where does he imagine all of this electricity is going to come from, one wonders? From wind turbines in the North Sea, barely two years after that wind died down for months? No -- it will come from fossil fuels. The rare voice for sanity in the U.K., Net-Zero Watch, hit the nail on the head with its response to "Callous Callanan":
Trying to force up gas bills at a time when people are already struggling to heat their homes is shameful. It will cause a public health crisis. Callanan is utterly callous, but climate extremists only care about their targets, and not whether Granny is going to freeze to death in winter.... Rishi Sunak has said that successive governments have deceived people over the cost of Net-Zero, but here is the Green Blob in his own party – one of his own ministers no less – launching a shameless confidence trick on the public at large. How can the Prime Minister let them get away with it?
But get away with it he will, more than likely. Sunak is in a weak position atop a sharply divided party, whose factions despise each other more than they do their opponents on the other side of the aisle. And Tories like Callanan seem as if they'd be happy to be unseated in the next election, at least if the alternative is alienating someone they might have dinner with next week (to borrow Danny Krueger's recent line about Boris Johnson).
They deserve to lose. And they probably will. It's a shame that Labour will be so much worse.