One of the most intriguing things about last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions was David Cameron’s decision to say he suspected the recent severe weather in the United Kingdom was linked to climate change. It seemed to be an interesting restatement of where the Prime Minister personally stands on green issues – a position that his own Environment Secretary Owen Paterson refused to back the very next day. So today when David Cameron appeared before the Liaison Committee to talk about, among other things, green issues, its members were understandably keen to probe him on whether, after the Green Crap Removals Team had rolled up their sleeves and got to work on levies and taxes on energy bills this winter, this government is still green and committed to tackling climate change.
There were two sections to his response. One was rather wavering and packed with curious mixed metaphors – rolling back sleeves to roll back green levies (although the PM does talk about rolling back his sleeves so often that it’s hard not to wonder whether he would rather buy a load of short-sleeved shirts to save time), shaking trees (to distribute incentives for shale gas, apparently), and the very worst, his desire to ‘cement’ green achievements. How very green.
In this section, the Prime Minister insisted that this government is still the ‘greenest ever’, telling the hearing that ‘without reading out a huge list of achievements… we can make that claim realistically’, and that ‘we should try to cement the big green achievements there have been under this government in this parliament’. There are many at the top of the party who think that even after the green crap was rolled away in the autumn statement, the Conservatives are still too balanced in favour of greenery. Clearly the Prime Minister is not one of them.
The second section came in the last two minutes of the hearing when, with everyone starting to fidget and think about their next meeting, the PM suddenly revved into a political attack: the first and only of the session. He said:
‘I can’t resist the point that… your party leader on the other hand has said that he’s going to freeze energy prices for a period but with absolutely no explanation of what happens if the world energy price suddenly shot up. What on earth would Sir Mark Walport, I mean he’ll speak for himself, but he’ll probably come out in a rash or any sane person, when hearing that piece of news, because my policy to roll back the cost of energy charges, I said I could do it, I’ve done it and the bills will be reduced. His policy of saying I’m going to freeze energy prices irrespective of the global price of energy is bonkers.’
The Prime Minister’s theory – again, not shared by that many of his colleagues – is that now those green levies have been rolled back, it is easier to make the case for green governing because voters don’t feel quite so burdened by policies tackling climate change. This might be a side-effect, but the fact remains that they were rolled back because of this ‘bonkers’ price freeze pledge. He will be hoping that there are no more unworkable yet somehow catchy pledges from Labour in the next few months that require him to roll up those sleeves yet again.