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Tory modernisers make hard-headed pitch for greenery

3 February 2014

The 2020 group of modernising, mostly 2010-intake, Conservatives is trying to muscle in on their party’s manifesto-writing process by producing an impressive number of reports that they hope the Tory brains trust writing the 2015 offer will hoover up. The latest, ‘Sweating our assets’: productivity and efficiency across the UK economy was led by Laura Sandys, with David Ruffley, Baroness Wheatcroft, Nicola Blackwood and Steven Barclay all contributing. It has some eye-catching proposals, such as a ban on certain products such as mobile phones going to landfill. But what is more interesting about this report is the way it is trying to frame a favourite argument of the modernisers.

When I interviewed Greg Barker in December, he suggested that the Conservatives needed to offer a ‘credible distinct centre-right pro-business entrepreneurial green offer’. Barker co-ordinates the 2020 group, and this report certainly seems to be a very serious attempt at making that offer. It isn’t the woolly, fluffy, hug-a-husky stereotypical green and environmentalist document that would instantly put off the rather less green characters in the Treasury and the Business department. Instead, Sandys’ report attempts to make a serious economic case for dealing with waste that paints the environmental benefits as a fortunate side-effect, rather than the main purpose of the policies it recommends.

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For instance, it recommends measuring the value to the economy of a unit of energy saved, arguing that ‘this may show reduced GDP, but enhanced profitability to UK PLC’, and similarly a measurement of the economic value of a ‘unit of waste remade’. The MPs think waste policy should move from the Environment department to the Business department:

‘DEFRA will only ever look at waste from an environmental point of view, but, while environmental considerations are extremely important, reusing, remanufacturing, recycling and reducing landfill use will only be encouraged if waste is seen as an economic opportunity.’

The report lists the benefit of ‘remanufacturing’, where recycling and reusing become an industry in their own right. It argues that the government should ‘redefine waste as a business opportunity’ so that ‘a new stream of exciting business will emerge’.

This is all very clever. Instead of talking about greenery for greenery’s sake, the group is trying to sell its economic benefits. They recognise that times have changed since 2010, and that the green lobby inside the Conservative party will have to make their case far more aggressively than the days when greenery was politically fashionable.

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  • Will IEVER

    This seems like a sensible first step to re-evaluating the economic model. Growth in GDP without growth in profitability is a fools game. Resource constraint is real and will only become more tangible to the bottom line of companies over time. The Osmosis findings that resource efficient companies outperform their peers is an objective link proving that less is indeed more. As world populations continue to grow and consumption rises with growing middle classes its is not just an economic imperative for Uk corporates to become more efficient and therefor more competitive there is a social imperative too – ensuring the productive use of the worlds resources ( and what remains of them) allow emerging and developed economies to enjoy the same benefits that we have had for the past 50 years, So instead of finding the negative ( a truly British phenomenon) we should congratulate this team for looking at world and the British economy through a different set of eyes.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “EU policy: deliberately flooding the Somerset Levels”

    Which reminds me of something that Lord Denning said, which is perhaps more apposite than he ever envisaged.

    It appears to come in two slightly different versions:,_Baron_Denning

    Firstly in 1975:

    “The Treaty [of Rome] does not touch any of the matters which concern solely England and the people in it. These are still governed by English law. They are not affected by the Treaty. But when we come to matters with a European element, the Treaty is like an incoming tide. It flows into the estuaries and up the rivers. It cannot be held back, Parliament has decreed that the Treaty is henceforward to be part of our law. It is equal in force to any statute.”

    But in 1990:

    “Our sovereignty has been taken away by the European Court of Justice … Our courts must no longer enforce our national laws. They must enforce Community law … No longer is European law an incoming tide flowing up the estuaries of England. It is now like a tidal wave bringing down our sea walls and flowing inland over our fields and houses – to the dismay of all.”

    But of course he was not right that our sovereignty “has been taken away”, for we are not a conquered people; nor indeed have our politicians yet managed to actually give away our sovereignty, much as some of them want to; our national sovereignty is still there, intact and unimpaired, but we do need to elect MPs who are committed to it and who wish to exercise it on our behalf rather than allowing it to atrophy.

  • Curnonsky

    Parsing the mumbo-jumbo, they are making the same case as wind power advocates: distort the market with incentives (taxpayer money) and disincentives (central planning diktats) and then chortle as you and your friends reap the rewards.

    At the heart of every “green” initiative someone, somewhere is making a killing – bet on it.

  • CharlietheChump

    Never mind moving more responsibility to the Business Dept just abolish the Business department and let the market take on this task.

  • AnotherDave

    Laura Sandys is not standing for re-election in 2015.

  • itdoesntaddup

    If Laura Sandys believes this is electorally sound, why is she standing down at the next election?

    • Wessex Man

      She’s probably got lots and lots of executive positions to take up with Wind Turbine manufacturuers and Solar Panel Importers to takeup!

  • Smithersjones2013

    So this is the dubious bunch led by that Eurosceptic abuser Barker and UKIP’s first scalp Laura “I’m standing down in 2015” Sandys.

    Of course the “economic benefits” are likely minimal and no doubt speak in theoretical terms otherwise some bright entrepreneur would already be making a profit out of it.

    This is the thing. Its not about some notional saving, its whether someone can make a profit out of it or not and given we have moved in recent decades from repairing things to junking them (and it would take extreme anti-free market legislation to reverse the situation) it seems that the notions being proposed are as specious as the science that greenies peddle as their propaganda.

    PS Is Hardman Sandys agent or something? Izzy never misses an opportunity to promote her even now when Sandys has thrown in the towel at the first sight of UKIP invading her seat.

    • Daniel Maris

      Minimal? Germany has 300,000 good, decent jobs in the renewables energy sector.

      It’s much better to focus on green energy, recycling, resource subsitution, manufacturing and expanding agriculture rather than the financial sector, airport expansion and mass immigration.

      • berosos_bubos

        Renewable energy is devastating the German economy and at the same time they are building 20 coal power stations.

        • Daniel Maris

          You are joking I take it. Germany’s the biggest manufacturer and exporter in the EU. Its recovery from the recession was much better than ours. If that’s “devastating” I think people might run with that.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    It’s probably past time for you Speccie teenagers to put aside the “moderniser” propaganda, lass. It’s marketing twaddle. And neither you nor the poorly educated idiots mouthing the twaddle would know the difference, even if it was otherwise.

    Just say it. No need to try to spin it, lass. It just makes you look cheap and dumb.

    • Alexsandr

      That’s another word that annoys me. ‘modernise’ usually means fiddle with something for no good reason. And why is the new system more ‘modern’ anyway?

      • WatTylersGhost

        Conservative/moderniser. Are these not opposites?

        I thought that Conservatism was all about the conservation of what is good and what works. Surely the last 10 years has illustrated the folly of modernisation.

        But I gave up trying to make sense of the actions of the Tory Party the day that they elected Dave.

  • In2minds

    Conservative party manifesto-writing, why bother? It will only be dumped and wiped from history after a short while!

    • CharlietheChump

      Especially in “coalition”

  • dalai guevara

    Has it finally sunk in with the readership that Green Conservatives exist?
    Grayson Perry sums them up like this:

    • WatTylersGhost

      Grayson Perry probably is the role model used by a modern Tory.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Why are they trying to destroy the economy with his green cr**. As for Barker, the fact that he is co-ordinating this group speaks volumes. The man is a complete idiot.

    • berosos_bubos

      I hope the deselection team get on the case pronto.

  • Daniel Maris

    All good common sense. A shame we don’t hear that sort of thing from Patterson, Osborne and Cameron – the carping crew.

    If we put £40billion of HS2 funding into creating a green economy we would see huge benefits in terms of reduced energy bills and increased employment.

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      Gree nonsense will not reduce but increase energy bills. Better to save the £40bn or, better still, spend a fraction of it on fracking.

      • Daniel Maris

        80% of the cost of technologies like wind and solar is capital. If we had a green energy programme funded from taxation rather than energy bills, we could halve energy bills.

        I’ve no objection to us investing in fracking either.

  • sfin

    I have to say a tentative “bravo!” The green lobby should have realised, a long time ago, that in the contest between conscience, morality and economics – economics will beat the c**p out of the other two (and all other comers, come to that).

    It’s what drives everything, like it or not, if you want to conserve endangered species, preserve environments or even save the planet – make it pay.

  • AndrewS

    Good luck with that.

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