A LibDem Perspective – “You turn if you want to”.

26 Sep 2023
A row of blue Electric Vehicle Charging points

“You turn if you want to” is one of those phrases that echoes down the years, and the second half, “The lady’s not for turning” reinforced Mrs T’s ‘Iron Lady’ image. Whatever you might think of her- and I of course was no fan- she did have good speech writers, and no-one could accuse her of prevarication. She would be spinning in her grave if she could witness the constant U-turns of her successor.

As I write we await Mr Sunak’s verdict on the future of the ill-fated HS2 rail project. This has looked increasingly like a very large and costly white elephant since the Covid lockdown taught us that many business meetings could be held just as effectively on-line, thus undermining much of the financial case for the project. The revelation that much of the time knocked off the London to Birmingham journey would be lost getting to the London terminus in suburban Old Oak Common undermined any remaining credibility. Quite what any further cancellations would mean for the Conservatives’ ‘Levelling Up’ agenda remains to be seen.

But the biggest and most disappointing U-turn is surely the effective abandonment of Government pledges on achieving ‘Net Zero’. This includes delaying the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars, and diluting targets for phasing out gas boilers and improving home insulation. Sunak then promised to axe policies that never existed, such as new taxes on meat, compulsory car sharing, and introducing seven different recycling bins. The reality of course is that due to poor planning and weak commitment, issues such as building the power grid to support the switch to electric cars, and training enough technicians to install heat pumps, were far behind target.

The populist hard right has undoubtedly been emboldened by the Uxbridge by-election result, portrayed as a Conservative success, although in fact they lost 90% of their 2019 majority. ‘Ulez’ was all about air pollution, not climate change, and was certainly badly mishandled by the London Mayor. There should have been a longer run-in period for local residents and a more generous scrappage scheme, and the generally hostile media should have given much greater emphasis to the fatal consequences of air pollution.

In the meantime, the broken pledges continue to mount and three PMs later, little of the Conservatives’ 2019 Manifesto remains intact, and it cannot all be blamed on Covid or Russia.

Whatever the national problems, when it comes to ‘Net Zero’ the Rother Alliance remains committed to the pledge I made back in 2019 that we would be ‘Carbon neutral’ by 2030 and I remain confident this will be achieved. On this one subject I am proud to echo Mrs T’s declaration. THIS lady is not for turning.

Cllr Kathryn Field


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