Conservative party manifesto

The 2010 Conservative Party manifesto was quite good on the environment but the 2015 version was pretty awful. How does this one shape up?

Here are my thoughts on likes and gripes (restricted to the environmental issues):

Good things:

  • it’s a nice blue colour
  • ‘The United Kingdom will lead the world in environmental protection. As Conservatives, we are committed to leaving the environment in better condition than we inherited it’ – but no details on what that means or how it will be achieved and, of course, no boasting about the very few achievements of the Cameron administration
  • we will continue to take a lead in global action against climate change, as the
    government demonstrated by ratifying the Paris Agreement. We were the first country to introduce a Climate Change Act, which Conservatives helped to frame, and we are halfway towards meeting our 2050 goal of reducing emissions by eighty per cent from 1990 levels‘ – only this government believes that the UK is leading the world and it was a Labour government that introduced the Climate Change Act.
  • We will champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies,
    protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters‘ – it is always  wildlife elsewhere that the Conservatives want to protect isn’t it?  The UK signed up to an international commitment to phase out lead ammunition but when it came to the crunch, Liz Truss didn’t follow up on that promise because, I suspect, it is more important to keep a bunch of shooters on side than to improve human and environmental health.
  • ‘We will work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters, establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world’ – there has been some progress on this under the past Labour and Conservative governments.  Notice there are no names, no dates and no areas mentioned.
  • We will improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, especially for the least well off, by committing to upgrading all fuel poor homes to EPC Band C by 2030. We will also review requirements on new homes‘ – this is good, but rather slow.
  • a new Conservative government will work with the fishing industry and with our world-class marine scientists, as well as the devolved administrations, to introduce a new regime for commercial fishing that will preserve and increase fish stocks‘ – this sounds good – what will it look like?

 

Gripes:

  • there is practically no mention of climate change – apparently it isn’t one of the five great challenges we face.
  • the rights of workers and protections given to consumers and the environment by EU law will continue to be available in UK law at the point at which we leave the EU. The bill will also create the necessary powers to correct the laws that do not operate appropriately once we have left the EU, so our legal system can continue to function correctly outside the EU. Once EU law has been converted into domestic law, parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses, as will the devolved legislatures, where they have the power to do so‘ – so no commitment to keep current levels of environmental protection or to enhance them. For me, this is a crucial test of the manifestos and the Conservatives have failed it.
  • we will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament. We will work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across Britain and with the devolved administrations to devise a new agri-environment system, to be introduced in the following parliament‘ – there is no sign that this government has any idea what to do in this area – so what has Defra been doing for the last year? We are going to keep everything the same for five years even if we are hard-Brexitting in two years – why?  This area is tricky, but that’s why it is important to get on with it! This manifesto doesn’t even hint at the principles that will be followed. Disappointing and inadequate.
  • We will help Natural England to expand their provision of technical expertise to farmers to deliver environmental improvements on a landscape scale, from enriching soil fertility to planting hedgerows and building dry stone walls‘ – really? Is that it? Wildlife too?
  • We will deliver on our commitment to improve natural flood management, such as improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats and communities. We will continue to ensure that public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation, and provide stronger protections for our ancient woodland‘ – no details on this at all. Can we really believe any of it when we have not seen signs of progress so far?
  • We will grant a free vote, on a government bill in government time, to give parliament the opportunity to decide the future of the Hunting Act‘ – over 80% of people oppose this.  Is this for the many or the few?
  • we pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than
    we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again‘ – this is the ‘greenest government ever’ promise which would be more believable if Defra had ministers who knew what they were doing, had not had its budget cut to shreds, and if progress had been made since 2010.  There is no reason at all to believe this and although we should have seen this document already, no timescale is given for its emergence.

 

Overall assessment: I’d give it a D- and I fear I may be being generous.

If you care about the environment then this is an awful manifesto.  Perhaps TM the PM (who wants a GM – Great Meritocracy) was so keen to dump anything that smacked of David Cameron that even a pretence of caring about the environment had to go.

The most worrying thing, in contrast with Labour and the Greens (and the Lib Dems, but we’ll get to them later), is the clear omission of any commitment to maintain the protection afforded by current EU legislation beyond Brexit.  We will pick and choose what we want to keep, and the prospect of that being done by a Conservative government of the current flavour with a large majority is the biggest threat to our wildlife for decades.

This manifesto is devoid of environmental commitment and environmental vision. It postpones all the details, some of which should exist already, into some time in a post-Brexit future. The party of government ought to know far better, and more convincingly, what it is going to do.

I’m very surprised that this document is so poor on environmental issues, but it makes the choice for those who care about the environment very clear – it has to be ‘anyone but the Tories’.

 

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. Peter Shearer says:

    I can not see how anyone who cares about our environment or wildlife would vote Tory. But some of them will and there lies our problem. You can fool some of the people all of the time. The Tories have shown their disdain for these areas (the red tape!) and this will get worse after Brexit. For those of us who do want to protect the environment and the creatures we share this planet with, vote accordingly!

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    • Random22 says:

      I can not see how anyone who cares about their fellow human beings can vote Tory. We're talking about a party that stops just short of publicly admitting that they put driving disabled people to suicide as a deliberate police. Let me be clear here. Vote Tory only if you are 100% fine with killing disabled people, because that is what is happening. It is a silent holocaust caused by Tory policy. Anyone who votes Tory is a murderer by association.

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  2. Miles says:

    thanks Mark.

    For me the most interesting omission was that there was no comment about, or commitment to the future of direct farm payments beyond 2022 (or the end of the next Parliament, whichever is earlier).

    If I was a farmer I would be getting extremely worried at this point. Direct farm subsidies (which had previously paid to intensify production but are now paid whether you produce food or not) have been the single largest cause of environmental damage from farming.

    As often as not, Agri-environment payments which have been intended to produce environmental benefits, have in fact only sought to temporarily reverse the damage caused by their sibling direct subsidies - often in the same place and at the same time.

    Successive Conservative Governments have promised to reform this system, which has been run by the EU, but without success. Now we are leaving the EU, those shackles will be removed. The question then is whether they will be entirely abandoned, or whether they will be replaced with something better. Owen Paterson and those on the libertarian right would have us go towards a New Zealand model of no subsidy and no regulation. May's other policies have strongly signalled her rejection of this hard Thatcherite political philosophy though.

    So while it is disappointing that there is no mention of the "public money for public goods" mantra, which indeed the Tory party have used previously, I would take some small comfort from the omission of any commitment to the future of direct farm payments, or even productivity payments, which the NFU has been lobbying for.

    As for a new agri-environment system, this could mean anything. It could even encompass a public goods for public money approach. And the specific name check indicates that it is uppermost in ministers thinking, which must be a good thing. The desire to consult widely also suggests that they are not going to adopt the NFU's "ELS-lite" model, well at least not before letting lots of conversations happen.

    I've written about other elements of the Manifesto here

    https://anewnatureblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/tory-manifesto-commitments-on-the-environment-and-farming/

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  3. Eleri Norris says:

    I can't say I agree with you on this one Mark. I don't think that blue is very nice at all.

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  4. SteB1 says:

    Mark is indeed being incredibly generous by giving the Conservative Party manifestor D-. In fact Z- would be generous. Climate change is an existential threat to our civilization, yet I've never heard Theresa May even mention it. As Mark points out the way the Tories have written the "great repeal bill" means that whilst in theory they will just copy and paste EU directives and standards into UK law, they have actually given themselves huge leeway in picking and choosing what they pick and choose, and how they interpret it. The government will actually be able to make massive changes to UK regulations as regards environmental protection, conservation etc, etc, without even consulting parliament.

    The simple fact is that the anti-environmentalist wing of the Conservative Party is one and the same as the Hard Brexit wing of the Conservative Party. In fact a major reason for the Tory right's drive to leave the EU was to rid the UK of the tough environmental and conservation protection imposed by the EU. Of course they didn't overtly state this, preferring to sell it with populist xenophobia, alarm about immigration etc, but that is standard practise for these slippery politicians. They know most of their ideology wouldn't be very popular with the public, so they sell their hidden unpopular ideology with a populist sugar coating of disingenuity i.e. lies for the gullible plebs to swallow (that is how they see it, not how I see it).

    This is not to say that the other political parties have the required policy and will over the environment, biodiversity and it's conservation. It's just that the other political parties are not so deeply in denial about how the natural environment, a stable climate, biodiversity and ecosystem services sustain our economy, and our lives. The environmentally informed have simply hoped, probably in vain, that the other political parties not so in denial of the truth and facts would eventually wake up to what needs to be done. Whereas of course there is no hope of this for political parties deeply in denial of the problems and challenges we face.

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  5. Paul V Irving says:

    In the 48 years I have been able to vote I can safely say I have never voted and never will vote Tory. Their environmental record is frankly appalling and they rule for a minority elite
    and win elections by always conning enough of the rest of us that we are part of that elite. My younger sister when her children (now grown up with families of their own) had a wonderful sticker on the side of the pram " the Tory party is like Devon cream, rich thick and full of clots" Oh that is was that obvious!
    Margaret Thatcher used to set my nerves on edge immediately, that May does not quite probably makes her far more dangerous.

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  6. Random22 says:

    Is it true if you open a copy of the Tory manifesto there is just a hot howling wind and a demonic scream of "haaaaaaaaaaate" that comes from it?

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  7. Denise Bowes says:

    ‘We will work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters, establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world’

    No mention of protection for the home territory Marine Conservation Zones against predatory and exploitative industrial development. One example is the threatened Manacles Marine Conservation Zone adjacent to and sharing territory with the privately owned Dean Quarry, The Lizard, Cornwall. Extraction of rock armour for Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, on a vast scale, will destroy this rich environment for ever.

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  8. Jonathan Wallace says:

    "The most worrying thing...is the clear omission of any commitment to maintain the protection afforded by current EU legislation beyond Brexit".

    Yes, for many of the Tory faithful the existence of legislation that emanates from Brussels is one of the most disliked aspects of our EU membership and large numbers of hard Brexiteers are itching to shove the lot of it through the shredder at the first opportunity. There is little indication that they will seek to replace it with anything approaching comparable levels of protection. Many Tory MPs are wedded to a low regulation model anyway and, in the event that we get the hard Brexit that they are gunning for, will be pushing strongly for an economic strategy that makes us 'competitive' outside the Single Market i.e. one with minimal restraint on business. In pursuit of this goal environmental protections will be sacrificed as 'costly red tape' along with protections for employees rights, health and safety etc. This will be further exacerbated when we look to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. American negotiators will be very resistant to any kind of environmental, social or health and safety curbs on American Corporations doing business here whilst Liam Fox and his team are likely to have little appetite for pressing for such protections to be included in the deal.

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  9. SteB1 says:

    I think conventional analysis of environmental and conservation policy is no longer possible, or even useful. Especially when it comes to the Conservative Party's manifesto and it's supposed environmental policy. It is just so far removed from reality, and what needs to be done that it can only be labelled as serious denial.

    Simply on the basis of climate change you have to pinch yourself. If you look at the big picture created by the scientific evidence it indicates that we need to take urgent action or else face a possible catastrophe. Any proper scientific evaluation of the situation is based on probability. In other words there is not a single prediction the science points to, but a whole range of possibilities with different probabilities. The serious problem being that we are already in the zone where there is the serious possibility of severe consequences in the near future. Hopefully we will not face these consequences that soon, but it cannot be ruled out.

    The original analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute from where the 2C figure was derived actually stated that warming over 1C carried with it considerable risks that got higher as the temperature increased over 1C of warming globally, and that there was nothing safe about 2C of warming. We are already there, and are more or less beyond 1C of warming (the actual amount of warming can only be seen with hindsight as averages can only be seen over longer time periods necessary to smooth out noise)

    Yet politicians like Theresa May and the Conservative Party plan for a future as if these problems do not exist. They talk about prosperity in the future when the scientific evidence points to our future being dire unless we take urgent action now, which is not on the horizon with Conservative Party policy. The Tories just talk about us meeting global obligations, and not about what is necessary to avert dangerous climate change. The COP21 Paris Climate change agreement assumes negative emissions technology to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Such technology does not currently exist.

    This is why the Conservative Party manifesto is not merely not good enough, but is dangerous denial of reality putting us all in serious danger. Self-evidently the Conservative Party are in absolute denial of both the global environmental situation, and the state of the environment and biodiversity in Britain. That's all you can usefully say i.e. that they are in dangerous denial of the facts, denial of reality. Their future vision is based on the denial of evidence.

    When politicians are in such a level of denial, is it really useful to try and work out how much in denial they are? If you are in a state of denial where such a terminal catastrophe could overtake us, it doesn't really matter if it is 30% denial, or 100% denial, because the consequences will be pretty much the same.

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  10. Mike says:

    The problem is Mark that an awful lot of people you need to reach do vote Conservative, including many who are members of nature organisations. Corbyn is not likely to be PM as the Labour Party has been taking over by the far far left who are very much removed from where most people are. Some things he supports might be popular but an awful lot of people will not vote for him because of his links to CND, Marxist groups etc.
    You can be like a 6th form debating society for ever and a day but you will never get political power to be able to actually do anything. Until people in the conservation lobby wake up to the fact that aligning with the far fringe of the left will see Tory governments for years to come then you are not going to get anywhere. Some years back we seemed to have more people in the conservation movement that realised that you needed to have a broad base and that drew in a lot of people who had Conservative views. Unfortunately now I see the groups being dominated by people who are only left wing inclined and this puts off a lot of people. I am not a Tory but people need to wake up from the Corbyn delusion. The Tories will not see conservation or environment issues as important if they know that broadly speaking the movement is only made up of people who are not Tory inclined. At the moment the Tories don't have to worry one jot about the conservation movement whereas in previous decades they were more inclined to do so.

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    • Mark says:

      Mike - that seems a pretty poor analysis to me - in that it's very difficult to see the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust or many other conservation organisations as being run by the far left, or even the left. They are all charities and cannot take a part in party political issues - and they have been, if anything, rather risk averse in how they have interpreted that.

      Would you like to give us the evidence that conservation organisations have aligned with the far left, please?

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  11. Mike C says:

    My MP, who is tory and likely to get in again has just sent a mail to my wife saying what they will do for animal welfare; you really have to laugh as in one of the PM's initial interviews she was intent on trying to repeal the Hunting Act; a pathetic bunch

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  12. Oliver Craig says:

    You only have to look at the recent evidence that has come out about persecution of golden eagles on grouse moors. If the Tories win again this will surely get worse as they pay lip service to environmental issues.

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