By the end of this week it will be manifest how poor is the grasp of environmental issues by our leading political parties. I am not expecting that any of them will reach the standards of the Green Party’s environmental manifesto.
The Liberal Democrats: usually have some good things on the environment in their manifesto but are not going to have any hand in government this time around so it really doesn’t matter (here is the 2015 manifesto).
The SNP: what is the point of the SNP in Westminster? They do not engage with any English issues and therefore are no use at all in standing up to the Tories. Despite this, Nicola Sturgeon still says that the SNP is the ‘only real opposition to the Conservatives at Westminster’. If you send an SNP MP to Westminster you are making it all the more difficult to hold the Tories to account, or occasionally to vote them down on environmental matters affecting England. I’m not against the SNP in Scotland (indeed, if I lived there I can imagine voting for them in Holyrood elections) but sending SNP MPs down here is not going to help my local environment so I’d rather you Scots sent Labour, LibDem or Greens to Westminster please. The SNP manifesto will not say much about environmental issues except, possibly, something about fisheries and something about energy production (here is the 2015 manifesto).
Labour: despite the fact that the Labour manifesto has been leaked in advance, I haven’t heard of anything interesting about the environment in it. Maybe there isn’t anything about the environment in it at all. We are told that the Labour manifesto takes the party back to the 1970s and would take the country back there too – well, more farmland birds, Abba winning Eurovision, Brian Clough on TV and a referendum where we voted to stay in the EEC would all be things I’d like to see again! The Labour manifesto is usually very unconvincing about nature conservation (here is the 2015 version) as Labour tends to see the environment as being climate change and animals as synonymous with welfare issues. However, in 13 years when last in power, Labour delivered the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, the Climate Change Act and the Marine and Coastal Access Act – a record that is way beyond the achievements of the current Conservative administration. The Labour Party seems clueless, and often is clueless, about rural issues including farming, forestry, and nature conservation, but at least Labour ministers tend to know that and consult widely before acting. Readers of this blog voted Hilary Benn the best Defra Secretary of State out of Beckett, Miliband, Benn, Spelman, Paterson and Truss and I’d be rather surprised if the inclusion of Leadsom would alter the winner in that race.
Conservative: TM the PM said we wouldn’t be having a general election and now we are, so it is difficult to feel that the Conservative manifesto will be full of firm commitments that are honestly made. We know that a free vote of fox-hunting might be in there though. Defra has been a pathetic department for the past seven years and there can be no hope that things will be better post-election. Might Defra even get the chop? Here is the 2015 Conservative election manifesto that forgot that the countryside existed except as a place overrun with badgers that had to be killed.
I’ll hope to be pointing out some good and bad things from the main party manifestos – which won’t include UKIP this time around unless it is full of amusing gaffs – soon after they are published.