Here are my thoughts on likes and gripes (restricted to the environmental issues):
- 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?
- 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 thanwe 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’.