PM lines up with Chancellor in War of Whitehall
It was a gentle and carefree ride for David Cameron through his supposed ‘grilling’ by the Ad Hoc Select Committee on Tuesday.
Facing questions on energy policy, the committee had an arsenal of ammunition at their disposal. Bickering ministers, contradictory policies and extraordinary vetoes could have put the Prime Minister in the cross hairs. Sadly the committee members were mostly firing blanks. Cameron was comfortable, so comfortable in fact that his greatest risk was looking too cocky. When he is on this sort of form Cameron needs someone to get right up his nose to try and break his composure. Instead the committee members were willing to trip the light fantastic, through Cameron’s fantasy land of reduced emissions, abundant shale gas and large-scale carbon capture. Cameron was like the chairman of the board pronouncing on his latest sales strategy – we’ve got the right plan, we just need the right people (ie not Lib Dems or scientists) in Whitehall to go out and sell it to trigger waves and waves of investment in the UK.
For those left back in real world there was little that was genuinely new, but here are three things we can now confirm:
1. Cameron sits squarely with Osborne in the great policy war between DECC and the Treasury, particularly on the absence of decarbonisation targets in the Energy Bill.
2. The 2014 review of the government’s support of the 2022-27 carbon budget will represent the key battleground for UK climate change policy. The chances of aviation and maritime being brought within those budgets in the meantime looks remote.
3. The ‘Greenest Government Ever’ is a myth that not even Cameron continues to peddle.
On this showing, Lib Dems in government and the so-called Turquoise Tories will have their work cut out to ensure that important progress made on emission reductions is not eroded. Despite the lack of evidence on shale, or funding for CCS, Cameron seems happy to see energy policy driven by the Treasury towards a long term reliance on gas, with the UK’s leadership on the battle against climate change going up in smoke.