Rishi Sunak is less concerned about having a proper climate policy than being outflanked by Nigel Farage’s referendum on net zero
The lesson from the parable of onshore wind is that Rishi Sunak lacks authority, credibility or identifiable policies in key areas. He appears to have few core beliefs that he is willing to stand up for, and looks increasingly vulnerable to determined groups of rebels on his own backbenches. By backing down over an effective ban on land-based windmills, he has U-turned twice in less than a week on the levelling up and regeneration bill. Last Tuesday’s volte-face came after dozens of Tory MPs threatened to defy him over housebuilding targets. His reversal over wind power on Monday came after his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss united against him.
The block on building land-based windfarms in England is absurd. Wind is bringing down the cost of bills as UK households face the biggest cost of living rise in a generation. It helps reduce carbon emissions and dependence on foreign energy imports. Polling suggests onshore wind turbines to be popular with the general public – with no loss in support from those living close to the whoosh of the blade. Yet during the Tory leadership election campaign in the summer, which he lost to Ms Truss, Mr Sunak pledged to keep the ban on onshore windfarms because of the “distress and disruption” they could cause to local residents. Mr Sunak’s policy then was about telling the mostly elderly, southern, male Tory party members what they wanted to hear. YouGov in July suggested only 4% of them thought net zero should be a priority.