David Cameron: he was for the environment before he was against it forgot about it

by Stephen Tall on October 1, 2008

If you listened carefully, you will have heard David Cameron mention the environment in his speech to the Tory party conference today. Here are his remarks in full:

I want a clean environment as well as a safe one.

and

[We] didn’t champion green politics as greenwash but because climate change is devastating our environment because the energy gap is a real and growing threat to our security and because $100-a-barrel oil is hitting families every time they fill up their car and pay their heating bills.

So, there you have it: two sentences. That’s 59 words in a speech of 7,134 words – or 0.8%, if you prefer. The environment didn’t even merit its own section in Mr Cameron’s speech, though ‘experience’, ‘enterprise’, ‘broken society’ and ‘families’ all did.

Compare the near-absence of the environment from Mr Cameron’s speech with his ringing declaration when he became Tory leader that the environment was “one of the most important issues facing our country and the world” and spoke of his mission “to put green politics at the top of the national and international agenda”. Putting green politics in his speech would be a start.

Am I being unfair? There is, after all, one proposal in his speech which addressed the environment:

… the right thing to do is not go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow but instead build a new high speed rail network linking Birmingham, Manchester, London, Leeds let’s help rebalance Britain’s economy.

Wonderful stuff, and good Lib Dem policy to boot. Yet the Tories’ policy U-turn – which is by no means popular with the party’s MPs or activists – comes just days after London mayor Boris Johnson (currently the most powerful Tory in the country) proposed building a massive new four-runway, 24×7 airport in the Thames estuary, as a means to expanding airport provision in the South East. So are the Tories for or against airport expansion in general?

Or is it just another case of Mr Cameron and the Tories back-pedalling on the environment?