This note considers energy and climate commitments in the manifestos of the five main parties in England–Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP and Green. It also includes the stance of the SNP, which, if opinion polls prove correct, could be the party with the third largest number of seats overall and therefore have great influence. It is recognised also, that Ulster Unionists, Sinn Fein and Plaid Cymru may each prove influential should a coalition be formed, but including their stances also would make an already lengthy note even more so.
The manifestos are bulky documents–76 pages for UKIP, 81 for the Conservatives, 83 for Labour (but in bigger print), 84 for the Greens, and a massive 160 for the Liberal Democrats. While energy policies and pledges are relatively easy to discern, those on climate change are buried more deeply. Wherever feasible, commitments set out below are taken verbatim from the manifestos themselves.
The manifestos of the main parties are notable for areas of overlap and are in many ways unsurprising.
The Green and UKIP documents shoot from the left and right sides of a populist hip–safe in the knowledge that neither is likely to be asked to form a government or to play a major role in a coalition, but keen on building influence through protest-vote numbers.
Conservatives and Labour fall over one another for positions marginally right and left of a Blairite centre, each determined to be seen as economically driven, budgetarily responsible and not to alienate their core electorate–both battling against leakage of seats to UKIP.
Labour seem to maintain silence or to stick to generalities on those energy issues where one suspects that on economic grounds they are at one with much of the Conservative standpoint.
The Liberal Democrats are the squeezed middle in this election–tarred with the coalition brush, battling to be perceived as separate from the Conservatives, determined (and desperate) to take on the mantle of the most influential ‘third’ party and equally determined not to lose further ground to the Greens. They are evidently trying hard to come across as the most green, the most go-ahead, the most responsible and as having the most ideas of any of the mainstream parties. Another way of looking at their manifesto is as a very long wish list from which at least some could find favour in negotiations for a coalition under either Labour or a Conservative leadership.
The SNP are confident of being the third party nationally. Their manifesto, issued days after the others have been absorbed, is pitched deliberately as an assault on the Conservatives but with a ‘come hither’ agenda for other parties–it deliberately positions the SNP as the friend of devolution to Welsh national and Northern regional administrations but with notably green energy and climate change commitments.
As with many other topics, for energy and climate change, the various political parties veer between absolute idealism and pure pragmatism in their attempts to provide something for everyone.
Some of the most revealing aspects are the levels of ‘cross dressing’ between the parties, especially when seeking the green vote or to demonstrate economic responsibility. Labour are notable as much for what they do not say as for what they do.
The real areas to be aware of are those focused on by the SNP, the Lib Dems and Greens–all of whom will be trading hard should neither Labour nor the Conservatives return a working majority.
Read the main pledges of each party, along with how they claim they will address the issue of energy production in the UK, and their positions around incentives and taxation here as first published in Lexis®PSL Environment in April 2015.