He was not like Party leaders that came before him. This leader of the Conservative Party was modern, dynamic and forward looking. There were a number of policy priorities that he wanted to push to realise his modernising vision, and the environment was one of them.
Conservatives, he reasoned, were natural stewards of the environment, keen to conserve its vitality and pass its benefits and beauty on to future generations.
He faced grumbles from some and protest from others, but he pressed on, confident that prioritising this issue was not just good for his Party, but good for Britain.
That was in 1876 and the Conservative Party leader was Benjamin Disraeli. The River Pollution Prevention Act, which his government put into law that year to prevent the dumping of raw sewage into Britain’s rivers, proved seminal, going on to influence environmental legislation well into the 20th century.
The greening of the Conservative Party under David Cameron in the 21st Century is neither a recent conversion nor a simple re-branding exercise. It is a philosophical homecoming. Tories have a long and proud history of environmental preservation, going back to Edmund Burke’s 18th Century views on generational stewardship.
It was a Conservative government that rid London of pea-soup smog with the Clean Air Act. It was the Tories who introduced the Green Belt across England to preserve our countryside in the 1950s. It was Margaret Thatcher who was the first international leader to speak to the UN General Assembly on the dangers of climate change.