John Hayes lets his rhetoric get away from Coalition policy — but does he have the blessings of the Tory leadership?
By Peter Hoskin
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“Death knell for wind farms,” blares the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph. “Minister signals the end of the wind farm,” trumpets the Daily Mail. Both were taking their cue from John Hayes’s declaration that “enough is enough” when it comes to on-shore wind farms. It was a declaration that even had Christopher Booker wondering whether the end is now in sight for those vertiginous wind turbines.
Except there’s a problem: the minister probably let his rhetoric run ahead of the situation. It turns out that Mr Hayes’ departmental superior, Ed Davey, blocked him from attacking wind power in a speech he delivered yesterday — but the attack made it into interviews anyway. Lib Dem sources are now putting it about that an end to on-shore wind farms isn’t, and couldn’t ever be, Coalition policy.
In which case, the main question is whether this determination is shared by any of Hayes’ colleagues — the Tory leadership, perhaps? After all, George Osborne has been fighting for cuts to those subsidies applied to renewable energy sources. And that attitude has been reflected in several recent appointments: Mr Hayes’s own switch to the energy department; Owen Paterson as the Secretary of State in charge of the environment brief; and Peter Lilley’s ascension, last week, to the Commons’ energy and climate change select committee. Indeed, you might almost think that Mr Hayes had been put up to this sort of thing. At the very least, the idea’s not too fanciful.
All of which augurs more intra-Coalition splits on renewable energy in future — and at a time when other differences are making it into newsprint. This might suit both sides, increasingly eager as they are to differentiate themselves as the election approaches. But it doesn’t do much for the clarity of policy now.