Conservative Diary

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How blue is the Coalition? Part Five: the Environment and Local Government

By Paul Goodman

This is the final post in a five-part series looking the Government's record and prospects.  In doing so, I'll examine its work under the same headings that Conservative backbench committees follow.  It goes almost without saying that my view on what a Tory view or policy is won't be everyone's.

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Environment and Communities

There's a clear Conservative consensus on localism and transparency - that much more of both is needed after years of Labour's centralisation.  And although there's disagreement about man-made global warming - both over whether it's happening at all, and what should be done if it is - Tory views tend to converge on the need for more energy security.  Chris Huhne's executing a slow U-turn over nuclear power at the Environment Department, though it's very doubtful whether the Coalition's responding decisively enough to our energy security needs.

On localism and transparency, there's much better news.  Eric Pickles has made a terrific start at the Communities Department, beginning a big bonfire of Labour's Professor Branestawm apparatus of central control.  Some of the best parts of the Coalition's transparency and accountability programme are local, such as the local referendum and recall ballot provisions (though there are questionmarks over the way the latter will work).  On housing and planning, the Government's making a cautious start at restoring the link between local taxation and revenue.

This backbench committee bundles a lot of issues together, and Pickles' performance drags the average up.

Conservative credentials: 7/10.

Thatcher was the first British politician to sign up to the global warming consensus.  She also hurried up the centralisation drive which has been been taking place for many years, and which gathered further speed under Labour.  Major continued both policy approaches To date, the Coalition looks, on the whole, more authentically blue than either - and certainly more radically innovative on transparency.


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