Express & Star

Andy Richardson: PM ready to pander to polluters for votes

You can tell an election is drawing ever-near. Rishi Sunak is on manoeuvres, looking to pander to those interested in short-termism and self.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Shell’s St Fergus Gas Plant in Peterhead

While Europe burns and the UN warns of global boiling, Rishi is rowing back on the green agenda, following the Tories’ unexpected success in Uxbridge.

He’s spotted an opportunity – more votes for dirty air.

Voters who were unable to pay the £12.50 clean air charge for driving in outer London are on his radar – and rather than implementing a fully-funded scrappage scheme, so that polluting vehicles are removed from our roads, he’s targeting those who want to better protect the lives of kids and others whose lungs are polluted by toxic emissions.

Research shows that around 4,000 Londoners died prematurely in 2019 with toxic air being a contributing factor.

Rishi, however, is turning a blind eye as he takes his helicopter around the UK and panders to the polluters.

On his new-found race-to-the-bottom on environmentalism, he’s happy to turn a blind eye if it increases his prospects of clinging onto power.

And after the disasters of Johnson and Truss, we thought he might be the sensible one.

His latest wheeze is a curb on safe driving policies, as he targets motorists at the expense of kids’ safety.

The UK has made considerable advances with a number of 20mph zones near schools and with traffic-calming measures in densely populated housing estates.

Rishi, however, is planning a further shift against green policies that would stop council plans. His review of low-traffic neighbourhoods that are designed to keep residential streets safe – especially for the young and vulnerable – is a lurch to the side of self-defeatism.

If motorists have a choice between reducing the risk of children being involved in accidents or adding an extra 10mph to their journeys, his calculation is that the selfish are in the majority. Ugh.

It’s not just polluting vehicles that Rishi wants to side with.

He’s planning to issue 100 new oil and gas licences to put clear blue water between the Tories and Labour on energy policy.

The party that vowed to clean up our environment – and oversaw sewage in previously-clean rivers and seas – now wants us to burn more fossil fuels at a time when the environment is in meltdown.

It’s not just that July was the hottest month ever recorded in the history of planet Earth, it’s also the fact that there’s insufficient investment in cleaner, greener alternatives.

As the world heats up and the costs of dealing with global warming escalate to an extent that makes Covid look like a cheap night out, Rishi is banking his future on abandoning the green agenda. Tearing up his own party’s plans for net zero, he’s hoping that the people that he, Johnson, and Truss have pushed into poverty, will reward him with their votes as he seeks to avoid spreading the cost the clean-up to those on low incomes. There’s an irony in that.

At a time when most households are struggling to pay for food and bills as another interest rate rise looms, it’s politics at its most bizarre.

Labour, meanwhile, is now ahead of the Conservatives on trust for all major UK policy issues.

The shadow of Long Johnson looms over a Tory party mired in sleaze and tainted by the negligent mismanagement of the nation’s finance

Against that backdrop, we ought to consider the money spent on HS2, a project that’s been divisive from day one.

While plans to invest in the nation’s infrastructure are laudable, HS2 has always had the sniff of white elephant about it.

And now the scheme has been rated ‘unachievable’ by a watchdog. Much-delayed, over-budget, and unlikely to deliver on time, the experts are finally saying what the rest of us have known for years – the project is a disaster.

There are those who Rishi could help, like Andrew Malkinson, a man wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and forced to spent 17 years behind bars. He’s free, at last, and facing a bill for living costs while in prison.

The people who wrongly put him behind bars are going to charge him for the privilege of having a place to stay.