Senior Tory calls for immediate general election as Sunak battles growing rebellion

Senior Tory calls for immediate general election as Sunak battles growing rebellion
Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke

Published: 20/09/2023

- 13:06

Updated: 20/09/2023

- 14:50

Zac Goldsmith said the Goverment's decision to water down net zero is a 'moment of shame'

Zac Goldsmith has called for an immediate general election in the wake of growing fury of Rishi Sunak's plan to water down net zero policies.

Goldsmith resigned from the Government earlier this year after the UK's climate advisors warned that they are now less confident in the UK's ability to deliver on its legally binding emissions goals than they were at the same time last year.

He accused Rishi Sunak of being “uninterested” in the environment.

In his resignation letter, the former minister for the international environment expressed disappointment with the Prime Minister for causing “paralysis” on the environment within Westminster.


Goldsmith accused Rishi Sunak of being “uninterested” in the environment


Writing on X, the Tory peer and former MP said: "I have had 00s of messages from Conservative friends in Government, Parliament and around the world telling me this move by the Prime Minister vindicates my decision to noisily resign.

He added: "I didn’t want vindication. I hoped it would add pressure on the Government to prove me and others wrong. We need an election. Now."

The PM is facing a revolt from a section of his party after last night's revelation that he plans to water down net zero pledges.

The right-wing of the party is elated at the plans, saying the Government is "finally listening" - but many MPs have expressed serious doubts.

In a statement published late last night, Sunak said: "We are committed to net zero by 2050 and the agreements we have made internationally - but doing so in a better, more proportionate way.

"Our politics must again put the long-term interests of our country before the short-term political needs of the moment."

Sunak issued the unusual statement in response to what he described as a "leak" of a major speech which the Prime Minister is planning for later this week.

He called an emergency Cabinet meeting this morning over the issue and will give a statement at 4.30pm this afternoon, instead of his Friday speech.

The BBC reported the plans could delay the ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035. The 2030 date has been Government policy since 2020 and was reaffirmed by Downing St as recently as yesterday.

A controversial plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035 could also be watered down so that only 80 per cent to be phased out by that year.

Big businesses have piled in on the Prime Minister in the wake of the policy announcement, with car manufacturer Ford saying a relaxation of the 2030 target to stop the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would undermine the Government's "ambition, commitment and consistency”.

Meanwhile, energy giant E.ON has said the move risks “condemning people to many more years of living in cold and draughty homes that are expensive to heat, in cities clogged with dirty air from fossil fuels”

Alok Sharma, the former COP26 President, hit out at the policies. He said: "For any party to resile from this agenda will not help economically or electorally."

Outgoing Tory MP Chris Skidmore agreed, warning: "If this is true, the decision will cost the UK jobs, inward investment and future economic growth that could have been ours by committing to the industries of the future."

It will potentially destabilise thousands of jobs and see investment go elsewhere.

"And ultimately, the people who will pay the price for this will be householders whose bills will remain higher as a result of inefficient fossil fuels and being dependent on volatile international fossil fuel prices."



Sunak called an emergency Cabinet meeting this morning over the issue and will give a statement at 4.30pm this afternoon


But Conservative MP for Bassetlaw Brendan Clarke-Smith told GB News that Sunak's proposal to water down the Government's approach to Net Zero "addresses the concerns" of those who think that climate policies "can be done in a more effective and fair way that can be embraced by everyone".

He said it "shows the Prime Minister is listening to what MPs and the public are both saying, not small but vocal groups with special interests", adding: "It doesn’t change our commitment to being a world leader in reducing our emissions and moving to renewable sources".

Andrea Jenkyns threw her weight behind the plan, saying the "next Conservative Party slogan" should be "No To Net Zero", while Philip Davies simply added: "Rejoice!"

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