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Sunak eyes U-turn on onshore wind as conservative splits grow

 


Senior Cabinet minister Rishi Sunaks has hinted his government may drop an effective ban on new onshore wind farms, amid growing calls for a U-turn from members of his ruling Conservative Party.

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(Bloomberg) Top Cabinet minister Rishi Sunaks has hinted his government may drop an effective ban on new onshore wind farms, amid growing calls for a U-turn from members of his Conservative Party in power.

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More than 20 Tory MPs, including Sunaks predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, are trying to change proposed legislation aimed at boosting regional regeneration to make it easier to build new wind farms.

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With the opposition Labor Party backing lifting the ban, the number of Tory rebels is approaching levels where the government faces a potentially damaging defeat at a sensitive time. Even with an active parliamentary majority of 69, the new British Prime Minister finds the Conservative Party so divided as to be unmanageable on a range of political issues.

Sunak withdraws UK housing vote as first Tory revolt brews

If Sunak backs down on the Leveling and Regeneration Bill, it would be the second reversal in less than a week on the same legislation, after dozens of Tories threatened to challenge him on housing construction targets.

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On Monday, Business Secretary Grant Shapps said there was not a huge divide between the government and Tory rebels. Were all basically saying the same thing, he told Times Radio. You need local consent if you are going to have onshore wind power, as it can be quite a tax.

Sunaks spokesman Max Blain tried to play down Shapps’ suspicion of compromise, saying talks were underway between the government and the rebels.

But Blain also declined to confirm that a vote on onshore wind will take place before Dec. 20, suggesting Sunak could push the issue into the new year if he doesn’t find a suitable solution that does the least political damage. possible.

Bill Johnson

The Prime Minister has talked about bringing people with us when we go to net zero, Blain told reporters on Monday, referring to the government’s climate goals. He said the worst thing we can do is alienate communities when we deliver on our commitments and have a very affordable form of offshore energy that creates jobs in the country.

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But it is an example of the challenges facing Sunak, who also shows little sign of being able to reverse the disastrous poll numbers. Faced with such a bleak outlook, at least nine Tory MPs have already said they will not contest the next general election, due in January 2025 at the latest.

The Regeneration Bill illustrates the degree of factional struggle that now dominates the ruling party. The ban on new onshore wind farms was actually a policy of the Johnson administration, although the former prime minister is now causing political turmoil for Sunak by backing the rebels’ attempt to lift it. The legislation he seeks to amend also dates from his mandate.

Sunaks’ plea for patience leaves him under constant attack

During the Conservative leadership campaign this summer, which he lost to Truss Sunak, he said he would uphold the ban and pursue offshore wind due to the distress and disruption that onshore wind farms can cause local residents. His spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday.

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satanic mills

If Sunak goes down, the government is likely to argue that changing circumstances and rising energy costs due to Russia’s war in Ukraine have changed the calculations. But the problem is that it would foster a sense that he is buffeted by political winds rather than shaping them. It would also risk alienating a large swath of conservatives who still oppose onshore wind.

After more than 12 years in power, it is the Conservative Party in the broad sense that appears too divided to define itself, including on once totemic subjects.

Even Cabinet Minister for Legislation Michael Gove in March expressed support for more onshore wind power. Conservative MP Alok Sharma, who was chairman of the COP26 climate summit, also backed the amendment to the bill.

Boris Johnson used to call wind turbines the satanic white windmills of northern England when they were building them all over my constituency, former party chairman Jake Berry, who represents a district of Lancashire, in the north of England. He changed his mind about them. I have, to a large extent, changed my mind.

(Updates with Sunaks spokesperson’s comments from sixth paragraph)

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