Tory swing voters switch to Labour after Sunak’s green retreat, poll finds
Almost nine in 10 voters who intend to switch their support from Conservative to Labour candidates in the next general election believe that “green growth” is important for the future of Britain’s economy, according to a poll.
Carried out by pollsters Opinium, the survey found that 82% of all respondents backed the growth of Britain’s green industry to boost the economy, in the same week that the prime minister announced a series of U-turns on the government’s green commitments in an attempt to create a dividing line with Labour before the election.
The survey of more than 5,000 adults found support for the green economy was even stronger among swing voters who supported the Conservatives in 2019 and are now planning to switch to Labour, at 88%.
The survey was carried out between 8 and 20 September, when the prime minister confirmed a major about-turn on the government’s climate commitments. Rishi Sunak said the UK would push back the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars and the phasing out of gas boilers. He also plans to dilute energy efficiency standards.
Business leaders and green groups criticised the move for undermining Britain’s green economic agenda, while senior members of the Conservative party raised concerns that Sunak’s gamble may cost the Tories voters in the upcoming election.
When asked which of the chancellor’s five “priority sectors” of the economy were most likely to encourage growth overall, twice as many people thought green industries would have the biggest positive impact on overall growth than any other sector, including life sciences, digital tech and advanced manufacturing.
Growing investment in renewable energy was backed by 71% of respondents, according to the poll, which was commissioned by trade association Renewable UK. Only 40% of respondents agreed that the Tory party had even partially delivered on this commitment. Renewable UK is expected to reveal the findings of the poll at an event at the Conservative party conference.
The Conservative MP, Alok Sharma, president of the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow in 2021, said: “The prime minister’s recent call for the UK to embrace the incredible opportunities of green industry with even greater enthusiasm is clearly backed by people across the country.
“However, attracting inwards green investment does require further action and I therefore look forward to the government’s promised response in the autumn statement to the US’s Inflation Reduction Act which is hoovering up many billions of pounds of private sector investment and causing some companies to think about prioritising expanding in the US ahead of the UK,” he said.
Sunak’s green U-turn came just weeks after the government’s annual renewable energy auction failed to secure bids from any offshore wind developers. Greenpeace described the outcome as “the biggest disaster for clean energy policy in the last eight years” because it risked jeopardising the UK’s plan to triple its offshore wind power capacity by 2030, and cast doubt on Britain’s climate targets.
Nathan Bennett, a director at Renewable UK, said the polling demonstrates “very clearly that people see the success of green industries as vital to the UK’s economic growth”.
“Although we welcome the prime minister reiterating his support for green industries in his net zero speech, this has to be backed up with tangible measures to make the UK a more attractive market for green investment or we will see factories and jobs which could have been in the UK go overseas,” Bennett said.
“This polling shows not only that there is a wealth of public support for new incentives to secure renewable energy projects and manufacturing, but that people be would disappointed if we fail to secure these investments,” he said.