STEPHEN GLOVER: Boris Johnson’s green guru Allegra Stratton and the hypocrisy of her sermons about our dishwashers
Show me a climate change zealot and I can often show you a climate change hypocrite.
Step forward Allegra Stratton, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson for the UN COP26 climate change summit being held in Glasgow this autumn.
Actually, Ms Stratton is much more than your average official spokesperson. Over the past couple of weeks she has been putting herself about as though she is responsible for Government climate policy before and during the summit.
This is reported to have ‘p****d off’ the Cabinet minister who is meant to be in charge of the whole rattling train, Alok Sharma. One can see his point.
In the course of one of the several interviews she has recently given, Ms Stratton suggested last week that we would all do our bit for the planet — by way of reducing global warming — if we stopped rinsing plates before putting them into the dishwasher.
Step forward Allegra Stratton (pictured), Boris Johnson’s spokesperson for the UN COP26 climate change summit being held in Glasgow this autumn
To be fair, she wasn’t suggesting that not rinsing plates would of itself make an enormous difference. It was one of several ‘microsteps’ she proposed. Another was freezing uneaten bread.
If Ms Stratton wants to risk clogging up her dishwasher by piling plates into it that are encrusted with lasagne, that’s her business. But I do wish she would keep her nose out of our affairs, and stop telling us what to do in our own kitchens.
No less annoying and astonishing was her suggestion that people who care about saving the planet should join the Green Party. I thought she was supposed to be working for a Conservative Prime Minister!
But then she is a friend of the PM’s wife, Carrie Johnson, who is said to be something of a climate change zealot herself. Come to think of it, Boris sounds increasingly that way inclined.
Nor should one forget that Ms Stratton cut her journalistic teeth at The Guardian before moving to that newspaper’s acknowledged finishing school, BBC2’s Newsnight.
Actually, Ms Stratton is much more than your average official spokesperson. Over the past couple of weeks she has been putting herself about as though she is responsible for Government climate policy before and during the summit. Pictured on ITV’s Peston in 2016
She is, in fact, a recent and possibly not wholly sincere convert to the Tory cause. So we shouldn’t be too surprised that this bossy lady likes to lecture us about not rinsing our plates while championing the Green Party.
Yet another thunderbolt was released by Allegra at the end of last week during an interview on BBC Radio 4. She opined that the Prime Minister’s target date of 2050 for cutting carbon emissions to net zero is ‘too far away’ to halt climate change in the short term.
But then, a few days ago, something extraordinary happened. Having sounded in her various pronouncements much like the Swedish environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg, the Prime Minister’s official climate spokesperson suddenly turned into Nigel Farage.
In yet another interview, Ms Stratton revealed that she had no intention of giving up her ageing ‘third-hand’ diesel Volkswagen Golf, which she has owned for eight years, in favour of an electric car.
She said: ‘I don’t fancy [an electric car] just yet.’ Her Volkswagen can happily cope with trips of 200 or 250 miles to ‘go to granny’s and grandad’s’, whereas electric cars have a limited range and can take a long time to recharge.
When confronted with the realities of her own life, the woman who delivers sermons about not rinsing plates clings to her ancient, smoky diesel which, as well as emitting greenhouse gases, contributes to London’s terrible air pollution by spewing out dangerous particulates.
That’s why I say show me a climate change zealot and I can often show you a hypocrite. How easy to tell other people how to behave while disregarding the implications of such advice on their lives. How hard to obey the same recommendations when they are inconvenient to oneself.
Allegra Stratton deserves to be rebuked. She is practising the opposite of what she preaches on the airwaves from morn to dusk. Nor does she display a smidgeon of embarrassment or self-awareness.
And yet, when we have marvelled at her inconsistency, and wondered how it is possible for such people to thrive in the political sphere, we have to admit that she is right.
If Ms Stratton wants to risk clogging up her dishwasher by piling plates into it that are encrusted with lasagne, that’s her business. But I do wish she would keep her nose out of our affairs, and stop telling us what to do in our own kitchens (file photo)
Right to imply that, as things stand, electric cars are for most people impractical, as well as too expensive. A recent study by the consumer magazine Which? found that they are more costly than petrol cars over a three-year period.
One day electric cars will probably become less pricey, and have a longer range than they do now. It just hasn’t happened yet, as Allegra Stratton has discovered.
Whether it will happen by 2030 — when the Government intends to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles — is unknowable. That’s only a little over eight years away.
Can we reasonably expect people, especially poor people, to buy electric cars in the meantime if doing so is impractical and puts further pressure on tight family budgets?
The Prime Minister’s very well-off spokesperson for the UN COP26 climate change summit and self-appointed Green guru is not yet prepared to do it. Why should they?
A similar point can be made about gas boilers, where the costs of following the Government’s prescriptions are even more painful. Boris Johnson has decreed that the installation of new gas boilers will be outlawed from 2035.
Hydrogen boilers, one possible eco-friendly substitute, are not yet available. Other alternatives include ground source or air source heat pumps, which cost at least £14,000 and £11,000 respectively.
Unless they become cheaper in the foreseeable future, they will be beyond the means of most families. No wonder Mr Johnson is reportedly considering delaying a ban on new gas boiler installations by five years to 2040.
I believe almost everyone accepts the reality of climate change, though there is room for discussion about whether all of it is attributable to man-made emissions. The evidence of rising temperatures and more frequent flooding is overwhelming.
But most people don’t want to be panicked into an instant and expensive upheaval in their lives by a Government that hasn’t properly considered the consequences.
According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, meeting the 2050 net zero target could cost the UK economy more than £1.4 trillion — equal to £50,000 per household — though nearly three-quarters might be offset by energy savings. That would still leave an immense bill of £400 billion.
Has the Government done its sums and weighed up the risks? Or is it too hastily making commitments which, if adopted under the current demanding timetable, could lead to economic hardship for millions?
Some are bound to ask whether it is all worth it, given that the UK accounts for a mere 1 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, China’s rising emissions are responsible for 28 per cent of the global total.
At the end of next year there will be only one coal-fired power station left in the UK. China is building them furiously. In 2020 it brought more than three times as much coal-fired capacity into operation than the rest of the world put together.
Which brings me back to Allegra Stratton’s contribution to the debate. If the fervent Green Party supporter and enemy of rinsing plates won’t give up her diesel car, the Government isn’t going to find it easy to persuade the rest of us to accept equal sacrifices.
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