Energy in the UK election: Our seven-party Twitter debate


Unearthed reporters

The Westminster and Holyrood incumbents defended their records on energy and climate change in an Unearthed online election debate, following a series of forceful calls for major reform by Labour, the Greens and UKIP.

Over the past two weeks, we conducted seven interviews with seven leading figures from the UK’s major political parties — all via Twitter.

We asked them a set of four questions about energy and climate change that were designed to pick at why these issues are important and to discern where the differences in policy and rhetoric lie.

Read more: Follow our UK election coverage

We spoke with Ed Davey (Liberal Democrat); Amber Rudd (Conservative); Caroline Flint (Labour); Caroline Lucas (Green Party); Roger Helmer (UKIP); Aileen McLeod (SNP); and Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru).

Here are the highlights:

Why is tackling climate change important to your party?

Besides Helmer, nobody disputed the significance of climate change.

The emphasis was largely on the catastrophe climate change could cause, but in her three-part answer Lucas also said it is “an opportunity” to do some pretty important things, while Labour’s Flint framed the issue in terms of equality.

What is the key thing that your party plans to change in the energy system or market?

Energy efficiency got a lot of love across the board, but there was an interesting range of priorities.

The Tories said the cost of energy comes first, to which the Flint offered the solution of price-freezes and market reform and regulation. Meanwhile Leanne Wood of Plaid outlined her vision for “a publicly owned energy company in Wales” that would reinvest its profits.

Do you think your party is distinctive from the others on climate and energy, and if so how?

Aside from the Greens and UKIP, both whom occupy opposite sides of the energy spectrum, it can sometimes be tricky to differentiate the major parties on issues beyond the aesthetics of onshore wind turbines.

The Lib Dems seem to like renewables a bit more than the rest, Labour seem to want to disrupt the Big Six oligopoly a bit more than the rest, and the Tories didn’t say anything substantial, but did bring back their #greenestgovernmentever moniker.

With major climate talks in Paris this year, how would your party in gov make a difference on the global stage?

Climate change is a global issue, so diplomacy, international relations and leadership on the global stage are vital qualities for the government-to-be. 

Labour tried to keep this a ‘versus the Tories’ affair, the Tories again didn’t actually say all that much, the Lib Dems championed their EU credentials, the nationalist parties played to their bases, the Greens called this is the key issue, and UKIP predictably treated UN negotiations as a threat to British interests.

What did Unearthed learn?

The idea was to force the politicians into condensing their thoughts into 140 characters thereby revealing what they consider the crux of the energy and climate change debate.

A couple of them gave longer, multiple-tweet answers that provided added detail. These were UKIP’s Helmer and especially the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, both of whom have stronger stances on the subject — though absolute opposite.

The Westminster and Holyrood incumbents didn’t really offer anything new; the Tories and SNP instead chose to focus on their records in government.

While Labour, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru reaffirmed their core climate change causes — fairness and reform, balance and renewables, and a green Wales, respectively.

Everyone involved was pretty game for our questions, and we thank all of them for taking part.