Energy in the UK election: Our seven-party Twitter debate
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.
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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?
.@Unearthed It’s biggest threat we face but also huge opportunity – to create jobs, end scandal of cold homes & improve transport system
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) April 22, 2015
@Unearthed Because of the devastating impact it could have nationally and internationally, unless we take action and do what we can.
— Amber Rudd (@AmberRuddhr) April 29, 2015
@Unearthed Climate change = one of biggest threats facing humanity. It must be tackled. Leaving it to future generations is not an option.
— LeanneWood (@LeanneWood) April 26, 2015
.@RogerHelmerMEP: ‘It isn’t. We don’t believe that human activity has a significant impact on climate change.’
— Unearthed (@Unearthed) April 22, 2015
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?
@Unearthed Freeze bills for 20mths, reform mkt & reg, insulate 5m homes over 10 yrs making EE Nat Infra priority & 2030 power decarb target — Caroline Flint (@CarolineFlintMP) April 24, 2015
@Unearthed We’re on track for our renewables electricity target & making progress on renewable heat & energy efficiency. — Aileen McLeod (@AileenMcLeodMSP) April 23, 2015
@Unearthed More renewables! EPS for existing coal stations to ensure coal comes off system by 2025 & 2030 decarb target for power sector — Edward Davey (@EdwardDaveyMP) April 23, 2015
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?
@Unearthed We’ve been the #greenestgovernmentever – setting up world 1st Green Investment Bank + trebling renewables generation to 19%. — Amber Rudd (@AmberRuddhr) April 29, 2015
@Unearthed Yes. Commited to more renewables: Tories want to stop onshore wind. Labour heavy handed regulation scaring off green investment — Edward Davey (@EdwardDaveyMP) April 23, 2015
.@RogerHelmerMEP: ‘We are the only Party with a viable plan to deliver secure and affordable energy, based on coal, gas and nuclear.’ — Unearthed (@Unearthed) April 22, 2015
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?
@Unearthed Ed doesn’t need a husky. Labour will champion increased climate ambition with leadership at home to secure influence abroad
— Caroline Flint (@CarolineFlintMP) April 24, 2015
@Unearthed @Plaid_Cymru will work with friends in @the_snp to ensure all UK countries are represented & that agreement is strong & binding. — LeanneWood (@LeanneWood) April 26, 2015
@Unearthed Already started by securing ambitous EU deal. China & US followed. Lib Dems are pro EU & internationalist – only way to get deal — Edward Davey (@EdwardDaveyMP) April 23, 2015
.@Unearthed We’d make it THE No1 priority & create positive vision to inspire global community. We’d listen to citizens – they want action — Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) April 22, 2015
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.