Sunak’s U-turn on climate may have influenced Labour’s landslide victory

Almost half of voters in constituencies lost by the Conservatives in the general election think former prime minister Rishi Sunak was wrong to weaken climate commitments.

The study, commissioned by Greenpeace UK, suggests that concerns over climate and nature issues may have influenced the way in which people voted, leading to Labour’s landslide general election victory.

In September last year, Sunak announced a major U-turn on the government’s climate commitments as he promised to put his party on a more radical path in an attempt to close the gap with Labour before the general election.

He, and the rest of the Conservative Party, were heavily criticised for the move.

The constituency-level polling of over 10,000 people across Great Britain shows that in the 251 seats lost by the Conservatives, almost half of those surveyed think that the party was wrong to weaken its commitments on climate change and the environment.

Less than one-third thought that the party was right to weaken its commitments.

In the South East – where the Conservatives lost 51 seats – one in four voters said that it was the party’s stance on climate change and the environment that was a key reason they were not voting for them.

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Policies related to climate change and the environment were important to the majority of all respondents (55%). In the Blue Wall – former Tory heartlands in the South of England – issues such as the sewage crisis were a major concern for voters.

The Conservatives lost 37 out of 52 of these seats, with 24 of them going to the Lib Dems, who made climate and nature key to their election pledges.

Tackling the sewage crisis – a flagship policy for the Lib Dems – was particularly popular with polling respondents in this region, with more than two thirds (70%) of voters stating support for setting legal targets for eliminating sewage spills.

Half of voters (49%) in Blue Wall seats lost by the Conservatives said that they were wrong to weaken their commitments on climate change and the environment, with more voters in key constituencies such as Guilford and Ely expressing the same view (57% for both).

Three in four (74%) Labour voters said that they expect a Labour government to deliver nature protection, tackle pollution and reduce plastic production. Two-thirds (66%) said they expect a Labour Government to increase investment in climate and nature policies.

Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, Georgia Whitaker, said: “This survey shows how Sunak’s divisive anti-green agenda, his net zero rollbacks and his desire to ‘max out’ oil and gas backfired at the ballot box.

“Not only did it fail to shift the dial with voters but it’s the direct reason many voters in seats the Conservatives have lost chose to vote for other parties.”

Circular economyClimate crisisEnergyNature and the environmentNet zeroNewsPolicySocial sustainability

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