It's not "just an obsession of posh boys in Southern seats".
Before he was booted out of government, Dominic Cummings allegedly told the environment minister that green measures don’t matter to people in the ‘Red Wall’ and are “just an obsession of posh boys in Southern seats”.
A new poll of 1,700 people shows he’s wrong or at least over-simplifying matters. A large and increasing majority of people in ‘Red Wall’ seats do care about the environment and think the government hasn’t done enough to protect it.
When asked by YouGov, 55% of those in Red Wall seats said measures to protect the environment have not gone far enough. Just 11% disagreed.
While those in towns are still less likely than those in villages or big cities to prioritise the environment, the gap has narrowed over the last two years.
Nigel Farage struck a similar note to Cummings in opposing the government’s green commitments.
While Farage has called wind energy “collective economic insanity”, the Centre for Towns polling shows a vast majority of the British public (particularly in small towns) support renewable investment.
Similarly, the public overwhelmingly supports subisdies for insulation. This was the idea behind the government’s Green Homes Grant, which was a good idea in theory but bungled in practice and then cut.
One policy on which Farage may have a point though is the government’ planned ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030.
On first glance, polling suggests that this phase-out is far less popular than other environmental policies, particularly outside of the big cities.
However, those polled were just asked about a phase-out rather than a phase-out ten years in the future.
Many may have understandably felt that the electric vehicle infrastructure, like cheap cars and charging points, isn’t ready for an enforced switch now or in the next few years.
This shows the importance of getting this infrastruce in place in all parts of the country well before 2030.
As well as message, the polling showed the importance of the environmental movement of having the right messenger.
Although Extinction Rebellion have arguably played a key role in increasing public concern for climate change since 2018, they are generally not trusted, particularly in smaller towns. This is perhaps an inevitable result of their disruptive tactics.
The Green Party and Greenpeace are more trusted on the environment. Perhaps suprisingly, both are trusted pretty evenly across cities, towns and the countryside.
This bodes well for the Green Party’s attempt to win control of Solihull Council in May and build up their representation in other towns and rural areas.
But, by a long way, the man most trusted is Sir David Attenborough with nearly 90% approval ratings across the UK.
The influence of his documentaries, and Blue Planet in particular, is also shown by the fact that ‘the amount of waste we produce’ is rated the most important environmental issue facing the UK, slightly above even climate change.
So, for environmentalists to keep winning the public over, there’s two lessons. One, make sure people don’t lose out over green measures by, for example, rolling out electric vehicle charging points across the country. Two, keep Attenborough on telly for as long as possible and don’t hitch your wagon to Extinction Rebellion too closely.
Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward
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