Sunday, 20 April 2008

Is voting green a luxury good?

Green candidate for London Mayor Sian Berry

The Green Party is concerned that its hopes of winning four seats in the London Assembly elections may be hit by the state of the economy. This is the fear of Green candidate for mayor Sian Berry.

While New Labour has announced a number of hard line green policies in recent weeks such as cracking down on gas guzzling cars, the Tories are edging away from their 'vote blue, go green' tactic which was a useful means of demonstrating that the party had changed. George Osborne has admitted that it would be hard to force green taxes on the public unless they were sweeetend with incentives.

CBI supremo (and Warwick University Chancellor) Richard Lambert recently warned that green policies that looked like 'no brainers' when the economy was growing rapidly looked less alluring when growth slowed. A recent YouGov poll hinted at growing boredom among the public about the reptition of environmental messages. 30 per cent of those polled thought that there was too much coverage in the media about global wraming (although some of those could be diehard 'petrolheads').

Ipsis Mori data shows that concern about the environment peaked in January 2007 when 19 per cent of people named it as one of the biggest issues facing Britain today, but by January 2008 that figure had fallen to 8 per cent. In contrast 23 per cent rated the economy as a top concern, double the number who did for most of 2007. However, Ipsis Mori emphasised that for people to mention an issue unprompted is a tough benchmark.

Race, immigration and terrorism top voter concerns at the moment. However, a recurrence of unusual weather events could drive up interest in the environment again. Moreover, high oil prices remind people of the need to develop alternative energy sources. For the Conservatives retaining an interest in the environment would help them to take seats off the Liberal Democrats, the greenest of the three main parties.


Justin Greaves said...

It is interesting how environmental taxes (as a share of the economy) have fallen under New Labour. I would support quite hefty increases in environmental taxes (eg: on aviation, certain kinds of cars etc) as long as they were balanced by cuts in other taxes such as income tax (eg: they should not be stealth cases that add to the tax burden). In effect this is Lib Dem policy and I hope it will be taken up by the Conservatives . As for Sian Berry, she seems to offer rather 'eco socialist' solutions as opposed to more market orientated methods. There is scope, I feel, for a major political party to seize on the latter and develop quite a persuasive agenda.

Wyn Grant said...

Have you heard of the 'signalling' vote? It is particularly relevant in elections where you have a supplementary vote. You vote, say, for Berry to show that you are concerned about the environment and then give your supplementary to one of the three main candidates. I agree that any green taxes should be offset elsewhere. That was the problem with road pricing: the message that you could reduce other road taxes was not put across clearly.

Justin Greaves said...

I have heard or this - but not the particular term you use. It will be interesting to see how high the vote is for minority parties in London - both for the Greens (3 assembly seats maybe?)and the BNP (a couple of seats?).