Election fever - justified, or just about Brexit?

27/11/19 | Blog
Ge2019 blog background

December 12’s General Election isn’t, contrary to early expectations, all about Brexit.

Each of the main parties has made contributions to the energy debate, and Scottish Renewables has endeavoured to capture them all in our General Election manifesto tracker as the campaign has progressed.

Scottish Renewables member Message Matters has provided analysis on those manifestos. Here, Managing Director Peter Duncan, a former MP, sets out his view of the campaigns so far:

“This not been a policy-heavy election period. The major influencers of public opinion have been the impact of and trust in the two major party leaders: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

“Brexit has readily been side-lined as far as the national media has been concerned, but with very few specific policy announcements actually cutting through in terms of public perception.

“That said, Brexit is still the leading motivating factor for voters, with more of the public identifying it as their primary deciding factor than any other issue. 

“Research is showing that the high level public perceptions are that the Prime Minister is hardly trustworthy, and will get Brexit done, whilst Jeremy Corbyn will spend a lot of money, and give everyone free broadband.

“So far, this has been a poor election period for the Lib Dems, with low impact from their campaign, and vulnerability on the question of leadership.”

But is this in fact a national election? Or are we seeing a series of fractured votes across the country, with local issues taking an elevated, albeit second, place alongside the B-word?

Peter writes:

“Make no mistake: this is an election that will see “tactical voting on steroids”.

“Rather than there being one national campaign, there are in fact 650 local campaigns, with a coalition around whichever party is best placed to defeat the government, and in doing so provide a change of direction on Brexit. 

“It seems that the spectrum of possible outcomes is narrowing.

“Conservative hopes of a substantial majority lie more in winning big in the Midlands and the North of England than in hanging on in Scotland and the South East of England, where they face strong challenges from the SNP and the Lib Dems respectively.

“The sense is, with two weeks to go, that some strong gains in Darlington, Grimsby and Dudley for the Tories are likely to outweigh losses elsewhere.

“Certainly in Scotland, the Conservatives are significantly more optimistic than they were only four weeks ago, given that the First Minister has put so much weight on a second independence referendum and cemented that issue as dominating Brexit and Boris Johnson for their target voters.”

But what does #GE19 mean for our industry?

Can the election break the CfD deadlock in which onshore wind and large solar have been trapped since 2015’s poll?

And what of climate issues?

Peter again:

“For the renewable energy sector, this election campaign was the dog that hardly barked.

“The wider climate crisis is struggling to penetrate, whilst discussion on energy policy has been relegated by most of the parties to rhetoric and ambition, with little setting out of decisive steps to achieve their ambitions.

“What is clear, if you accept the suggestion that some form of Conservative majority seems more likely than not, is that two post-election decisions will be decisive: does Johnson confirm that the BEIS department will be headed by Andrea Leadsom as Secretary of State (a historic foe of those looking for renewables policy progress) and, secondly, to what degree does he feel the urgent need to push back on his portrayal as ‘hard right’.

“Johnson has allowed his support for Brexit fundamentalism to bleed into the general perception that he is of the far right in Conservative terms.

“His instincts are far different, and he wants to be seen as a centrist in his leadership of the country. Countering that impression may mean he takes up environmentalism as his major strategic challenge outside of Brexit and trade negotiations.

“The Scottish renewable energy sector will hope for that change.”

Remember you can catch up on a detailed analysis of all the main parties’ election manifestos on our website.