Bugger Brexit! If we’re honest, it’s what we all feel—for one reason or another. It is also a sentiment that Boris Johnson hopes will drive into his clutches voters who—he would say—just want Brexit done and dusted. But this election is about far more even than the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The reality is that the UK has bigger fish to fry—and none bigger than the existential threat of climate breakdown.
Since Theresa May chose to bet everything on a throw of the electoral dice two years back, attitudes to the environment have undergone a sea change. At the same time, it has begun to dawn on people that frustrating though it is, Brexit is not, after all, the great issue of our time.
One year ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have little more than a decade to act, if we wish to stand any chance of preventing catastrophic, all-pervasive climate breakdown. That message is now getting through, to the extent that people are putting global heating and climate breakdown close to the top of their list of priorities.
There is no question that Brexit preference remains a vote driver. But polling by BritainThinks in July revealed that the British public now worries more about climate change than issues such as terrorism, crime, immigration and housing. Another poll, commissioned by Hope not Hate in September, found that close to three quarters of people in the UK agreed that the world faced a climate emergency.
This helps to explain why schoolkids have been striking in their thousands; why London and dozens of other cities across the world have been brought to a halt by Extinction Rebellion; and why more than half of those polled in a new survey by Opinium said that climate change would affect how they voted in an election; this figure rising to almost three quarters in the under-25s. On top of this, almost two-thirds said they supported a Green New Deal that would see massive and sustained investment in green infrastructure and jobs.
In assuming, then, that everyone is so fed up of the shenanigans that the B-word will be the sole informer of voting intention in the coming poll, the PM is in danger of mis-reading the…