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Chris Skidmore’s hissy-fit by-election


A new year brings with it fresh headaches for Rishi Sunak. Chris Skidmore, a former energy minister, has announced he will stand down as an MP in protest at plans to issue more oil and gas licences. Parliament is expected to vote on Monday on the government’s flagship bill to guarantee annual licensing rounds in the North Sea.

Tory strategists had hoped that the legislation would exploit Labour divisions on green issues. But it seems to have prompted the opposite effect, with Skidmore taking the very rare step of not just resigning the party whip but quitting his seat in protest – triggering a contest in his soon-to-be-abolished Kingswood seat. Skidmore did not find another seat, so he was anyway leaving parliament. He has now bolted early.

In a statement on Twitter/X he declared that Monday’s bill would ‘send a global signal that the UK is rowing ever further back from its climate change commitments’. That’s the same UK has just become the first country in the G20 to halve its carbon emissions. And what about the fairly basic point that using domestic gas will actually speed up the journey NetZero? Official studies show it’s 73 per cent less carbon intensive than the LNG gas imports – and we are, after all, a country still dependent on imports for 37 per cent of energy supplies.

Does Skidmore think the UK will stop needing to import oil or gas any time in the next decade or so? If not, does he seriously argue that it’s better to import Qatari or American LNG rather than use what’s left of the North Sea? His article in the Guardian didn’t say, his resignation letter doesn’t say and nor does his book on Net Zero that was published last January.

But the Tories are actually doing what he purports to want.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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