The launch of the Labour party’s new green energy mission did not go to plan. The party had promised to ferry journalists to the venue in a hydrogen-powered bus, only for this to be quickly replaced with a diesel alternative on the day. To make matters worse, the bus driver then got lost on route, twisting and turning his way through the narrow streets of Leith. Only after several U-turns, and some helpful directions from a generous journalist, did the bus eventually chug its way – much delayed – to the location of Starmer’s great launch.
As a metaphor for the Labour party’s energy policy, you would be hard pressed to find something more apt. Over the last month, the party has lurched from one position to another, publicly debating how best to marry its commitments to green energy, skilled jobs and sound public finances.
The debacle began more than three weeks ago when Starmer – under the auspices of his shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, Ed Miliband – announced that a Labour government would not grant any new licences for oil and gas development in the North Sea. Such a policy would leave one of Scotland’s most important industries facing a cliff-edge shutdown, potentially costing tens of thousands of skilled jobs. It provoked a furious and entirely predictable backlash from opposition parties, energy companies, trade unions and the Scottish Labour party itself.
In an attempt to stem the fallout, various Labour figures, including Starmer and his Scottish counterpart, Anas Sarwar, spent the following days beating a hasty retreat. Starmer wrote for the Times insisting oil and gas would remain a ‘crucial part’ of the UK’s energy mix. For his part, Sarwar said that, while a Labour government would not grant any new licences, it would ‘honour