North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson will tonight launch a think tank that has been dubbed the British version of the American Tea Party.
The UK 2020 group, which is being chaired by Mr Paterson, describes itself as a “new centre-right think tank generating optimistic, common-sense policies”.
Some political pundits have likened it to the Tea Party, which has been highly influential within the Republican Party in the USA and which pushes a right wing agenda.
Mr Owen, sacked as environment secretary in the Cabinet reshuffle, says he wants to gather together like-minded Tories open to “think the unthinkable” and come up with a vision for a “prosperous, sovereign and socially just United Kingdom”.
Mr Paterson said the new venture will seek to articulate the views of Conservatives “beyond Westminster”.
He will make a major speech tonight at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in London, in which he is expected to call on Britain to leave the European Union and free itself from some climate change regulations and targets. He has already raised a six-figure sum for the project and is starting to recruit staff.
His intervention comes as the UN warns that global warming is the Earth’s biggest challenge and that more should be done to stem pollution.
And today Mr Paterson’s replacement as environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, responded to the launch of UK 2020 by calling for a more sensible debate on the issue.
She says it needs to move beyond a “polarised slanging match between hippies and gas-guzzlers”.
In her first major speech since taking the job, she will say economic growth and a healthy natural environment depend on each other, with the £100 billion food industry needing the countryside “to be in top condition” if it is to be at its most productive.
Ms Truss will insist the Government is committed to its pledge to be the “greenest ever”, adding: “To achieve that, the debate has to get beyond experts and specialinterest groups, beyond targets and summits, beyond the polarised slanging match we so often hear: you’re an alarmist or a denier, a hippy or a gas-guzzler.
“The reality is different. We are making environmental and economic progress. They are not just compatible – they depend on each other.”
TAP – Funded by Lord Ashcroft, Paterson is setting out his stall in a way which clearly is pitching for the moment Cameron falls. Exit from the EU. Great. Fracking and destroying Britain’s countryside with gas drilling, no thanks. Paterson will not be able to build any support until he gets his environmental policies right. That said, it’s interesting that not one national newspaper has yet covered the Paterson bid for Conservative hearts. That’s a measure of how popular it would be. If he’ll eat his words on fracking, and listen to the people campaigning in 120 Conservative ‘safe’ seats to stop it, including his own in North Shropshire, he might stand a chance. With no media support he’ll be very isolated. With no grass roots support either, he’ll be left high and dry. Pack up fracking, Mr Paterson, GM foods and neonicotinoids and the grass roots might swing round behind you. People won’t flood behind an environmental policy designed to destroy. More and more are aware about GM foods, the decline in bee populations and the abominable health effects of gas drilling in areas where humans and animals live. In Britain, that’s pretty well everywhere.
Liz Truss has correctly identified Paterson’s environmental policies as his Achilles heel. The world is running short not of gas and oil. Look at the falling prices. The world is, however, running short of water. And gas drilling threatens the aquifers everywhere they drill. On top of that, gas drilling consumes millions of gallons sufficient to deplete the Great Lakes in the US/Canada, and The Great Artesian Basin in Australia. Will Paterson notice? It seems he won’t. When asked by one constituent why he was sticking to his environmental policies despite all the evidence, he said,’It’s tough. It’s going to happen. OK?’ And to another, when asked what about his own constituents, meeting in good numbers in local Parish Halls to express concern about gas drilling, he said, word for word, ‘The people in xxxxxxxx aren’t real people.’ Whatever the Bilderberg meetings may have inserted into his head, the reframing his mind has left him unable to realise who is and who is not a human being. It’s going to be some Tea Party without any water to pour on the GM tea leaves.