A former Cabinet minister and Brexiteer has laid into Sir Keir Starmer in an extraordinary rant. Iain Duncan Smith, formerly the work and pensions secretary and Boris Johnson’s 2019 campaign lead, claimed the Labour leader was in bed with environmental activist groups Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.
Criticising Keir Starmer for calling for a ban to North Sea Oil in an effort to move towards green energy, Iain Duncan Smith described him as a “Luddite” – someone who opposes technological changes.
Writing for the Sun, Mr Duncan Smith said: “Labour is backing a new Luddite coalition of chaos made up of the eco mob and trade unions.”
He also pointed to Sir Keir’s controversial appointment of Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer and climate activist who previously represented Extinction Rebellion, to work as an adviser to Ed Miliband, Labour’s secretary for Climate Change and Net Zero.
Further claiming the Labour leader had close connections with the activist groups, Mr Duncan Smith highlighted the donations made by Dale Vince, owner of the electricity company Ecotricity.
Mr Vince has previously donated to Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion and Animal Rising.
After his donations of over £1.5million to the Labour party were revealed, he announced he would match any money given to Just Stop Oil for 48 hours, raising £340,000.
The energy tycoon told the Guardian: “I’ve given money to Greenpeace, to Sea Shepherd, to a women’s refuge in Stroud. I fund food banks, I give jobs to homeless people.
“I’ll give money to the Green party, the Lib Dems, everybody that’s trying to do some good in the world.”
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But some of Mr Duncan Smith’s most damning words came for Sir Keir’s commitment to banning the use of North Sea oil.
Claiming Labour had “succumbed to the vastly expensive policy of extreme protest”, he said doing so would leave the UK with “no energy security and even less credibility on Net Zero.”
Labour has since walked back this commitment, although not fully.
The Rosebank oil and gas field west of Shetland is expected to get the go-ahead within weeks, and the leader of the opposition has said he would not block the development if a Labour government comes into power at the next general election.
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Labour has since promised not to revoke any fossil fuel extraction licences granted before the next general election, even though it could take years before any of the new oil and gas fields start producing.
Mr Duncan Smith criticised Labour’s plan to rapidly reduce reliance on oil and gas for, as he argued, making the UK more dependent on external sources of energy – which as the war in Ukraine has demonstrated, can have dangerous consequences.
Sir Keir’s stated intention is to create Great British Energy – a new, publicly-owned clean generation company – to ensure energy independence.
Responses to climate change while keeping energy available and affordable are likely to be key battlegrounds for Sir Keir and Rishi Sunak as they prepare for next year’s election.
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