British Politics

Palgrave Foundations Series, second edition

by Robert Leach, Bill Coxall and Lynton Robins

Chapter 23 notes - Politics and the Environment

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  • It is only relatively recently that environmental issues and policies have become a central concern of British politics and government.
  • The main impact on British politics has been through green pressure groups rather than mainstream parties, although all these have increasingly sought to address environmental concerns.
  • The British Green Party has had negligible political influence until very recently, partly because it has been under-represented through the British electoral system. The introduction of more proportional voting systems has led to representation in the European Parliament, Scottish Parliament and London Assembly.
  • New Labour claimed that the environment was central to its programme, yet its record on energy, transport and agriculture was mixed and contentious, reflecting other political pressures.
  • Both parties in the 2010 coalition government ostensibly share a commitment to the environment. Nuclear power remains a divisive issue, but no longer appears a potential coalition breaker.
  • The issue that now dominates UK and international environmental policy is climate change, although progress towards binding agreement has been slow.
  • Longer-term green issues and problems are not well served in a democratic political system that (inevitably?) reflects the immediate concerns and demands of current voters.