Ex-Tory MP switches support to Labour over Sunak ‘siding with climate deniers’

Former Tory minister Chris Skidmore has said he will vote Labour for the first time because of Rishi Sunak’s decision to “side with climate deniers and to deliberately politicise the energy transition”.

He becomes the most senior figure yet to ditch the Tories and throw his weight behind Sir Keir Starmer’s party, adding to Rishi Sunak’s woes as he battles to defy opinion polls and remain in No 10.

In a highly personal attack on the Prime Minister, Mr Skidmore accused him of “extremist rhetoric that frames net zero policies as an imposition”, driven by “ignorance and deliberate misinformation”.

The Conservatives’ ex-net zero tsar quit as a Tory MP in January over the Government’s plans to mandate the issuing of new oil and gas licences.

Mr Skidmore, who led the Government’s net zero review in 2023, has been an outspoken critic of Mr Sunak’s policies on the environment.

His resignation triggered a by-election in Kingswood, near Bristol, which Labour won.

Writing in the Guardian on Thursday, Mr Skidmore said: “Sunak’s decision instead to side with climate deniers and to deliberately politicise the energy transition is perhaps the greatest tragedy of his premiership.

“It has cost us not just environmentally but also economically. It is a decision that will also cost votes, including those in my own constituency.

“For the first time, I cannot vote for a party that has boasted of new oil and gas licences in its manifesto or that now argues that net zero is a burden and not a benefit.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak’s faltering election campaign has been hit by Chris Skidmore’s endorsement of Labour (James Manning/PA)

“Instead, like many others who know that we have neither choice nor any more time, and need to tackle the climate crisis now, I have decided that the Labour Party is best placed to achieve economic growth and the green industrial revolution.

“Net zero is one of its five key priorities, and for this reason I will be voting Labour at this election.”

He said that Mr Sunak’s move to roll back net zero commitments “risks losing Britain the greatest economic opportunity in a generation”.

“Worse still has been an extremist rhetoric that frames net zero policies as an imposition,” he said.

Previous Tory governments “understood” the energy transition was “inevitable and needed to be carefully managed and incentivised”, he wrote.