Does Robert Jenrick Work for… Boris Johnson? mdi-fullscreen

Build, Build, Build is Boris’s big policy. Yet is Robert Jenrick’s MHCLG the smooth planning machine needed to roll out the PM’s vision? Hardly.

Constructing Britain’s hospitals and homes will involve huge amounts of carbon-intensive steel and cement. Yet getting rid of carbon is the First Commandment of the nation’s new religion. And MHCLG is paralysed by fear of the climate priests of Twitter…

However a poll out today shows that ministers have nothing to dread. Because XR – just like all the other media manias – is massively out of touch with voters. The poll by Kantar asked people to list their top priorities for the Government:

You – and every member of XR – can download the poll here.

People do still care about CO2. But the poll shows that the XR claim of mass support for sending the economy into reverse is rubbish. As Chairman Mao said “all reactionaries are paper tigers”…

How bad has the paralysis at MHCLG become? Here’s an example to make Dominic Cumming’s blood boil. Four years ago the local authority unanimously approved an application in Northumberland. Three years ago a planning inspector said the application was in the national interest. Two years ago the High Court told the Government to get on with it.

Yet month after month this application for a replacement coal mine gathers cobwebs on ministerial desks. And as a result 250 people in the North East will shortly start receiving redundancy notices.

What is the purpose of ministers who won’t make decisions?

Admittedly, the applicant has been remiss in not purchasing dinners at The Savoy. Many businesses suffering from bureaucratic constipation consider political donations a useful laxative.

For now ministers show no sign of movement on the Northumberland application for a surface mine at Highthorn. That’s despite Tata Steel backing the mine as “ideally suited” to its needs and the surface mine replacing one at Shotton which ran out of coal last month.

The planning paralysis over replacing short-term surface mines has pushed coal imports up from 46% of UK needs in 2016 to an astonishing 86% last year. That could reach 100% next year. Remember that we are a nation with vast coal reserves under our feet.

The MHCLG is torn between Northern miners desperate for jobs and apocalyptic activists on Twitter.

Yet today’s poll shows voters are clear about their priorities:

Obviously listening to voters risks upsetting climate activists who live in a pretend world where hydrogen technology is ready to replace coal in commercial steel production.

A ‘demonstration’ plant using hydrogen is being built in Sweden. But that prototype is not expected to be ready for testing until 2025. So for this decade at least coal will be the indispensable reduction agent for turning iron ore into molten iron. That coal has to come from somewhere and Highthorn would produce coal for four years – from 2021 to 2025.

Perversely the Government has decided it wants a deep mine in West Cumbria which would produce coal from 2025 to 2065. If the Government can’t agree to a temporary surface mine what chance is there of such a long-term coal mine actually opening?

Yet on Highthorn – armed with the opinion poll – MHCLG can Tweet three messages to the activists:

Tweet 1: Building UK infrastructure needs steel and cement #carbonisvital

Tweet 2: Only in XR’s fantasy world is steel produced without coal #XRfantasysteel

Tweet 3: Importing coal creates massive carbon transport costs #reducecoalimports

If Robert Jenrick is an astute politician then he can clearly deliver a win-win for Boris. Just as with cake – where the PM is “pro having and pro eating”– by allowing domestic surface mines to compete with coal imports, Mr Jenrick can both grow jobs and reduce global carbon emissions.

Boris wants to level up and tackle climate change. The MHCLG’s current policy of offshoring jobs and increasing emissions is the very opposite of what he wants.

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