DeSmog UK Weekly: *Bumper Cabinet Reshuffle Edition*

14 February 2020 — DesSmogUK

Who is really in charge of the UK’s government? Is it a) the elected MPs that won a landslide victory for the Conservative Party in December last year? Or b) the special advisors that always walk a respectful 5 paces behind them holding a device that looks suspiciously marionette-like?

After Boris Johnson’s first cabinet reshuffle as Prime Mininster, it looks possible it could be the latter.

And that matters, because those running the show may not be coming from exactly the place that those who voted to ‘take back control’ might expect.

Many of the SPADs that now find themselves holding all sorts of strings came from a set of lobby groups based in and around offices in Westminster’s Tufton Street. These groups have campaigned to roll-back or discard the UK’s environmental regulations as the country seeks trade deals with the world’s major polluters. Many of the groups are also tied to funders of climate science denial and take money from Big Oil.

Representative democracy that is not.

We’ve mapped all the connections between Boris Johnson’s new cabinet and the Tufton Street lobbying network here.

And what of the most important climate portfolio this year, the Presidency of the annual UN climate talks (known as ‘COP26’) set to be held in Glasgow in November?

Having sacked former Energy Minister Claire O’Neill for not having enough diplomatic experience for such an important job, Boris decided that actually the job isn’t that big afterall and can be done part-time.

With that in mind, he gave the role to former International Development Secretary and new Business/Energy/Industrial Strategy Secretary Alok Sharma.

Sharma has taken mulitple donations from Ukranian energy tycoon and major Tory donor Alexander Temerko – the latest registered as recently as last month. He’s also fan of airport expansion and has a patchy voting record on climate measures, meaning his appointment was subject to raised eyebrows in some climate campaigning quarters.

Sharma says he’s “looking forward to a busy year ahead”. He has nine months to not only get the show on the road, but get all the electic vehicles pointing in the right direction, ready to hurtle along the track. God speed.

Find out more about Alok Sharma: The minister with nine months to prepare UK for COP26

The final major change to the UK’s crack environmental team saw Boris boot climate champion Theresa Villiers out of office early in the morning, to replace her with farmers’ favourite George Eustice as Environment Secretary by afternoon.

Eustice is from a farming family and has been variously described as a “key ally, “good countryman”, and “first-class” by landed gentry types keen on rural pursuits. He has rarely voted for pro-environment measures, however, causing more than a little outrcy in green quarters.

He also once took part in an antler throwing competition during a trip to Latvia. Mercifully, there is a video.

Find out more about Environment Secretary George Eustice: A farmers’ favourite with a patchy record on climate action

Finally, a huge thanks to DeSmog’s crack team of investigatinve reporters – Sophie Yeo, Richard Colett-White, Zak Derler, and Fran Rankin – who worked ridiculously hard to bring you everything we know about BoJo’s new cabinet in (almost) real time. We’re a tiny team, and this work takes a huge amount of resources. If you like what you’re reading and feel you can, please support DeSmog by becoming a patron today. Thank you.

As always, we love feedback on the newsletter. If you have anything to say, please email editor@desmog.uk.

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NEW STORIES

Mapped: Boris Johnson’s Cabinet and the Tufton Street Lobbying Network

Boris Johnson has retained a core of ministers linked to a lobbying network pushing to weaken the UK’s environmental regulations in his first cabinet reshuffle since the general election.

But the day also saw a number of high-profile sackings, potentially weakening the network’s influence in Downing Street. Read more…

Alok Sharma: The Minister with Nine Months to Prepare UK for Global Climate Talks

  Alok Sharma has today been appointed President of COP26, the UN climate negotiations taking place in Glasgow later this year, following Claire O’Neill’s removal from the post last month.

He now has only nine months to prepare for the conference, at which nations are expected to deliver updated climate action plans. After his appointment, Sharma said on twitter that he was “looking forward to an exciting year ahead.” Read more…

Environment Secretary George Eustice: A Farmers’ Favourite With a Patchy Record on Climate Action

  Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed a pro-Brexit former farming minister described as a “real countryman” with a patchy voting record on climate action as new Environment Secretary.

Cornish MP George Eustice has been given the role after working as a junior minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) since 2015. Read more…

 ‘It’s a Huge Step Backwards’: Teenagers Hunger Striking to Stop the UK’s Newest Coal Mine

  It’s 5pm on a dismal Monday and commuters are scurrying past Parliament on their way home. In the fast-fading light it’s easy to miss a solitary teenager perched on a wet ledge and holding up a cardboard sign.

This is the ninth day that 14-year-old Lissy Green has deprived herself of food. The schoolgirl from Ascot, Berkshire, is one of a clutch of young activists opposing plans for a deep coal mine in West Cumbria – the UK’s first in 30 years. Read more…

Activists Occupy British Museum Calling for End to BP Sponsorship

  Activists from theatrical protest group BP or not BP occupied the British Museum overnight in protest of the fossil fuel company’s sponsorship.

The protest titled ‘BP Must Fall’ began the day before, when activists dressed as warriors with BP’s logo emblazoned on shields, snuck a giant wooden trojan horse through the museum gates and parked it in front of the main entrance. Read more…

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