A recent investigation revealed only two UK ministers were running electric cars
What is it they say about leading by example? As a recent BBC investigation revealed, when it comes to electric cars, our politicians are rather keener to promote the uptake than spend their own money on it.
The BBC found just two takers: Conservative MP Grant Schapps, a Tesla Model 3 owner, and Labour’s Ed Milliband, who has committed to leasing one.
Boris Johnson? An aged diesel-powered Toyota Previa. Keir Starmer? A mild-hybrid Toyota CH-R. This isn’t a party political broadcast, but it is a personal column: I don’t think either is really good enough for them to then preach with credibility.
The rest? Well, the BBC enquiries were met with silence more often than not, so it’s difficult to say for sure, but it’s hard not to contrast the tumbleweed blowing through Westminster against the vociferous policy support for climate change right now.
Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s climate spokesperson, added extra focus when she said her car is a diesel. Asked why it wasn’t electric, she responded “I don’t fancy it yet”, saying her parents live 200 miles away and “having to stop to charge would slow the journey down”.
Like you and me, Stratton is entitled to an opinion and to spend her money in any legal way, but given her role, she might have sounded less Gerald Ratner-esque had she offered better insights into the capabilities of electric cars and charging infrastructure. Her hesitancy is understandable, her one-sided response ignorant.
That storm blew over – until the BBC asked Alok Sharma, the minister in charge of leading the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow this year, what he drove. Yep, you guessed it: a diesel, a decision he reassured was acceptable because “I don’t drive it very much”, rather undermining why you’d buy one (pricier up front, cheaper to run).
Of course, there are a lot of official cars available to these people for work – and here the picture is brighter, with 35 (65%) of the 54 cars listed as hybrid or electric, and a process of trying to improve the mix at renewal time clear to see. It is perhaps at odds with his role, though, that the prime minister’s office alone has only combustion-engined cars (two diesel and one petrol) to draw on.
I doubt any of this will change anyone’s view on where to place their vote or whether electric cars are a positive or negative, but if authenticity and integrity are your thing, maybe it’s worth considering asking more of anyone at any level setting an agenda to live by it.
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