Former Tory minister says he'll vote Labour and accuses Sunak of 'siding with climate deniers'

A former Tory minister who quit in protest at the government's handling of the climate crisis has revealed he will vote Labour at the election.

In another blow to Rishi Sunak's faltering campaign, Chris Skidmore accused the prime minister of "siding with climate deniers" in order to "deliberately politicise" the transition to clean energy.

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He said this was perhaps "the greatest tragedy of [Sunak's] premiership", saying it has "cost us not just environmentally but also economically".

Mr Skidmore wrote in The Guardian: "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.

"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."

Mr Skidmore, a former energy minister, quit as a Conservative MP in January over the government's plans to offer new licences for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

The policy followed a watering down of green pledges in light of the Uxbridge by-election.

The Tories unexpectedly held onto Boris Johnson's old seat last summer after making their opposition to Sadiq Kahn's ULEZ expansion central to the campaign.

The shift was seen by some as an attempt to make green policies a "wedge issue" with Labour, with Mr Sunak saying he wanted to protect "hard-pressed British families" from "unacceptable costs".

In his piece, Mr Skidmore hit out at "an extremist rhetoric that frames net zero policies as an imposition".

"This false narrative is the product of both ignorance and deliberate misinformation. Nobody has ever been told that they must remove their boilers or replace their petrol cars."

He said that while previous Conservative governments "understood that change was inevitable and needed to be carefully managed and incentivised" the prime minister's decision to "instead side with climate deniers and to deliberately politicise the energy transition is perhaps the greatest tragedy of his premiership".

Mr Skidmore, who led the government's net zero review in 2023, has long been a critic of Mr Sunak's policies on the environment.

After his resignation, Labour went on to win his seat in Kingswood, near Bristol.

His change of allegiance comes just days after a former Tory donor who gave half a million pounds to Boris Johnson also said he would be voting Labour for the first time.

It is the latest bad news for Mr Sunak, after multiple polls suggesting Labour is on course for a historic landslide and an emerging scandal about bets being placed on the date of the election.