From ‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’: David Cameron, the Conservatives and the environment

Neil Thomas Carter, Ben Clements

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The environment was David Cameron’s signature issue underpinning his modernization agenda. In opposition the ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’ strategy had a positive impact on the party’s image: the environment operated as a valence issue in a period of raised public concern, particularly about climate change, and Cameron’s high-profile support contributed to the cross-party consensus that delivered radical change in climate policy. Although the Coalition government has implemented important environmental measures, the Conservatives have not enhanced their green credentials in government and Cameron has failed to provide strong leadership on the issue. Since 2010, climate change has to some extent been transformed into a positional issue. Conservative MPs, urged on by the right-wing press, have adopted an increasingly partisan approach to climate change, and opinion polls reveal clear partisan divisions on climate change amongst public opinion. As a positional issue climate change has become challenging for the Conservatives, showing them to be internally divided, rebellious and inclined to support producer interests. This article makes a contribution to our understanding of Conservative modernization, while also challenging the dominant assumption in the scholarly literature that the environment, particularly climate change, is a valence issue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204–225
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Politics
Early online date20 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. This is an author produced version of a paper published in British Politics. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.


  • conservative party; modernization; David Cameron; environmental policy; climate change; valence issue

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