According to commentators of the weekend, last week's election results in London sounded the death knell for environmental policies for the Labour party: Ken Livingstone stood on a green platform, with some of the most radical environmental policies being proposed anywhere in the world and the voters said 'no', instead voting for a man who supported George Bush's position on Kyoto.
But looking a bit more closely at the results, the numbers actually tell a very different story. If anything, they lay the environmental challenge firmly at David Cameron's doorstep. Because although Ken Livingstone came second, more people voted for him this year than in 2004. Far from putting off Labour voters then, if the environment was a significant factor in determining voting intentions, last week's results suggest that Ken's bright-green policies appear to have motivated supporters to turn out. On a national level, similarly bold environmental policies could play a significant role in attracting people back to Labour, helping demonstrate the fresh thinking and strong leadership that we can offer and providing a positive reason to vote Labour.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the opportunity to vote against these same policies appears to have been extremely motivating for Tory voters. We will need to select our environmental policies carefully in order to avoid motivating those who want to assert their rights to pollute, but these results present a much bigger problem for David Cameron. The green agenda has been fundamental in the rehabilitation of the Tory party, but to date we haven't seen any concrete policies. Talking about the environment in abstract terms and evoking images of lovely cycles-to-work appears, for many, to have lifted the guilt of putting your cross in the box marked 'conservative'.
But as a general election grows closer, the Tories are going to have to come up with some policies to legitimize this warm green glow. What policies to tackle climate change will Cameron be able to put forward to when his biggest victory to date has been delivered by voters actively wanting to get rid of the most sustainable mayor in the world? Cameron's slogan 'Vote Blue go Green' might be very clever while they have no policies, but it appears that Tory voters are not so keen when the rhetoric becomes reality.