Former British energy minister Chris Skidmore announced he would resign as a Conservative MP in protest over the party's stance on oil and gas, leading to an embarrassing vote for the prime minister on the issue on Monday and a by-election yet to come. In a few weeks.
Skidmore, a prominent voice within the Conservative Party on green issues, said on Friday that he would resign from Parliament over Rishi Sunak's bill to allow new oil and gas licences.
Skidmore described the bill as a “tragedy” and accused the Prime Minister of committing to a course of action that was “wrong and will cause harm in the future”.
His resignation will trigger at least the eighth by-election in a year, where Labor will seek another victory.
“This bill will effectively allow new, more frequent oil and gas licenses and increased new fossil fuel production in the North Sea,” Skidmore said in his resignation statement.
He added: “I cannot continue to tolerate or support a government committed to a course of action that I know is wrong and will cause harm in the future.” Not acting, rather than just talking, means tolerating a status quo that cannot continue. “I therefore renounce my party and intend to be free from any party allegiance.”
Skidmore was the energy secretary who released former Prime Minister Theresa May's pledge to net zero emissions by 2050. More recently, he led the government's review of net zero, which was published in September 2022. He has criticized this government before and at the time told the Guardian that the Conservatives were heading in a “very dark direction” around misinformation and climate change.
Next week, the government will introduce the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill in the House of Commons, which would allow more licenses to extract fossil fuels from the North Sea. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear that new fossil fuel projects cannot be started, and so doing so would go against the recommendations of most of the world's leading climate scientists.
Labor intends to oppose the bill in Monday's vote, although the government is likely to win even without Skidmore's vote.
Ed Miliband, Labour's shadow energy secretary, said: “Well done to Chris Skidmore for standing up to this desperate Tory government. Their irresponsible and reckless attempt to double fossil fuel consumption will not reduce bills, it will undermine energy security and constitute a climate catastrophe. “That's why the Labor Party will vote “The workers are against it on Monday.”
Zac Goldsmith, a Tory MP and environmental campaigner, said: “The party will need to regroup after Sunak smashed it on the rocks. He added: “Those who consider themselves part of this future should think very carefully before supporting this foolish policy.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Memo to Rishi Sunak – this is what principled policy looks like. It was a pleasure to work with Chris Skidmore on climate and he will be greatly missed. “It's a huge criticism of a government that is valorizing fossil fuels.”
Skidmore was not planning to stand as an MP at the next election as his constituency will be abolished in the upcoming boundary changes. He has not yet said what he plans to do, but it is believed that he is running to chair the Climate Change Committee. However, with Sunak selected for the role, his appointment is thought to be unlikely.
(With information from agencies)