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Wealden LibDem PPC slams Tory MP for 'Greenwash Electioneering'

October 13, 2019 4:15 PM

Chris Bowers, Oct 2019 - photo by Katie VandyckThe Liberal Democrats' Wealden parliamentary candidate Chris Bowers has slammed Conservative MP Nus Ghani for using parliamentary allowances to fund an environmental leaflet that he calls "greenwash electioneering".

Chris Bowers, who is likely to be the leading challenger to Ms Ghani at the next general election, says the Conservative MP has seemingly used taxpayers' money for advance election publicity disguised as public information.

This past week, the Wealden Conservatives have been busy delivering a 12-page leaflet through letterboxes throughout the Wealden parliamentary constituency headed 'Your Guide to Going Green by Nus Ghani MP'. In the small print it says, "This publication has been financed through allowances available to the Member of Parliament." 12-page

"To put out a 12-page leaflet claiming that the Conservatives are in the vanguard of the fight against climate change really takes the biscuit," says Bowers, himself a key figure in the Liberal Democrats' revised climate policy (Policy paper #139-Tackling the Climate Emergency) that was approved at the party's conference last month.

"In addition to the fact that the Conservative government has shown insufficient urgency in tackling climate change, in June Ms Ghani was one of the MPs who voted to exclude wind and water turbines from a special reduced rate of VAT applying to the supply and installation of energy-saving materials in homes," Bowers continues. "So choosing now to use public money that is set aside specifically for keeping constituents informed of an MP's work to finance this pamphlet is nothing short of greenwash electioneering."

Bowers is not alone in his condemnation - after receiving Ghani's leaflet, Wealden residents across Uckfield, Crowborough and Hailsham took to social media to express their views, with many comments sharing such words as: "outrageous" "ironic" and "typical tory" and with several linking to Nus Ghani's revealing environmental voting records on theyworkforyou.com and The Guardian's recent "Climate Scoring for MPs" on which Ghani scored the lowest possible rating of 0%.

On top of their salary, Members of Parliament are allowed to claim a number of tax-free allowances. This includes a communications allowance to help MPs inform their constituents about their work, although it cannot be used for party political purposes. With many anticipating a general election in the near future, it is this rule that is causing the Lib Dems to ask questions about which allowance was used for Ghani's "green" 12-page leaflet, which has been distributed widely and contains no assurance that it has been printed on recycled or Forestry Stewardship Council ("FSC") paper, and whether the rules relating to that allowance have been broken.

"I suppose we shouldn't really be surprised," says Bowers, "given that Boris Johnson is proroguing Parliament to allow for a Queen's Speech that constitutional experts have said will be tantamount to asking the Queen to make a Conservative election broadcast. However, we do think it's important to check whether Ms Ghani has broken any rules with the way she has funded this leaflet."

And it's not only Wealden's sitting MP who deserves scrutiny, as Bowers points out: "The performance of Wealden's Conservative councillors on climate change is, sadly, equally cavalier," he says. "Back in May I sat in a debate at Uckfield College when the veteran Tory councillor and former MP Roy Galley said we should wait for technology to tackle climate problems. Has he not heard that if we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years it may be too late?"

LibDem Climate Change policy Sept 2019