A recent Twitter post by a member of the public in High Peak has highlighted the fact that Robert Largan and other Conservative MPs seem to be trying to greenwash their credentials.
Decked out in shades of green
A constituent of High Peak recently tweeted a photo of a newsletter from her MP, Robert Largan, inviting people to guess which party he represents.
It’s a fair question. At first look – indeed, at second, third and fourth looks – you’d be forgiven for not realising he’s a Conservative. It’s four larger-than-A4 pages, all decked out in shades of green while any party branding is relegated to small logos in the corners. On the back, at the bottom, is the address of High Peak Conservative Association along with the required promotional information in tiny letters.
Nowhere within it does Largan associate himself with the Conservative Party. He doesn’t even mention his recent promotion to the position of assistant whip.
The original tweet went viral. In two days, it has clocked up nearly 300k views. When the highly-respected Green peer, Jenny Jones, called the leaflet disgraceful, Largan felt it was time to respond. On Twitter, he dismissed the newsletter as old and claimed – erroneously – that it contains several mentions of him as a member of the Conservative Party.
That newsletter may be his most recent, but Largan has form for trying to portray himself as anything-but-Tory. More than 18 months ago, political journalist Stephen Bush had already noticed that he “has clearly decided basically to try to run as close to an indy as he can next time”.
It might seem paradoxical, hypocritical even, for a government whip to try to disown the government he whips for, but the MP seems unbothered by the mental contortions required to do so. Maybe he agrees with Scott Fitzgerald, that the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time is a sign of intelligence.
Certainly he appears to have no trouble promoting the nickname he has given himself (‘independent-minded’) whilst simultaneously whipping his colleagues to tow the party line. Neither did he have difficulty announcing himself as a member of the Conservative Environment Network while generally voting against measures to prevent climate change and even misleading a Westminster Hall debate in order to campaign against a proposed solar farm in his constituency.
Largan is not alone in using this tactic. At least several other Conservative MPs are using near-identical leaflets, with the details tweaked to suit their individual needs.
So it’s a party-wide initiative but what’s the point of it? It is perhaps unsurprising that Conservative MPs are trying to greenwash their image, but is there not a risk that this tactic will simply lead more people to vote for the Green Party?
That wouldn’t necessarily trouble Tories like Robert Largan in High Peak, or Dominic Raab in Esher and Walton. Neither has a secure seat and any splintering of the progressive vote is almost as helpful to them as a tick in their own box.
High Peak is dominated by the two major parties and it shifts from red to blue then back to red on a regular basis. For Largan, with his one-molecule-thick majority, every single vote that falls away from Labour must surely be of paramount importance.
More concerned with content
We asked High Peak Green Party how they felt about this greenwashing. They confirmed that Largan has used the same green colour palette for his last two newsletters.
To their credit, however, they are concerned less about the possible rip-off of Green Party branding and more with the actual content. His last two newsletters lead with the same three headline claims which, according to High Peak Green Party, are at best difficult to prove and at worst simply not true.
We also approached Largan for comment but have yet to receive a reply.