Senior Tory almost quit party over fracking vote

The reviewer of the government’s net zero strategy said he nearly left the Conservatives following the chaotic vote on fracking last year.

Chris Skidmore signing the UK’s net zero commitment in 2019. Photo: UK government

In September 2022, Chris Skidmore, a former minister, had been commissioned by the then prime minster, Liz Truss, to chair a review of the strategy.

But the administration’s handling of a debate on fracking in October prompted him to consider sitting as an independent MP.

Last week, Mr Skidmore told parliament:

“I took my role as independent chair very seriously. I nearly became an independent MP on the back of the fracking no-confidence vote that happened during the review.

“I had meetings with every political party, including the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, and several with the Labour party.”

The vote, on 19 October 2022, was on a Labour call for a ban on fracking. Six weeks earlier, the Truss administration had announced a lifting of the moratorium on the process in England.

Ministers treated the debate as a vote of confidence in the government. Conservatives who failed to vote with the government risked losing their place in the party.

But at the last minute, the climate minister, Graham Stuart, suggested that the government had changed its mind on the confidence issue.

On the day of the debate, Mr Skidmore made a statement on Twitter saying he could not support fracking in a vote. He said he was unwilling to undermine the pledges he made in the 2019 election.

He was one of about 40 Conservatives who abstained in the vote.

The next day, Liz Truss resigned as prime minister. The following week, Rishi Sunak became prime minister and reinstated the moratorium.

In November 2022, Mr Skidmore announced he would not be standing as an MP at the next election.

He had joined the Conservatives as a teenager in 1996. He worked for Tory MPs and think-tanks before winning the marginal Kingswood constituency in south Gloucestershire for the party in 2010.

He was a Conservative vice chairman and held posts as universities and health ministers. As an interim energy minister in 2019, he signed the legislation committing the UK to a legally-binding target of net zero emissions by 2050.

3 replies »

  1. Studied Modern History (BA) at University. That’s useful when looking at Climate Change. I think he’ll find that he won’t be an MP anyway in a couple of years time.

  2. I can think of many reasons why a Tory MP should quit the Cons. Fracking is not one of them.

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