GMB boss warns Keir Starmer not to risk ‘economic destruction’

The leader of one the biggest trade unions has warned Sir Keir Starmer voters will not tolerate “economic destruction” in pursuit of net zero.

GMB General Secretary Gary Smith said politicians had been “fundamentally dishonest” about how complex and expensive a transition to a zero-carbon society would be.

He also cautioned that a botched energy policy would be a “disaster” for the country and signalled it could torpedo Labour’s election chances.

Sir Keir blamed Labour’s failure to win Boris Johnson’s former seat in last month’s by-election on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s controversial move to extend the “Ulez” scheme.

The low emissions charge forces drivers of more polluting vehicles to pay a £12.50 daily. Mr Smith warns politicians to risk unleashing even greater anger if they mishandle the country’s energy challenges.

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“The danger is if they get the discussion wrong on oil and gas and how we heat our homes and how we power industry, it becomes Ulez on steroids,” he said. And he predicts paying for energy will be a “defining issue” in the next election.

The GMB has called for a delay to the Ulez expansion and has pressed Sir Keir to scrap plans to ban North Sea fossil fuel extraction licences.

Mr Smith told the Sunday Express: “I think Labour got it wrong. I think it was ill-thought-through what they said, and I hope their position is changing as they face up to the realities of the complexities and challenges of net zero.”

He is worried about the impact of environmental policies which threaten to “heap costs” on lower-paid workers experiencing “genuine pain” as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

“If politicians don’t listen, don’t take people with them, there will be a backlash and it will be to the Right,” he warned.

He believes achieving net zero emissions is right but warns without a credible plan and a national conversation it “is going to be scuppered”.

The GMB boss expects fossil fuels will be “with us for many decades to come” and insists Britain must not depend on foreign imports.

He said: “Allowing oil and gas to wither will be a disaster for national security. It’s a disaster for the economy and jobs and the only winners are going to be despots and dictators.”

Mr Smith added: “I think there has been a fundamental dishonesty at the heart of our politics about how complex energy is and how about costly any transition is going to be. People are not going to tolerate economic destruction to try to achieve net zero.”

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His words come as senior Tories, including ex-party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and former Business Secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, have urged Rishi Sunak to delay the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars for five years.

Exclusive polling by Omnisis shows 53 percent of voters do not want it to begin in 2030, with only 31 percent wanting to stick to the schedule.

Craig Mackinlay said the “rest of the world will not be following us down our virtue-signalling rabbit hole as we shatter our economy”.

The South Thanet MP added: “The Government needs to wake up to reality and extend or, better still, cancel these plucked-out-of-the-air dates.”

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