Conservatives win working majority in #GE2015
The declared results of yesterday’s general election ballot confirm that the Conservative Party has secured enough votes and seats to form a working majority in Parliament and to continue for a further term in government.
In what has been described as “an astonishing night” the Conservatives managed to gain seats compared to the last election in 2010, despite recent opinion polls consistently indicating that they and the Labour Party were virtually neck-and-neck and that Britain was on course for a hung parliament and another five years of coalition rule.
The election has claimed the scalps of some well-known political faces, including the former Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, the Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, and Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, who all lost their seats overnight. Shadow Energy Minister, Tom Greatrex, was another casualty, losing his seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West to the Scottish National Party.
Earlier today, after a disastrous election, Ed Miliband stepped down as Labour leader, with Nigel Farage also resigning as UKIP leader and Nick Clegg resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
What does this mean for onshore oil and gas?
Conservative energy policy was always the most pragmatic of the major English parties, recognising the need for the transition to a lower-carbon economy to be managed in a way that is both affordable and supports the wider economy.
It has consistently backed the safe and responsible exploration and potential production of shale gas, making it a manifesto pledge to “continue to support the safe development of shale gas, and ensure that local communities share the proceeds through generous community benefit packages. We will create a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England, so that the shale gas resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North.”
But nobody should assume that a majority Conservative government will fire the starting pistol for a rapid expansion of shale gas activity.
The day before the polls opened, on a visit to Lancashire, David Cameron vowed any future Conservative government would not rush into fracking for shale gas. He said he wanted to reassure communities on the Fylde coast there will be no dash into technology without the safeguards in place saying “What I would say is recovering unconventional gas will only go ahead with stringent environmental safeguards. I hope that reassures people there is no danger of some dash into technology without the safeguards in place and real pay back for local people, in terms of the community pay back scheme.”
What about departmental changes at DECC?
There had been some speculation that DECC might be merged with the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and that may still occur as part of efforts to cut government spend.
But for now, a source has reportedly told Carbon Brief blog “Mood wise [within the department], it’s calm… We have no idea who the new secretary of state will be. We certainly haven’t been told to expect machinery of government changes to the department in a Conservative majority scenario, so it would come as a surprise to everyone I know.”
It’s entirely plausible that Matt Hancock, Minster of State for Business, Enterprise and Energy in the previous administration, will take on the role of Energy Secretary.
Look out for a more detailed analysis from us in the next few days, with a greater focus on the election result in constituencies that are set to play host to onshore oil and gas development.