Zac Goldsmith quits attacking Rishi Sunak’s climate ‘apathy’

  • By Becky Morton
  • Political reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Lord Zac Goldsmith has resigned as a minister, accusing Rishi Sunak of being “uninterested” in climate change.

It comes a day after the Tory peer was accused of undermining a Commons investigation into Boris Johnson.

He was among 10 Tories the Privileges Committee said was part of a campaign to interfere with their inquiry.

Lord Goldsmith said the government’s “apathy” on the environment made it “untenable” for him to remain minister for the international environment.

He was the only serving minister to be criticised by the cross-party committee for attacking its work.

In a scathing resignation letter, which did not mention the Privileges Committee report, he said he had been “horrified” at the government abandoning its environmental commitments and withdrawing its leadership on the world stage.

“The problem is not that the government is hostile to the environment, it is that you, our prime minister, are simply uninterested,” he wrote.

“That signal, or lack of it, has trickled down through Whitehall and caused a kind of paralysis.”

As a minister in the Foreign Office he had responsibility for Asia, energy, climate and the environment.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats had called for Lord Goldsmith to resign after the Privilege Committee report’s publication on Thursday.

However, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman had said the prime minister continued to have full confidence in him.

Lib Dem spokeswoman Sarah Olney, who won her Richmond Park seat off Lord Goldsmith in 2019, said Mr Sunak “should have had the guts” to sack him.

Ms Olney claimed his resignation confirmed the government “doesn’t give a damn about the environment and animal rights”.

The committee’s report said “unprecedented and co-ordinated pressure” was placed on its members, who were investigating whether former Prime Minister Mr Johnson had misled Parliament over lockdown parties at Downing Street.

A tweet by Lord Goldsmith, in which he expressed support for the view that the inquiry was a “witch hunt” and a “kangaroo court”, was cited in the report’s evidence.

However, other Tories named in the report accused the committee of trying to shut down freedom of speech.

Mr Johnson announced he was resigning as an MP days before the committee published its initial findings, branding the investigation a “kangaroo court”.

The year-long inquiry found Mr Johnson made multiple deliberately misleading statements to Parliament about lockdown parties at Downing Street.

It ruled he should have been suspended for 90 days had he remained in the Commons.

The sanction, which was lengthy by recent standards, would have been likely to trigger a by-election in Mr Johnson’s constituency.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Lord Goldsmith is a close ally of Boris Johnson, who supported his 2016 London mayoral bid

Lord Goldsmith, a close ally of Mr Johnson, previously served as a junior environment minister in his government.

He was made a peer by Mr Johnson after losing his seat as Conservative MP for Richmond Park to the Liberal Democrats in the 2019 general election.

He was first elected as an MP in 2010 and in 2016 ran unsuccessfully to be the mayor of London.

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