“Keir Starmer Can’t Boo a Goose”
“We believe that nuclear is an important part of the mix. But we are more agile, I would say, than the French, because we have a diversified source of energy supply. They’re basically betting the farm on nuclear. It is their main instrument. We have a range of things. You have to have a diversified offer because that also gives you a certain security, because you don’t just rely on the price of gas, you don’t just rely on the operation of your nuclear fleet.
Currently, the government has pledged to fund only one new large-scale nuclear power plant by the next election. Some MPs are pushing for the equivalent of eight large factories by 2050. What level of ambition can we now expect from the government?
“With the energy, you think maybe 30, even 40 years [ahead]. If we fast forward to 2050, there is a world where we have six or seven sites in the UK. This will not happen in the next two years. But it is certainly something we can aspire to.
“The Prime Minister said, in terms of the power generation mix, we could see maybe a quarter of that being nuclear, I’d say 15-25%… But obviously you’re not going to suddenly have six new plants nuclear in the first three years. I mean, it’s physically impossible to do that.
Kwarteng confirms that ministers have agreed to set up a new body to oversee the delivery of the new plants. Asked about the arguments he used to pressure Sunak for huge sums of money at a time when the Chancellor is resisting new public spending, he replies: “I think it’s one thing long-term. And also, we’re committed to having a vehicle that looks at that, and that can actually facilitate that, and I think there’s some agreement on that. Obviously, I don’t want to anticipate what’s in the strategy.
“But I think the whole of government realizes that we could do more on nuclear, and that’s why in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, which was released in November 2020, the third point was about nuclear. nuclear.”
He adds that small modular reactors (SMRs) could be placed together at individual sites to create the equivalent output of large reactors.
“There’s large-scale nuclear, which we’re aware of, and SMRs, which the prime minister talked about. Essentially, it’s almost like a battery of smaller reactors. So Hinkley has two reactors, and they’re 3.2 gigawatts. These smaller reactors, you could see maybe 10 of them on the site, where they’re maybe 300 megawatts each. That’s the idea.”
Kwarteng has a reputation for self-confidence and outspokenness that seems to date back some time.
The 18-year-old Eton Scholar at the time is said to have reassured a relatively young tutor at Trinity College, Cambridge, who mentioned it was his first time interviewing candidates for entrance. “Oh, don’t worry, sir, you’ve done well,” Kwarteng reportedly told the tutor.
Two years later he appeared on the pages of The Sun when, representing Trinity on University Challenge, he was heard muttering “oh f—, I forgot”, after humming to answer a question.
His outspokenness has, on occasion, created friction with his fellow ministers. His suggestion in a television interview last year that the Business Department was in talks with the Treasury over a support package for bankrupt energy companies sparked a major public row, when a Treasury source retorted : “This is not the first time that the [Business] The secretary made things up in interviews. To be clear, the Treasury is not involved in any discussions.
Now Kwarteng is rejecting a remark by Conservative Party chairman and Cabinet colleague Oliver Dowden, who warned in a speech that Britons ‘want to see a bit of conservative pragmatism, not net zero dogma’, given the current crises. .
“I hate dogma. Ask anyone who works with me… There’s no dogma, we don’t do dogma,” Kwarteng says.
“I think we could do two things. I think we can get out of Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels – decarbonise is the technical word – and have more energy security and greater affordability. We are a very innovative country.
Nor does he have time for Sir Keir Starmer’s apparent struggles to define a woman, in the context of trans rights debates. “Everyone knows his mother. Their mother is a woman. They know what it is, intuitively, it’s common sense. So this idea of politicians literally tripping over words is, I think, pathetic.
“If someone can’t say ‘my mother is a woman’, would I trust that person to lead the country? With Keir, I think he’s just trying to keep a very vocal and radicalized wing of his party. And so he can’t really say boo to a goose. He can’t even tell you what day it is because people will be angry. He juggles with this crazy coalition. Let’s see how he does.
On closer inspection, leaving Kwarteng’s office, it turns out that a paper cutout of a small Julie Andrews figurine has been mischievously pasted onto the turbine mural, like a reimagined scene from The Sound of Music. A photo of Kwarteng’s face was pasted over that of Andrews’ face.
Although a strategy document could easily be drafted at the last hour, replacing the turbines with a nuclear plant would likely have been more of a challenge.