In return for anonymity, MPs agreed to speak candidly with me about climate change. The difference between what they say in private and in public is striking – and shows us how we can make climate action central to post-pandemic politics. By Rebecca Willis
One day in the summer of 2017, I was sitting at a cafe table in the atrium of Portcullis House, across the road from the Palace of Westminster. With indoor trees and a good coffee bar, it’s a pleasant place for politicians and their staff to meet, outside their cramped offices. I was there to interview an MP for a research project, hoping to learn more about how MPs understood climate change, and how that shaped their work in parliament.
The MP arrived. She was young and, at least on the surface, full of confidence. I explained that my interviews would be anonymised, so that she and others could talk freely about how they came to their public positions on climate. She told me she regularly speaks for her party on climate change, telling people about the need for action to tackle emissions. And yet, she said, there was a catch: lots of people in the constituency she represents have jobs in an industry responsible for huge amounts of carbon pollution.