Last week’s by-elections have taken the political discourse in an unexpected direction. I won’t pretend they weren’t dire for my party, but the unexpected result in Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge has brought climate issues back to the forefront.

The ultra-low emission zone in central London was originally brought in by, I believe, Boris Johnson when he was mayor. This tackles head on increasing pollution from older vehicles by charging them £12.50 to drive in the ULEZ area (plus £10 congestion charge). The idea behind this was to push people into public transport or cycling. Boris even provided cycle lanes and bicycles. This is broadly fine in the centre of cities as things are close together and public transport is good. But push the ULEZ to the suburbs, where things are further apart, and transport not so well delivered and the £12.50 charge starts to affect people quite profoundly. At a time of hard-pressed households, Labour mayor Sadiq Khan thinks it a good idea to lump £250 extra charge a month just to do the school run.

Sensing that green issues might be an election hindrance, parties now seem to be looking again at their green policies. And when you add the pushback from people fed up with their lives being disrupted by the Just Stop Oil activists, suddenly saving the planet looks like an electoral problem. And its not good enough to suggest that political parties are just chasing short term votes. The reality is that if the public mood shifts, climate change denying parties may win, and then we are all in a worse position.

Where Keir Starmer and his colleagues have got things wrong is that they think we can do this stuff overnight. By stopping oil and gas in the North Sea, we must simply buy electricity from Norway, France, Belgium, Holland, and oil and gas from further afield, where we have no say whatsoever on security of supply, nor environment friendly production methods. Similarly, the ULEZ expansion is a good thing, but only at a pace where households can adjust at their normal car changing cycle. Khan has given just a few months to change. Even the unions are against Labour’s policies.

Climate change is important and green energy is too. There is an enormous economic opportunity with renewable energy production and clean transport. But we can’t force people to change at a pace they cannot afford.