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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Parties battle for green crown
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

They might be 4,000 air miles apart, but Britain's two wannabe prime ministers are locked in a face to face battle over the environment.

Gordon Brown
Brown wants global green solution
As Tory leader David Cameron jets to Norway to see the effects of global warming up close, Chancellor Gordon Brown has flown to New York where he will deliver a speech calling for a new global deal to combat climate change.

Meanwhile, back at home, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell has done his bit by putting his beloved gas guzzling Jaguar car up for sale.

The fact that local elections are taking place across England in just a couple of weeks' time is no coincidence.

While all three parties have long been battling to outdo each other over who cares most about the environment, it is those elections on 4 May that have given it added impetus.

Surveys have suggested that the environment is high on the list of voters concerns and it is seen as one issue where the parties can show some real policy divisions between them.

And there are fears amongst many on the Labour and Lib Dem benches that Mr Cameron has managed to steal a march on them in this key area.

Global consensus

The Tory leader has certainly attempted to put the environment near the top of his agenda, making it the central plank of the local election campaign under the banner "vote blue, go green".

David Cameron
Cameron has stressed local initiatives
He has concentrated much of his campaign on the difference local council initiatives on things like recycling and carbon emissions can make.

Mr Brown, meanwhile, is hitting back with suggestions the Tory commitment to green policies is all spin and no substance and that only international solutions can do the business.

He is suggesting a new global consensus on tackling climate change is achievable, despite the US's continuing opposition to the Kyoto agreement.

What unites all the parties is the obvious recognition that the environment is a major issue - nothing new there - and that there are votes in it.

It is expected that, if recent polling trends are repeated, it is the smaller parties like the Greens who may well make significant gains in the local elections as voters continue to express their disillusion with the bigger parties.

What Mr Brown and Mr Cameron are up to is attempting to attract to their parties those voters who put the environment top of their concerns and might normally be expected to gravitate towards those smaller parties such as the Greens and even the Lib Dems - traditionally seen as the greenest of the big three.

Whether either of them can win this battle, however, and emerge as the greenest party in Britain remains to be seen.

Nick.Assinder-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk





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