Sunak may have waded into a sea of troubles

The fallout from this week’s visit to Aberdeenshire by Rishi Sunak will be felt long after his return south on the prime ministerial private jet.

The Conservative Party leader was yesterday forced to defend his decision to grant 100 new North Sea licences for oil and gas extraction against criticism from Australian mining entrepreneur Andrew Forrest, who warned he could pull out of the UK over the move.

And Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who led the UK government’s net zero review, said Mr Sunak had placed himself on the “wrong side of modern voters” and “the wrong side of history”.

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Undeterred, the Prime Minister responded by insisting that his plan was “evidently” sensible in terms of energy security, the economy and the environment.

Energy Security Minister Grant Shapps – who appears to have quietly dropped the “And Net Zero” part of his job title – will host a meeting of oil and gas giants today to discuss the plans in Downing Street.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government’s Green Party minister for housing, Patrick Harvie, defended heat pumps as an alternative to gas boilers after a businessman who supplies them said they will struggle to cope in Scottish winters.

The drive to net zero has come a long way since it was nodded through without a vote by MPs in 2019. It is now front and centre of our political debate. So much so, in fact, it might even become an issue in the by-election voters now face in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.