If the Whitehaven new mine is up and running by the election, Labour is debating whether to pledge to shutting it down.
The government’s intention to start a new coal mine in Whitehaven has been vehemently resisted by Labour. However, if the mine is still open and employing workers when the next general election comes around, it has not yet been officially stated that it would shut it down.
“British business leaders know that this mine is wrong for our country,” said Ed Miliband, the opposition secretary for climate change and net zero. “Jobs in green sectors should be our primary concern for the future.”
He did not, however, indicate whether a Labour administration would shut it down if it became operational.
Labour would suspend the project, according to Alex Sobel, the opposition environment minister. He said that Labour will “not allow this to go ahead” in a tweet.
However, refusing to permit a project is not the same as shutting down an active mine.
If the mine manages to open between now and the general election, it is thought that top members of the party do feel that a future Labour administration should shut the mine. However, it is unclear whether or when Miliband or Keir Starmer will make this statement in public.
The project could likely be stopped in its tracks if Labour made a commitment to shutting down the mine immediately, as Ed Birkett of the think tank Onward points out.
But in Whitehaven, where some locals want the mine to open because of the employment that may be produced, it might not be a popular idea.
The mine is located in the Copeland district. In Copeland, Labour held sway continuously from the 1930s until 2017, when Trudy Harrison, a Conservative candidate, unexpectedly won a by-election. Given that Sellafield is a significant employer in the region, Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to nuclear power was a contributing factor to why they Labour lost. Harrison has a majority of 5,842 and retained the seat in the general elections of 2017 and 2019.