THE former Winchester schoolboy who heads the Government has been a big disappointment to me lately. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (43) was born in Southampton and went to school at Winchester College. When he became prime minister a year ago I, like many Wintonians, felt proud the youthful new national leader had been educated amidst us in Winchester. I followed the news approvingly as he steadied the UK economy and steered the divided nation toward the calmer waters of moderation. 

But my opinion slumped eight weeks ago. Out of the blue he announced he was putting off for five years Britain’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol cars. 

Petrol and diesel cars contribute to global warming, so banning new ones from 2030 had been a big part of government measures to slow climate change. 

The date for the ban had been 2030 but in his September bombshell Rishi defied the experts by announcing there was no need to end sales of new carbon-emitting cars till 2035. 

He denied that this delay would make it harder for the UK to reach its 2050 net-zero emissions target, arguing that Britain was doing more than other countries and could catch up with the 2050 target later. 

Labour slammed Rishi’s decision and so did Boris Johnson. Former US vice-president Al Gore called Rishi’s delay “shocking and really disappointing”. 

Even car manufacturers oppose the delay, insisting they can reach the 2030 target and complaining they have invested big money to do so. 

I admit everyone’s worried Britain may not have enough charging points for nationwide electric car ownership by 2030, but surely that hurdle should be seen as a challenge, not a foregone defeat. 

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This century global warming, even more than global war, is mankind’s deadliest danger, and any prime minister should recognise its supreme importance. Carbon from cars thickens an invisible blanket high in the atmosphere, stopping Earth’s excess heat escaping.  

Unfortunately the thoughts of you and me have little influence compared to what the former Winchester schoolboy thinks. As UK prime minster, he has the biggest say on UK climate policy. He also has a significant influence on the climate policies of other countries. Despite our recent erratic government here, many nations still look up to Britain. 

So I believe Rishi’s recent statements about Britain opening a new coal mine and expanding oil exploration, and about electric car sales and other green issues, will have demotivated environment devotees abroad as well as here. 

I’m surprised he is harming the planet this way. He was head boy at Winchester College. That implies leadership ability. The only leadership he exhibits now is to lead his party hither and thither in hope of finding something to avoid general election defeat. 

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Rishi turning his back on the planet signals to me that he could, in the long term, prove to be the most disastrous Tory premier so far. 

Here’s why. He claims to be reversing Britain’s net zero pledges for “the long-term future”. Defending his delaying policy he said: “I’m not going to be deterred from doing what I believe is right for the long-term future of our children.” 

I don’t think that makes sense to most people. If you’re concerned about the long-term future you don’t harm the planet we live on. 

I’m afraid I expect outbreaks of violent weather to worsen over the coming years, further demonstrating the seriousness of global warming. That will make Rishi look foolish, specially as he has said over and over again that his delaying of the petrol car ban is for the long-term future! 

In last week’s King’s speech there was no mention of Rishi’s delay to the petrol car ban. If the PM has changed his mind, and the ban remains at 2030, that would be lovely. Wise up Rishi. You won’t reach your election goal by kicking the planet.