Britain’s supposedly “libertarian” prime minister is reportedly considering hitting consumers with a charge every time they use disposable paper coffee cups and wooden cutlery.
The increasingly green-obsessed Boris Johnson, leader of the increasingly misleadingly named Conservative Party, is said to be mulling an extension of rules which require supermarkets to charge customers at least 10 pence (14 cents) for a plastic bag to non-plastic items, with paper cups and wooden cutlery of particular concern to his government, according to news outlets covering the changes.
The goal of such a tax would be to tackle “throwaway culture”, according to a government source who spoke to the right-leaning Telegraph, which is viewed as being close to the Johnson administration — although they stressed that the decision was not yet final and would be subject to some semblance of public consultation.
Prime Minister Johnson, who played to the image of a politician with libertarian instincts and an aversion to red tape and high taxation in his long years as a political bit player, has undergone a near-total transformation since gaining high office, with some suspecting the influence of his new and much younger liberal wife, Carrie.
Johnson has, for example, called a halt on the development of what would have been Britain’s first new coal mine for decades, upheld a ban on fracking for shale gas — which he once strongly supported — and brought forward a planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030.
Even seemingly innocuous domestic pleasures such as home coal fires and wood-burning stoves do not appear to be safe, with the government moving to restrict the sale of coal and so-called wet wood to homeowners as part of Johnson’s relentless drive towards “net zero”.
The news of a potential cup and cutlery charge being tested in a friendly newspaper may be an effort to burnish Johnson’s green credentials ahead of the United Nations COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, after heavy criticism of Britain by climate change icons like Greta Thunberg despite his strenuous efforts to win them over, arguably at the expense of satisfying his own voters.
The optics of the green revolution can be difficult for political leaders. Boris Johnson was filmed having a paper cup of tea snatched out of his hand by an anxious aide in 2019, who said to another from the side of her mouth “no disposable cups”, an incident that went viral after it underlined the careful editing of personal presentation politicians go through.