A former Labour Energy Minister has said Sir Keir Starmer should scrap a rumoured “virtue-signalling” ban on new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea.  

Brian Wilson, a Minister of State for Industry and Energy under Tony Blair, said the Labour leader should “think long and hard” before announcing an intention to bar fresh exploration, which would alienate Scottish voters.  

Reports surfaced on Sunday that Sir Keir would announce Labour’s intention to ban new licences in a speech next month, putting the party on a collision course with the energy industry in the North East.  

Mr Wilson’s intervention hints at a split within Labour ranks, at a time when the party is hoping to make gains north of the border and take advantage of the SNP’s current travails.  

READ MORE: Virtue-signalling North Sea ban would be an own goal for Starmer

Writing in The Herald, Mr Wilson, the former MP for Cunningham North: “Sir Keir should think long and hard before making a promised speech next month. Such have been the failures of energy policy that Labour has an open goal, particularly in Scotland.  

“It would be a pity to turn it into an own goal by prioritising virtue-signalling bans over game-changing potential for delivery.” 

The Herald:

Mr Wilson added: “The problems arise when these debates are framed as good against evil. Renewable energy is virtuous and fossil fuels are wicked, or so the sub-text goes.  

“From that point, it is tempting to be sucked into irrationality. Who would not want to be on the side of the righteous?” 

It has been warned that a ban would puts Labour at odds with industry bosses and trade unions in the North East, who have said that it could cost thousands of jobs. 

READ MORE: Virtue-signalling North Sea ban would be an own goal for Starmer

Mr Wilson wrote that the UK’s energy security relied on extraction from the North Sea, and that only new investment under strict regulatory conditions “will keep the North Sea alive.” 

He said: “Put all that together and the obvious answer is to maintain domestic production while making credible commitments to accelerate transition. That should be Labour’s policy.”