The energy tycoon eyeing a run for the role of London Mayor
Alexander Temerko gave a wide range interview to the Telegraph on energy policy, covid-19 and his political ambitions.
The 54-year-old, who says he is lucky to have a “very good immune system”, is a strong believer in testing to try and keep working life running along as normally as possible – and wishes others could also get more of their daily routine back.
“I am a lockdown sceptic,” says the energy developer and top Tory party member and donor. “Of course we need a vaccine, maybe masks, distancing – but to paralyse the whole economy?
“Yes it’s difficult but the suicide rate is growing, heart attacks are growing – people are dying from other causes…”
If his scepticism puts him at odds with the strategy pursued by the Conservative Government, it’s not the only area where he is willing to make a challenge – despite his overall strong support.
“I promised this time I would be absolutely loyal,” he says. “I very much admire Boris – I think he is a brilliant prime minister for promoting British business.”
Temerko, who is now developing a £1.2bn power cable under the Channel, says industry and government need to develop a clearer strategy to help the country meet its Herculean and legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions.
“The energy white papers are not a road-map of how we can get there – that is the biggest problem,” he says. “All of our society has a key interest in this area.”
The planning and regulation process also needs simplifying and speeding up, he argues, or it risks tangling up vital projects.
“It must be a very simple and very transparent model,” he says. “Today it’s like a black hole … a Harry Potter universe […] a secret place and nobody knows what happens to it.”
His latest energy project may yet make his biggest mark on the UK. The 2GW planned cable under the Channel will trade power between the UK and the continent and should be able to provide about 5pc of the UK’s electricity.
Such interconnectors are set to be a more important part of the energy mix, helping to balance out intermittent supply from wind power. Under the Brexit deal – “a miracle”, says Temerko – the UK’s access to EU energy markets remains unfettered until at least 2026.
Temerko has been an outspoken critic of President Putin – referring to him in July as an “enemy of democracy” – particularly over his aggression in Ukraine. “I was born in Ukraine – and I am suffering together with my country against Russian occupation,” he says. “My public position against Russia is absolutely obvious.”
He denies having any particular political influence, beyond being a senior member of the Conservative Party. “Of course I try to make my party better and promote businesses and industry inside the party. I fight inside the party for the party manifesto. What kind of other influence can I have?”
He may yet find a path to greater influence, following in the footsteps of Boris Johnson.
Temerko is eyeing an attempt to get selected as the Conservative candidate for London Mayor after the next election, comparing his own background to Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York. “I believe today London needs a businessman like a Bloomberg,” he says.
“I think there needs to be absolutely a different attitude and a different approach.” His first goal? To abolish crime.
“I will do that,” he says. “It may be more brutal […] but people are happy when they are safe – if people are not safe they are unhappy.”