Opposition

Guest post: Why Monday’s rally on a fracking moratorium is so important

In this guest post, JOHN ASHTON, the UK’s former chief climate diplomat, urges thousands of people to attend a rally outside the Houses of Parliament tomorrow (Monday). The event, organised by groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, will call on MPs to vote for a moratorium on fracking when they debate the Infrastructure Bill during the afternoon.

John Ashton

John Ashton

Friends of the Earth have just told me that they hope to get up to 200 people out for this on Monday. I really hope we can all do a lot better. Here’s why.

Those who want to turn our country into a fracking playground have so far proceeded by stealth. They have got much closer than would have been possible in a healthy democracy to turning their dystopic fantasy into reality. The votes coming up on the Infrastructure Bill will be the first opportunity to make a political choice at national level to apply the brakes. 

At the top of their Party machines, each for different reasons and reflecting different combinations of negligence and intent, all three establishment parties have, as it were, been putting Cuadrilla first not people first. But finally more and more MPs are realising either that fracking really is a bad idea and/or that the political cost to them of welcoming it could be much higher than they thought. All of a sudden things are more fluid inside the Palace of Westminster than they have ever been. That is true to an extent for the Conservatives and Lib Dems; but the stresses seem to me to be even greater inside the Labour Party. Now is the moment to strengthen the hand of those in all parties who want to stop the bandwagon.

With luck and effort we could even emerge from the best few days with the beginning of a de facto moratorium on fracking. That would have been unthinkable until very recently. But a lot of effort is still needed.

So, for anyone who has been thinking about expressing themselves on fracking but has not quite found a voice, there will never be a better time. A few hours over the next few days, and especially on Monday, will almost certainly pay bigger dividends than days or weeks of effort later on.

I became drawn to this issue because there is a deep political contradiction between a two degree climate policy and a drill baby drill energy policy, especially when the aim of the latter is to open up new resources, supply chains and vested interests. It is simply impossible to be in favour of fixing the climate and of fracking at the same time.

Meanwhile on the front line, up and down Britain, some of our real heroes and heroines have been risking everything to draw attention to the threat fracking poses to their communities, and to mobilise people against it. And the more I see of this the more it seems to me that this question is also at the centre of everything we stand for. Without wanting to put words in your mouths, I suspect we would all like to Iive in a country where people experience politics as something they are part of, not as something that is done to them against their will and interest. But for most people now facing a prospect of fracking in their community that’s exactly how it feels.

For that reason, victory on fracking will also be a significant victory in the wider struggle.

So if you can possibly spare the time, do please come on Monday, even for a few moments. Please also encourage others to come.

If you can’t come but have a bit of time at the weekend, please do anything you can think of to bring people to the rally and get messages to MPs.

And I really hope, when we are there, in thousands not hundreds, in full accordance with the law, and with peace and grace in our hearts, we can make a noise that will be audible not only in Old Palace Yard but in the Chamber itself.

When I was a civil servant I was occasionally accused of being too passionate. I make no apology for being passionate about this. But I hope I have expressed myself in accordance with the values, rules and culture that we are trying to build together. For anyone who may be curious about where some of the passion is coming from, I attach a speech I gave in Dublin last week.

This post is based on a message sent by John Ashton to a group of like-minded people. He has given permission for it to be distributed more widely. You can read John Ashton’s Dublin speech here

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