The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, promised Labour’s support to protesters outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool during a visit this afternoon.
Speaking opposite the site at Preston New Road, Mr McDonnell said:
“The purpose of today’s visit was to first of all come along and listen to hear about the operation itself and the implications of it and also the operation with regard to the policing.
“But also it was to take back a message to parliament and my colleagues there that we need to give you all the support we possibly can.”
Asked why he had visited, he said:
“Over a number of months people have been contacting me about the problems here, both in terms of the fracking that is being developed and also about the policing operation, so I thought I should come and see for myself.”
Mr McDonnell is the highest profile Labour politician to visit the Preston New Road protests. He spent more than two hours with campaign groups outside the site and at their nearby community hub at Maple Farm.
“It’s been an extraordinary benefit just to get the briefing about what’s happening here in terms of the operation of the site itself, the development and the implications for the local community and also the briefing with the regards to the nature of the policing that’s gone on.”
Campaigners have protested outside the site since Cuadrilla began work in early January. There has been increasing criticism of what campaigners described as aggressive policing at the protests. Up to the end of July, there have been 279 arrests.
The 2017 Labour Party manifesto opposed fracking, although some MPs and unions support the technique. Mr McDonnell said:
“The Labour Party, in its manifesto, said we’re opposed to fracking, once we get into government we will ban it and the reason we want to ban it is because we are convinced about the implications of climate change.
“To stand any chance of protecting the globe against climate change countries like ours have got to decarbonise our economy. And we can’t allow fracking to bring a new generation of carbon into our atmosphere again.”
On the support of the GMB union for fracking, he said:
“We are a democratic party and people are able to express their views and that’s what the GMB have done.
“But if you look at the main thrust of our policy now, it is to try and say to people we’ve got to recognise the threat of climate change. That means we’ve got to do everything we possibly can to avoid the threat to our planet.
“One of the issues for us, as a developed country in particular, is to ensure that we decarbonise. We can’t allow fracking then to basically place carbon back on the agenda for future generations.”
Roseacre Awareness Group said of Mr McDonnell:
“A nice man who listened to all we had to say and was struck by our community spirit and determination to fight this industry. He reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to oppose fracking and he will be reporting back to Parliament.”