PM warned about electoral risk of growing opposition to fracking

1711106 Pickering Con Club KMPC3

Opponents of fracking outside Pickering and District Conservative Club, 6 November 2017. Photo: Kirby Misperton Protection Camp

The prime minister has been warned that government support for fracking risks losing the Conservatives seats at the general election.

Polling suggests that support for fracked gas is below 30% in the Conservatives’ most marginal seats.

Nearly 100 anti-fracking groups and campaigners have now written to Boris Johnson calling for a ban.

The joint letter, whose signatories include Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, Ecotricity and Frack Free United, told the prime minister:

“With over 40 marginal seats in over 170 English parliamentary constituencies affected by exploration licences, the scale of the impact of fracking in the UK should not be underestimated.”

The letter said the government’s own polling – a quarterly survey by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – most recently put support for fracking at 15%. And it said:

“Within your own party, opponents also include a growing number of concerned MPs, councillors and supporters, and the Conservative Environment Network recently called for a ban on fracking.”

The letter supported a call from the Conservative MP, Mark Menzies, for a ban on fracking in his Fylde constituency in Lancashire. This following the UK’s strongest fracking-induced earth tremor caused by Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool in August.

But the signatories said this did not go far enough.

“It is now clear that fracking companies cannot operate within the Government’s seismic safety limits which the companies and experts previously accepted.”

They said:

“In light of the recent earthquakes in Lancashire, the Government’s own conclusion that we have secure gas supplies for 20 years, the increased climate change impact of methane and the unwavering opposition to this industry across the country and within the Conservative Party, we urge you to ban fracking with immediate effect.”

A briefing accompanying the letter by an academic at York University predicted that fracking would not win votes for the party.

Briefing on impact of fracking on marginal seats

Dr Simon Sweeney, a senior lecturer in international political economy and business, said government aspirations for a gas supply based on fracking would involve hundreds of wells and overwhelming public protest.

“This will do incredible damage to the Conservative Party in marginal seats. It will cost them those seats, and in rural areas targeted for fracking, the opposition to the industry will be more profound with every passing week, as a threat remains.”

“Fracking cannot be a vote winner”

The polling was carried out in April 2019 for the Conservative Environment Network.

Dr Sweeney said it revealed particular opposition in the 170+ constituencies which have some area of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL). About 40 of these constituencies are marginal seats.

He said among 2017 Conservative voters, 74% opposed fracking, while 37% were supportive. Support for onshore wind farms was typically over 80% in marginal constituencies and 78% of voters said reducing CO2 emissions to zero as soon as possible  was either important or very important.

Dr Sweeney said:

“Support for fracking is higher among Conservative voters than supporters of other parties, but to attract swing voters, the Conservatives should surely join with other parties in rejecting this unpopular and environmentally destructive exploitation of yet another fossil fuel.

“Earth tremors, air, light and water pollution, and massive industrialisation of the countryside, cannot be a vote winner.”

Polling details

In the Conservatives’ 15 most marginal constituencies support for fracked gas was below 30%.

In eight of these constituencies, support was below 25% and in six it was below the UK average of 24.2%.

Support for fracking in Conservative-held constituencies (ranked by most marginal)

  1. Stoke-on-Trent South 25.1%
  2. Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 29.4%
  3. Mansfield 24.8%
  4. North East Derbyshire: 24.6%
  5. Southport 25.5%
  6. Broxtowe 19.7%
  7. Bolton West 23.8%
  8. Pendle 23.9%
  9. Morecambe and Lunesdale 26.9%
  10. Copeland 24.1% (does not contain any PEDL licences)
  11. Blackpool North and Cleveleys 22.8%
  12. Morley and Outwood 27.4%
  13. Rossendale and Darwen 25.3%
  14. Scarborough and Whitby 26.5%
  15. Erewash 23.3%

According to the polling, areas where there are active or planned shale gas developments, also saw support for electricity from fracked gas below 30%.

  1. North East Derbyshire (Con) 24.6%
  2. Thirsk and Malton (Con) 25.1%
  3. Bassetlaw (Lab) 25.8%
  4. Rother Valley (Lab) 26.7%
  5. Fylde (Con) 27.7%



57 replies »

  1. Of course fracking will not be a vote winner until voters can quantify a benefit to themselves. Surprise/surprise but that is the way the majority of voters vote.

    I think Boris will have other issues to consider regarding winning votes, and current MPs should not assume they will be future MPs if they try and undermine or distract the key messages.

    There will be plenty of other parties who will try and utilise this, eg the Greens. Maybe it will be so successful it will enable them to secure 1 MP!

    • It WAS a vote winner in the 2017 general election, but now it isn’t. What changed?
      Simple: a better informed electorate. And isn’t that what true democracy is – voting by an informed electorate?

    • ‘Of course fracking will not be a vote winner’

      Why ever not. The promise of 64,000 well paid jobs, endless cheap gas and no environmental impacts should be a winner. And for those who are afraid because Francis Egan states that we get half our gas from Russia they should be campaigning relentlessly to get a Government in who would support fracking. The other major supporters of UK shale gas should be the pensioners. There are supporters of shale who claim the elderly may freeze to death without UK shale.

      After reading that back I am having a Cartman moment

  2. Doesn’t seem to have affected voting in the Fylde? The Granny and “expert engineer” both demolished by a Conservative? Nationally the issue is very low on people’s agenda and irrelevant to how they will vote.

    ER have made a lot of friends over the past week (ha ha) and their primary objective has been hijacked by various zealots with alternative agendas. Fish have feelings? Don’t eat fish………

    • Paul Tresco, on the Fylde the Tories have the benefit of some twelve thousand postal votes completed and lodged before campaigning has even begun!
      Anyway the reality of the 2.9 Richter scale earthquake and the lack of a worthwhile response from standing MP Mark Menzies should see a major change in voting habits even on the Fylde which has been Tory since time immemorial!

      • The report isn’t about winning or retaining very safe Conservative seats it is about gaining swing seats. But it does show even in Conservative seats that fracking has low support. It is highly unlikely fracking could change a very strong majority. But consider what happened in the case of Natascha Engels, a pro fracking Labour MP that lost her seat to an anti fracking Conservative MP. All the opposition parties have now got their act together so far as fracking is concerned and now no longer just repeat the industry fed facts and spin. They have moved beyond the industry spin and quote science and fact. All the opposition parties are opposed to fracking, simply put, fracking is not popular and as this survey shows has little support. A Yougov poll on behalf of several universities showed that well over 50% of those polled were opposed to fracking. Then consider earthquakes and that shale gas reserves may be only 5 to 10 years worth of gas, fracking can no longer be promoted as it was.

      • You’re kidding Peter. Mark works tirelessly for your old employer British Aerospace with trips to Qatar and Saudi. Mr Menzies MP will win by a clear majority again…
        At the last election the greens managed to lose votes with Cuadrillas drill bit in the ground at the time…

        • You’re probably correct for once Kisheny.
          It’s always been said were a pig to stand as Tory candidate on the Fylde it would get elected.
          That’s more a criticism of the electoral system and the apathetic Fylde electorate than the pig by the way!
          Why do you think Cuadrilla and the Government conspired to inflict fracking on the Fylde Sacrifice Zone as the first experiment?
          Shame it’s blown up in their faces and our lives!

          • So what’s the next campaign to move onto Peter???

            Campaigning for the 87,000 people in fuel poverty in Lancashire?

            Maybe the safety plan of Bae Celtic God of Thunder unmanned aircraft flying over your house?

            Oh I have an idea, 5G… Straight out of the Ian R Crane activist playbook…

            Please tell me I’m wrong Peter…

            Taxi for pete???

            • Sorry Kisheny, going nowhere at the moment. Families embedded on the Fylde despite everything. That’s why I do what I do. What’s your reason for posting what you do! Very little of which makes any kind of sense to people who live around here.
              All it takes is a change of Government or another large fracking induced earthquake and the Fylde will become a wonderful place to live again!

              • At least reply…

                Which one next? Fuel poverty in Lancashire, unmanned jets overhead or 5G?

                Still think you’ll go with Ian and 5G…

          • Peter k Roberts

            The pig getting elected joke can be applied to any constituency that regularly returns the same candidate, come what may. I first heard it in 2001 from a taxi driver in Hull ( about both the council and MP ).

            I am not sure that it means the voters are apathetic. If you were apathetic you would not vote.


            I think the correct term for people who vote for the same party, come what may is …. loyal.

            The incumbent apathetic Mansfield Labour MP lost his seat as he lost the loyalty of his supporters ( due to his apathy ), and got a Conservative instead, sans any fracking issues, despite the data above.

            • hewes62 You say you first heard the pig getting elected joke in 2001. I’ve lived in the Fylde my whole life and can remember my mother, over 60 years ago, saying if you put a pig with a blue rosette up for election in the Fylde it would win. This has always been a safe seat. I’m open to correction but I heard it is the 6th safest seat in the country. As Peter said. This could well be the reason the government and Cuadrilla chose this area for their experiment.

              • Pauline Jones

                The joke certainly goes back a long way. The mother in law says she remembers it used ( Mansfield ) some 60 years ago, so no doubt it goes back further.

                Re choice of area to frack first we would need to go back and have a look at Cuadrilla and their preference for the fylde.

                I doubt that the government had much to do with the choice of the site but an interesting thought.

                Cuadrilla were formed in 2007 and first drilled under a labour government ( and had their first problems as a result ).

                So … did a Labour gov, headed by Gordon Brown, connive with Cuadrilla to frack in a safe Tory seat?

                My guess is no, but others may have an insight into the issue ( was it a plot to keep fracking out of scotland, was it a plot to destabilise the safe seat ( hah, lets try this in the Tory heartland, if it goes well, we can bask in the glow of our foresight. it was our idea first, …… if not, we may get the seat. Win win. ).

    • It is generally acknowledged that a significant reason the Labour MP in North East Derbyshire lost her marginal seat in 2017 was because of her pro-fracking stance. The Conservative candidate campaigned against fracking – and won.
      You don’t need EVERYONE to regard fracking as a voting issue – just sufficient numbers.

  3. Martin

    Maybe HS2 would be on his mind. Billion or so spent, and no benefit to 97% of the electorate yet or to come.


    However,I think that fracking is old news. In Pickering, it was all about what is required to get to Zero Carbon ( less kids, no flying, less meat, cars confiscated, massive increase on global mining and quarrying for battery metals… but not here, electric farming machinery, onshore wind on all of’t ills ) and if this was good for local industry, tourism and agriculture, or bad.

    A discussion did get going on the removal of sheep and cattle from the hills ( which would be removing the subsidy on sheep and cattle ). It did not go well, but the triple benefit of … more trees, less meat ( keep it off the hill, keep it in the ground ) and less methane look enticing. The appropriate mix of trees and wind turbines was discussed as they are not mutually beneficial. A ban on pets got a mixed reception.

    Lots of things for people to consider which will affect them directly, and not all voter friendly.

      • Eli-Goth

        It seems not. The road to he’ll is paved with good intentions, as it notes in your link.

        The issue is our desire and or need to travel.

        Maybe a car in Norway would do better as they have more renewables in the mix.

        Re travel …., as the BBC environmental reporter said ( on morning tv linked to ER issues ).. I need to travel the globe reporting on how climate change affects us. I thought…no you do not, get a local to report on the subject, rather than killing the planet.

      • We can conclude that the claim: ‘Electric cars generate higher emissions than diesel cars’ is mostly false. The German investigators have only compared two models: an electric Tesla Model 3 and a Mercedes C220d diesel car. Secondly, Buchal and his coworkers did an investigation in Germany and then generalized their claim. More than a third of the electricity in Germany is produced from lignite and charcoal, which are by far the largest emitters of CO2 among electricity producers. Finally, in the last few years, the electric cars have greatly evolved and so has the production of their batteries. The investigation of the German researchers is interesting but the information is not representative on a large scale and is also a bit obsolete. Therefore, this claim is mostly false.

        • John Powney.

          You are correct in that the headline is there to get you into the story, but it does say It applies to Germany, and questions the benefits vs large subsidies provided for EV purchase in Germany.

          They ask if there may be a better way to spend that money than by subsidising EV purchase, which to my mind is a fair point.

          They also note that the results may not be the same in France, due to their reliance on nuclear.

          So, overall I think that the researchers make a valid point ( in their conclusions ) even though their study is small and limited to one country.

          They could have put in some examples of better ways to spend public money which would be more beneficial than subsidising private motorists, or propping up their car industry.

          • The EV industry is evolving fast and it will take quite some time to work out the carbon footprint. Cobalt is an issue and Tesla is already using far less in their current battery packs than they were a few years ago.

            Charging EV’s over night when wind generators are often oversupplying will be an excellent use of surplus renewable energy.

            Time will tell but there is little argument that batteries are continually improving both on performance and lifespan.

            Tesla building as fast as their cars accelerate. Number 3.

            • Yep-certainly evolving!

              You have Tesla who admit they can’t make a car at a price that is acceptable to most purchasers and as a result, after around 15 years are still to make a profit! However, those mug punters still provide them with more and more money to keep them afloat.

              Meanwhile, you have Dyson who was on the road to investing several £ billion to join the club, finding out the same economic truth and pulling the plug before his £ billions were lost.

              Interesting that within hours of Dyson making his announcement he came under media criticism for obtaining EU farm support -although that is what happens for all large arable farmers in the UK!!

              Seems there are some who wish to mask the economic truths when it becomes inconvenient. Welcome to the club, John.

      • Mike Potter

        It was a meeting of friends who live around Pickering ( in’t Moors and on the flat surrounded by gas wells). It started in the White Swan, but moved to the gin/Tapas bar up the Street. It continued the next day over the moors by train ( A4) and foot.

        Always good to take the opportunity to chat to people who have local and industry experience about

        1. How Third Energy activities have affected them / their thoughts on fracking and or the travails of that company.
        2. Sirius Minerals, have they sold or are they hanging on in there?
        3. Why are there so few taxis available and so expensive?
        4. Given the concerns about the environment, what would they feel is an acceptable plan to address the issue
        a) Globally
        b) specifically to you and your children ( the kids range from 15 to 37 ).
        5. How is Brexit affecting you

        I plan to visit some friends who live near Dumfries.

        They are concerned about

        1. SNP ( spawn of the devil it seems, but as yet to find out why )
        2. Rampant wind farm development
        3. Arrogant land owners ( see point 2 )

        I will add
        4. How is Brexit affecting you
        5. ( see point 4 above ).
        6. Should the union have a vote on Scottish Membership of the Union ( ie can they be voted out ).
        6.1 if Scotland vote for independence, can the constituencies that vote no be declared independent of an independent Scotland.
        7. What is your view on the fracking moratorium rather than an outright ban.

        I may report back on point 7.

  4. In 2017 there hadn’t been an earthquake of 2.9 on the Fylde and the Conservative MP was supportive of fracking. Now people have had their homes shaken by an earthquake, fracking is suspended, the MP now opposes fracking as does Blackpool council. And whilst some people may oppose XR the fact is climate change is now high up on the agenda with poll after poll showing high levels of public concern. Parliament had not declared a climate emergency in 2017, there was no net zero by 2050 legislation and there were no worldwide school strikes.

    • KatT,
      I don’t think for one minute Mark Menzies now opposes fracking.
      Unless the new Government structure opposes fracking of course.
      He’s never been seen outside Preston New Road fracking site to protest and he’s expressed no concerns for his Electorate whose homes were damaged by the 2.9 Bank Holiday Monday earthquake.

      • Mark Menzies has said, following the earthquakes, he believes the geology of the Fylde is unsuitable for fracking and it shouldn’t be carried out there. He’s not committed himself to opposing fracking anywhere else though. It sounds to me like a Tory still towing the party line and just concerned about his majority.

        • Bit late for Mr. Menzies now, like the local newspapers, Fylde Rugby Club and AFC Fylde’s Chairman David Haythornthwaite he’s promoted the frackers cause and insulted local activists.
          Won’t be forgotten.

        • Pauline Jones

          I suspect that most MPs and governments are concerned about their majority. If not, then they cease to be an MP, or collectively they cease to be in power. Such are the vagaries of democracy.

          • Of course MPs are concerned with their majorities. My comment was more to highlight the fact that until now, Mark Menzies has doggedly towed the Tory pro fracking line. He has never once visited the site which is in his constituency to speak to those opposed to fracking. Only now, since he has realised the deep concern people have over the latest earthquakes has he decided to speak out against fracking on the Fylde.

  5. At the end of the day, elections are decided by the majority, not a few zealots. That is why the zealots also want to change the electoral system. .

    Australia is a recent example, where the majority decided fossil fuel was important to them, whilst a few then continued to support XR. I expect some did both! Labor lost as a result.

    France protests started regarding fuel price. Now, same is happening in South America.

    “Citizens Assembly” is just a mechanism from Communism to circumnavigate the majority being able to control their futures via a real democratic process. Always been the way for groups to try and get some influence but founders when the majority (including fish and meat eaters) have their vote.

    One cold snap this winter, with those “lovely” Smart meters worrying millions regarding energy security (again) and the media will suddenly be posting very different copy, and it was obvious-as stated on DoD- what impact that had last time. John could trot out his line from last time about plenty of cheap oil and gas sloshing around the world, but the majority will hardly be convinced by that.

  6. ‘One cold snap this winter, with those “lovely” Smart meters worrying millions regarding energy security (again)’

    News from a few days ago,

    ‘The energy system operator said the UK’s first winter outside of the European Union would pose no extra challenges to securing the UK’s gas and power supply’


    Please please reference the fact that the cost will be higher. When you do be sure to post all your figures to show UK fracked gas would be cheaper than our home grown North sea gas, our Norweign imports, and our diverse supplies of LNG. Surely by now the UK shale gas industry can supply figures to prove that Statoil (now Equinor), Bloomberg, EY, OIES, and Centrica are wrong when they say UK shale is not viable.

    When you do this remember to show trends and forecasts as references to 1 or 2 day outages from the ‘Beast from the East’ really doesn’t do much to bolster up your argument.

    • Are you suggesting there was not a spike in gas prices during the Beast from the East period, John? Are you suggesting that DoD did not suggest the change to the Tracker Survey figures was not influenced by that?

      Not sure your link fills any hole. What is this winters gas supply, with or without Brexit, anything to do with UK fracking? Do you know something around PNR gas production that has yet to be announced?

      No, there are no figures from UK fracked gas, there is speculation from others. One is not there for me to believe, the other is there-but it is speculation and I don’t believe speculation, even when there is nothing in its place. I simply wait until there is.

      But, nice to see you join the club where reality is ignored and then replaced.

  7. Why is there nothing being reported on here about the court case with anti on anti in the form of Tina and Frackman?

      • That comment from the Prosecuting Solicitor was a desperate attempt to provoke the Defendant when the Complainant’s case was in final collapse!
        It failed as did the same tactic to provoke John Tootill at Blackpool Magistrates some time ago.

        • I’m sorry Peter, but I was in court too last Friday and heard both sides of the case. Gayzer Tarjanyi was charged with two public order offences and was found guilty and fined for one of them. I imagine he would have been found guilty of the other offence too, but it is difficult to prove someone’s ” intent” to do something. As Refracktion said, it had nothing to do with drilling. The man interrupted a performance of a play about empowerment of women, in a public place, which caused alarm to those who were present. in the circumstances, I think the prosecution summed the situation up very well.

          • I think you’ll find the issue isn’t over yet Pauline. The play was scheduled to tour alongside the ridiculous newspaper articles over the weekend claiming without foundation that fracking in Lancashire was finished thanks to the Nana’s activities!
            The PNR fracking site is continuing to operate by cold venting and flaring gaseous fracking byproducts, spreading airborne toxins over the Fylde.
            Sorry I’ve not time for this prosecution when Cuadrilla continue to threaten the well-being of residents of the Fylde from earthquake and health damage without legal processes being lodged!
            That’s where the Nana’s should be spending their time and money in my opinion, not making spurious accusations leading to attempted police prosecution against fellow anti-fracking activists.

            • Pauline Jones

              In the report it says that Gayzer went to protest against the content of the play ( briefly described but not clear on the specific issues ). He seems to have done that in a style similar to that shown in his many protest videos in the fylde against fracking.

              It Says that he interrupted the performance of a play in order to ( in his opinion )

              1. Expose their lies
              2. Prevent being made fun of ( in the play ).

              However, the court found that he had gone beyond peaceful protest and he got his just desserts.

              Hence, that a person interrupted an activity ( drilling, or a play ), about a subject ( women’s empowerment, drilling into shale ), in a public place ( theatre or road ), which caused alarm to those present ( theatre goers or staff being prevented from going to work ), was seen as something illegal.

              So….good to see that the law is impartially applied in both cases, which is why the issue is linked to protest ( in all its forms ) and hence fracking.

              Of course, it would not be the same in Germany where putting on a play is legal, but HPHV fracking is not.

              • The play never once mentioned Gayzer. As I said it is a beautiful play about the empowerment of women. It tells the story of a group of women who came together to fight fracking. It could just as easily been a group of women fighting any other contentious issue. It consisted of a series of monologues. Not about fracking but about each woman’s personal experience. Each woman simply told their story of how they became involved in activism. Most had never ever done anything like that before and many told how nervous they were. It is a very moving story. At no time was Gayzer ridiculed. He was not mentioned at all. It was nothing to do with him.
                The play was performed this weekend in Sheffield at an event on empowerment, not fracking, and was very well received. The fact that an article on the Nanas appeared in the press at around the same time is a total coincidence. The Sheffield performance was planned some time ago and the interviews were held a few weeks ago. I expect the timing had more to do with the articles on Cuadrilla removing their equipment that have appeared in the Times etc this weekend than the Nanas or any of the other protectors at PNR.
                Gayzer believes his way of protest is the only way but others may not agree. His behaviour at the Harris Museum was totally unacceptable. At a time when the threat of terrorism is at the back of everyone’s mind, he caused fear to the audience, many who had no connection with protest of any kind.

                • Hmm.

                  Different to the attitude regarding threat of terrorism from the rabbit wool processing lady recently.

                  Seems more of do as we say, not as we do. Or, is empowerment of women ignorant that terrorists can be female?

      • Anyway he’s entitled to be angry because like me his home has been damaged by Cuadrilla fracking induced earthquakes contrary to industry and political promises.

    • Not really relevant that’s why GBK!

      Anyway you can read an account online at the Lancashire Evening Post or Blackpool Gazette ifor you wish.

      Both are out of date and seriously biased of course

  8. GBK – please enlighten us?

    Yes do

    Explain how spending hundreds of millions of pounds to split horizontal bedding planes (as opposed to typical hydraulic fracturing processes),causing property damaging earthquakes thus proving you can never control future seismic events would result in a cheaper form of gas supply as opposed to sucking it out of conventional reservoirs using proven techniques and proven infrastructure.

  9. They really know how to have a good time on the Fylde!

    Was this not the same lady who seemed oblivious to shouting in the faces of some outside a Party Political Conference?

  10. Strange comment, Pauline!!

    I would not have to travel far back through your recent posts to prove that is a statement disconnected from your own practice, and many other antis.

    Yes, indeed there are two sides to every story. Good job there are a few who provide that on this site, all free and voluntarily.

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