STEPHEN GLOVER: The eco-zealots' demands verge on the lunatic

STEPHEN GLOVER: The eco-zealots’ demands verge on the lunatic. The fact hardly anyone dares say so is the triumph of unreason

Until recently, political discourse in this country was usually conducted on a rational basis. There were sometimes bitter differences but even extremists made some sort of sense.

Just Stop Oil protesters, who yesterday again brought the M25 to a halt and caused injury to a policeman, are of an entirely different stamp. Their objectives verge on the lunatic, and their tactics are deeply anti-social.

Even if the Government wanted to cave into their demands — an instant moratorium on drilling for new gas and oil — it would be crazy to do so since the economy can only function at present if petrol is widely available, while some 25 million households depend on gas for heating and cooking.

As for the tactics of the activists, they go far beyond the inconvenience caused by trade union picketing in the 1970s. Patients being rushed to hospital are impeded, mourners on the way to funerals delayed. Thousands trying to go about their business are prevented from doing so.

Even the Greenham women, who demonstrated against nuclear missiles being deployed in Britain in the early 1980s, were not asking for the undeliverable — though I think history confirms that they were misguided — and their protests didn’t mess up the lives of ordinary people.

This is something new, ugly and alarming. The protesters are fanatical and unreasoning in a way that is alien to our experience. They want a world without fossil fuels — instantly, not prudently achieved at some stage in the future — and are eager to force their priorities on the rest of us.

Essex police work on removing this Stop the Oil protestor from a gantry on the M25 near Junction 29 in Essex

Essex Police removing protestors from the M25 near the Dartford Tunnel

For an insight into their cockeyed thinking, I recommend looking at the video of Louise Harris, who was one of a number of activists who scaled the gantries over the M25 on Monday, causing miles of rush-hour queues for angry, helpless drivers.

Early in her tirade, Miss Harris (who, notwithstanding her frail grasp of reason, is a recent graduate of Cambridge University) started to cry. Because I don’t like to see people upset, I briefly felt sorry for her.

But my sympathy swiftly receded as she warmed to her theme. She declared that she was perched on her gantry because she didn’t ‘have a future’, which even by the hysterical standards of these protesters is obviously untrue. Of course she has a future, though some may wish it could be spent as far away as possible from these shores.

She invited us to direct our ‘anger and hatred’ at the Government, which she described as ‘murderous’, and then demanded an immediate end to new oil and gas exploration before making the preposterous assertion that ‘Just Stop Oil offers the only chance of a future that we have left’.

In her frankly unhinged statements, Louise Harris seems typical of thousands of like-minded protesters. Many of them say they don’t have a future — in effect that Armageddon is nigh. (Shades of 17th century religious zealotry here.) Theirs is the only way. The Government and big business are evil.

It seems never to occur to these deranged activists that the Government was elected, whereas they were not. They claim to be exercising their right to peaceful protest, but of course their actions aren’t peaceful. They are coercive and disruptive. I fear it won’t be long before someone dies.

The prescriptions offered by these eco-fanatics would, if adopted, lead to widespread poverty and the breakdown of society. We wouldn’t be able to heat our homes, and the economy would collapse if oil were suddenly no longer available.

The success of the agitators is the triumph of unreason. Earlier this week, the charity War on Want, which I had previously thought sane, suggested that Britain give £1 trillion to poor nations affected by climate change in recognition of our contribution to greenhouse gases.

Never mind that since 1850 China and the United States have been responsible for vastly greater carbon emissions — and continue to be so, with Britain said to account for roughly 1 per cent of the global total.

Just Stop Oil protestor scales a gantry at junction of M25 in East London

CCTV image shows traffic james on M25 amid Just Stop Oil protests

One trillion pounds is appreciably more than the Government spends in an entire year. It is about 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Even spread over many years, handing out such an enormous amount of money to supposedly victimised countries would impoverish millions of Britons.

In other words, it doesn’t matter whether extremists are climbing gantries on the M25, or sitting behind desks in the offices of War on Want, their ‘solution’ to climate change is equally calamitous.

And yet almost no one dares say so. The danger exercising our rulers is not the one represented by the eco-maniacs with their grotesquely exaggerated accounts and shock tactics. The Government is preoccupied with the less concrete threat of climate change.

On the whole, the authorities have been remarkably relaxed about anti-social protests by extremists. It took the police months to take them seriously. Now they are beginning to do so, yet in their new officious mood they have arrested three journalists for doing their job.

It’s no surprise to me that Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride should have said in an interview on Tuesday that Just Stop Oil protesters ‘do have a point, in [a] sense’.

Essex Police removing protestors from the M25 near the Dartford Tunnel

Essex police work on removing this Stop the Oil protestor from a gantry on the M25 near Junction 29 in Essex

Maybe he meant they are right to be worried by climate change. But he didn’t seize the opportunity to take issue with their hyperbolic language (e.g. the Government is ‘murderous’) or criticise their success in bringing the M25 and other motorways to a halt.

Meanwhile, at the Cop27 Climate Change conference in Egypt, officials have been lining up to deliver dire warnings calculated to make our flesh creep. These are dutifully handed down by the BBC and other media as Holy Writ.

On Monday, that anti-democratic horror show, President Sisi of Egypt, said the planet had ‘become a world of suffering’. He could more honestly have thus described his own benighted country.

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, declared that the world was on a ‘highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator’. Countries must ‘cooperate or perish’. Why can’t these people speak in a more measured, and less hackneyed, way?

How I long for a statesman brave enough to say: ‘Yes, we are taking climate change seriously. That is why we have set out plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. But we will not allow extremists to falsify the true position, or to terrorise ordinary people.’

For we mustn’t think that what has happened on the M25 over recent days is a flash in the pan. It will manifest itself in other ways. Irrational forms of opposition will draw many followers, and there are lots of people sympathetic to the cause who won’t quarrel with extreme tactics.

Just Stop Oil may be seen off, but there’ll be other groups with different names and perhaps a more revolutionary approach which will try to justify themselves, as extreme sects always do, on the grounds that they have a monopoly over the truth.

Man-made climate change is a threat — how great I’m not qualified to judge. But there is another danger which few people in authority seem to care about. Bands of self-righteous, hysterical activists are determined to transform the way we live our lives.

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