The Government doesn’t care what any of us think about fracking. It’s been obvious that it doesn’t for a long time now, but it confirmed it beyond all doubt by quietly dropping the question on fracking from the public attitude tracker. Every three months, the Government has asked the public whether we support fracking. And every three months, we say we hate the idea. Since 2015, support for this dirty, dangerous and expensive industry has been in freefall, with outright opposition growing as the impacts on climate and communities become clear. To the Government, none of this matters.
Despite this overwhelming lack of public consent, the Government is determined to force fracking on a country which doesn’t want it. This new attempt to render public opposition invisible is just the latest in a long run of outrageous tactics the Tories have deployed to silence and suppress the public protest in reaction to their environmental vandalism. They’re absolutely desperate to drill.
Look at what has happened at Preston New Road, where the Government is not only ignoring widespread public opinion but has ridden roughshod over the wishes of the local community. In 2015, the local authority denied Cuadrilla permission to frack. Westminster overturned the decision. Since then, Cuadrilla responded to peaceful protest by applying for a sweeping and punitive injunction, which was duly approved. The Green Party has long stood with the community in Lancashire, and we will not be silenced by this attempt to curtail peaceful protest at the site.
When all other means of dissent have been exhausted we are not afraid to peacefully use our bodies to protest, and that is why Vivienne Westwood and I plan to join the brave environmental defenders testing the boundaries of the illogical Lancashire injunction in coming weeks. One of the many forms of protest that has been banned is ‘slow walking’ - but what is slow for one person, may be fast for someone with a zimmer frame. The injunction doesn’t seem to include silly walking, so perhaps Viviene and I will take a leaf out of the Monty Python sketch book and see what the lawyers think.
Not content with criminalising anti-fracking campaigners by imposing tough injunctions, the Government recently opened a public consultation, with the hope of formally removing all decision making power from communities and into Westminster, while making it about as easy to throw up a fracking rig as it is to build a garden shed.
Now, in a last ditch effort to shut us all up, they won’t even bother to ask us what we think about fracking, because they know the answer and they don’t like it. The road to fracking in the UK hasn’t just been an assault on our climate and countryside. This has been a full frontal attack on our functioning democracy. Communities have been stripped of their power and local people have been denied their voice.
By almost unbelievable coincidence, the decision to pull the question on fracking from the public attitude tracker comes just weeks before Cuadrilla prepares to start up the drills in Lancashire. A more cynical person might wonder whether the Government didn’t want to hear what the public thought of fracking once the drills start churning up our countryside.
Nevertheless, if our Government won’t bother to keep monitoring people’s feelings towards fracking, someone else will have to do it instead. And I’m proud to announce that the Green Party will be stepping in, opening a consultation to give a platform for the public’s attitudes towards fracking in the months to come, making sure that people have the chance to have their voice heard on one of the most unpopular decisions on energy policy in recent British history.
From the consistently damning public attitude trackers to the sheer relentlessness of direct action, the feelings of the British people about fracking are crystal clear. Earlier this week, we celebrated the one year anniversary of the tireless resistance from the Green Party and local residents at the gates of the Preston New Road fracking site. From grandmothers to babies, the community is out in force week after week, to make sure this Government knows there’s no consent for fracking in the UK. Despite our Government’s draconian efforts to shut us up, dissent continues to grow. Fracking has no place in Britain’s future, and the British people know it.
Baroness Jones is a Green Party peer in the House of Lords