I was a climate change denier, but now I think Theresa Norton, Greta Thunberg, XR and Insulate Britain are prophets - GP Taylor
My beliefs were changed by the weight of evidence that humankind is making the world hotter and hotter. Our obsession with foreign holidays on fossil fuel jet planes and our desire to overheat our homes and drive Chelsea tractors is causing a major environmental disaster. That cannot be denied. Humans are to blame and it is something you should all think about as you fly out to Spain this summer.
However, one woman in her 60s decided enough was enough and she had to do something about it. People who know her say she is a down to earth, community spirited person who wants to help others. Theresa Norton is a Labour councillor in Scarborough, serving the people of Eastfield. She is now in prison, serving a sentence for defying a court order preventing her from protesting about climate change on the M25.
During the Insulate Britain protests last year she sat down in the middle of the road and stopped the traffic in protest at the lack of action over climate change. The action called for the Government to insulate all UK homes by 2030 and caused major disruption for drivers, leading to ugly confrontations between motorists and protesters.
Ms Norton said in court she stood by her actions and was “proud” of what she had done.
“I simply can’t be a bystander and watch the continued and wanton destruction of our children’s future.”
Even though I do not agree with her methods, I applaud her bravery for standing up for what she believes in. Too few people are taking the matter of climate change seriously. Voices have to be raised to bring this civilisation-ending problem to the fore. All of us have to be prepared to change the way we live and sacrifice the luxury of flying on a plane as and when we want to. The last place Therese Norton should be is in prison. In fact, she should be thanked for all she has done to bring the matter to our attention.
Unsurprisingly, her political opponents have tried to make capital out of her imprisonment. One said that she had brought the borough into disrepute. In a statement, Scarborough and Whitby Conservative Association said: “It is disappointing that the judge’s sentence did not meet the 12-week threshold to disqualify her as a councillor. We’re not holding our breath, but we hope she does the honourable thing and resigns. The residents of Eastfield do not deserve to be represented by a convict.”
Personally, I think the residents of Eastfield will be very proud to be represented by a person who is prepared to be imprisoned for her beliefs. Ms Norton is a modern-day Suffragette. Even though I would never vote for a party that has abandoned the working class as the so-called Labour Party has done, Theresa Norton would certainly get my vote and she must not resign.
Any political party trying to exploit the situation for their own gain should be deeply ashamed of themselves. Coun Norton has certainly not brought Scarborough into disrepute. If anything, her imprisonment has only served to highlight the climate emergency we are now in and that most people seem to be ignoring. Those in power should be seeking to do everything they possibly can to alert the community about the coming dangers of climate change.
Having lived on Quay Street in Scarborough, I spent two days filling sandbags and wading knee deep in tidal surge water to protect houses from flooding, an event that will become even more regular as sea levels rise.
The likes of Coun Norton, Greta Thunberg, XR and Insulate Britain are not eco hooligans, they are modern-day prophets attempting to get us all to wake up to the disaster on the horizon.
The Human Rights Act gives Coun Norton the right to protest peacefully, which she did. I may not agree with how she protested but I will always defend her right under law to do so. We live in a liberal and free country where any attempts to stifle free speech have to be fought against.
Now is not the time to demand her resignation or have her kicked out of the Labour Party. She has stood up for what she believes and is prepared to go to prison for it. History will show that Coun Norton and those like her who have been incarcerated for their actions, will be praised for them. After all, Emmeline Pankhurst was once thought of as a criminal. Now her struggle is recognised as being a pivotal moment in the history of our nation.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster who lives in Yorkshire.