Why Insulate Britain climate activists are so misguided – Andrew Vine
For the shrill, self-satisfied protesters sitting down in the middle of busy roads, or superglueing their hands to them, I have not a shred of sympathy, only contempt, because they are helping nobody and certainly not the cause they so loudly claim to champion.
On the contrary, their ostentatious and calculatedly disruptive action sets back the collective effort to combat climate change by alienating the very people who are the real foot-soldiers in this battle – the rest of us, who need to adapt our lives for the sake of generations to come.
The blocking of the M25 around London by a group calling itself Insulate Britain – which is threatening more of the same for months to come – is the worst sort of tokenistic virtue-signalling.
And it has also represented a dismal failure of policing. It makes the blood boil to see officers who should be maintaining public order escorting protesters onto carriageways so they can cause chaos and then solicitously enquiring how they are feeling.
Common sense – and the sentiment of every law-abiding person in the country – demands that the police stop behaving like they are running a creche and instead do their job.
In this case, that should mean stopping protesters getting onto the carriageway, dragging them off it if they do, charging them with public order offences and putting them before the courts.
Home Secretary Priti Patel rightly told police chiefs last week to get tough with this holier-than-thou mob, though frankly it should not have been necessary for her to intervene.
As with the puerile Extinction Rebellion protests that were allowed to bring cities like Leeds to a standstill, the police have not been anything like robust enough in protecting the right of the population to go about its business unhindered.
As one former chief constable put it to me: “The police aren’t always there to be popular. We’re there to enforce the law.”
We have a long and honourable tradition of peaceful protest in this country, which is to be cherished and protected.
Lying down in the middle of a motorway to cause turmoil to professional and private lives is no part of that. It is a form of guerrilla warfare against the state that comes straight out of the anarchist’s playbook.
It’s notable than this sort of disruption is only attempted in countries such as Britain, where the police behave with restraint, and never in much larger climate polluters such as China, Brazil, or India where the authorities have no compunction about quelling dissent with violence.
The arrogance of these protesters is breathtaking. By their actions, they proclaim that they – and only they – care sufficiently about climate change and that the rest of us have a callous disregard for the planet.
How insulting this is, and how counter-productive. By seeking to claim a monopoly of conscience, and cast everybody else as self-centred polluters, they undermine consensus and distract from rational debate as to how the issues facing every country can be sensibly and realistically addressed.
The result of that is the louder they shout, and the more disruptive they become, the less likely it is that Britain will listen.
Addressing climate change will never be achieved by smug activists glueing themselves to the M25, or chanting mobs bringing city centres to a standstill. Instead, it will be action like that revealed by this newspaper on Saturday which offers hope for the future.
The plan to put Yorkshire at the heart of the battle against climate change with an ambitious 50-point programme that aims to get the region to net-zero carbon by 2038 is a prime example of how to achieve results – and how to gain the wholehearted support of the public.
Protesters offer no answers to pressing matters for the next few years, such as the provision of infrastructure for charging electric vehicles, or the move away from relying on gas to heat our homes.
All they have to offer is discord and the destruction of the status quo, when what is required is steady and determined action that enables the life of the country to evolve into a new era.
There are many criticisms to be made of the Government, but a failure to take the climate challenge seriously is not one of them. Boris Johnson is in America seeking to build international consensus for action ahead of the COP26 summit, and that is testament to this country’s determination to be a world leader.
Self-absorbed fanatics blocking roads are an irrelevant distraction from that goal. The police should cart them away so that the country can get on with its business – and plan for the future.
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