DOMINIC LAWSON: Deluded Extinction Rebellion protesters can’t see real danger

Claire Perry said her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been ‘good and productive’

Claire Perry said her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been ‘good and productive’

 Claire Perry said her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been ‘good and productive’

Getting to see a government minister isn’t easy. I’d challenge any reader to see how long it takes to persuade the civil servants manning the bureaucratic barricades to let you bend a minister’s ear about whatever concerns you.

Yet somehow they found a space in the diary for a group called Extinction Rebellion (XR) to lobby the Minister of State for Energy, Claire Perry.

Ms Perry told the Mail on Sunday that her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been ‘good and productive’.

Really? Extinction Rebellion is this week launching mass protests designed to shut down or obstruct transport links, causing (more) misery to commuters and business. If that’s the result of ‘productive’ talks, I wonder what would happen if they had gone badly.

But making Britain hell for business (and anyone who drives a car) is what Extinction Rebellion stands for. As the Energy Minister must know, its mission is to ‘save the planet’ by eliminating Britain’s CO2 emissions entirely by 2025.

Brutish

Or in other words, to reduce us to a state of mere subsistence, last seen in the pre-industrial age when life was (for the great majority) nasty, brutish and short.

As if to emphasise the primitiveness to which they wish us to return, this is the group which on April Fool’s Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons.

Actually, this is the only way people with such views could take part (so to speak) in parliamentary debate. Because any party which tried to get MPs elected on a policy of mass immiseration would not win a single seat. There might be some thousands of middle-class students and drop-outs sufficiently aesthetically offended by mass consumerism to vote for such a manifesto, but that would be it.

This is the group which on April Fool’s Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons

This is the group which on April Fool’s Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons

This is the group which on April Fool’s Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons

Unsurprisingly, the leaders of this movement tend to come from well-to-do homes, which have never experienced scarcity or privation. The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees; Stuart Basden (who said his week in prison after an earlier action was ‘a bit like boarding school’); and George Barda, son of the distinguished stage and music photographer Clive Barda OBE FRSA and a 43-year-old postgraduate student at King’s College London.

I am distantly related to one of the inspirations for this movement, the environmentalist author and journalist George Monbiot (we are both scions of the family which created the J Lyons catering and food manufacturing empire). Monbiot is anything but a hypocrite. He leads the life he preaches to others: he doesn’t own a car, never flies and, so far as I know, survives on a purely plant-based diet.

The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees

The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees

The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees

Last week, Monbiot appeared on Frankie Boyle’s television show, New World Order, and was cheered by the youthful audience when he demanded action to end economic growth, adding that this meant ‘we’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it’.

Monbiot has been consistent in this: in 2007 he wrote an article for the Guardian welcoming the prospect of a recession, even though, as he acknowledged, ‘it would cause some people to lose their jobs and homes’. (He got his wish: it turned out not to be popular).

But if it’s the planet you want to save, and you believe its very existence is threatened by excessive emissions of CO2, then what happens in this country is almost beside the point. The UK contributes little more than one per cent of global CO2 emissions. Even if the inhabitants of these islands were reduced by an environmentalist version of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot to a state of pre-industrial and self-sufficient subsistence farming — no wicked imports of food via boat or plane — it would have a minuscule effect on the planet’s future.

In fact, the UK — chiefly through the steady closure of the domestic coal industry — has been in the vanguard of reducing CO2 emissions: in 2018, our emissions were at their lowest levels in 120 years.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion block off a road at Parliament Square, London, during a protest in October last year

Activists from Extinction Rebellion block off a road at Parliament Square, London, during a protest in October last year

Activists from Extinction Rebellion block off a road at Parliament Square, London, during a protest in October last year

The group yesterday set up camp in London's Hyde park ahead of plans to cause widespread disruption across London later

The group yesterday set up camp in London's Hyde park ahead of plans to cause widespread disruption across London later

The group yesterday set up camp in London’s Hyde park ahead of plans to cause widespread disruption across London later

It’s not British politicians that groups such as Extinction Rebellion should be haranguing and demonstrating against, but those in the People’s Republic of China. That is the nation responsible for 60 per cent of the growth in global CO2 emissions over the past decade.

And China is currently building almost 260 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generating capacity — in itself almost the size of the entire U.S. coal-fired capacity.

The trouble is the Chinese state would treat rather robustly any Extinction Rebellion activists who attempted to demonstrate on its busiest streets, or to mount a naked protest in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. I don’t recommend they try that.

Plunder

Nor should we be so critical of the Chinese. They, as we in the West did before them, are using cheap energy wrenched from the Earth’s resources to escape from lives of almost unimaginable poverty. And it was economic growth which ultimately created the circumstances in which peace rather than conflict became the normal state of human affairs: nations could prosper and enrich themselves through trade rather than the plunder of neighbours in a zero-sum world.

If the likes of Extinction Rebellion were to get their way, it is something like that bleak past which would be revisited upon us. And the political forces emerging from that would be truly terrifying.

If she is still in the habit of seeking their opinions, Claire Perry might point that out to the delusional middle-class climate warriors.

The not-so-modest contender for Number 10 

It is said that every Conservative MP thinks he (or she) would do a far better job of leading the party than the incumbent.

One of those who definitely thinks that is the 37-year-old MP for Plymouth Moor, Johnny Mercer, who last October described Mrs May’s leadership as a ‘s***show’.

A few days ago he posted on his Twitter feed a missive of adoration from an unnamed admirer: ‘It is clear you are in politics to pursue the common good, and not the highest office. Yet I urge you to do so. You have the capability to lay the foundations for the modern, compassionate and caring Conservative Party this country so clearly needs.’

Modestly declaring this to be ‘the letter of the week’, Mercer is now urging the party to change its leadership election rules so that four MPs — rather than just two — are selected by parliamentary colleagues to be put before party members.

Mercer, a former Army captain, definitely looks lovely — as he demonstrated when stripping off in the shower for the starring role in a Dove soap advertisement

Mercer, a former Army captain, definitely looks lovely — as he demonstrated when stripping off in the shower for the starring role in a Dove soap advertisement

Mercer, a former Army captain, definitely looks lovely — as he demonstrated when stripping off in the shower for the starring role in a Dove soap advertisement

The more established candidates see this as a ruse designed principally for the benefit of one Johnny Mercer, only an MP since 2015.

He of course denies that, accusing the parliamentary Whips’ office of ‘dirty tricks’ against him, and declaring: ‘No 10’s idea that I am running a leadership campaign is a joke. I must be the only Tory MP who hasn’t asked a single colleague to support them.’

This provoked one MP to tell me: ‘That’s what I call a joke. Johnny has had conversations with a number of us about running.’

Now, there’s nothing wrong in aspiring to be Prime Minister, even if your experience of executive authority and decision-making in government is exactly zero.

Mr Mercer, 37, MP for Plymouth Moor described Mrs May’s leadership as a ‘s***show’ last October

Mr Mercer, 37, MP for Plymouth Moor described Mrs May’s leadership as a ‘s***show’ last October

Mr Mercer, 37, MP for Plymouth Moor described Mrs May’s leadership as a ‘s***show’ last October

And Mercer, a former Army captain, definitely looks lovely — as he demonstrated when stripping off in the shower for the starring role in a Dove soap advertisement.

But it’s not exactly obvious he’s got the wits to go with the looks.

And this would be an audition for the most testing executive job of all.

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