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True Tories have nothing in common with Extinction Rebellion zealots

After a brief lull Extinction Rebellion is back, wrecking Easter holiday plans and disrupting the lives of ordinary working people. And this week they briefly found a new ally: Ben Goldsmith. Responding to Labour’s suggestion that the Government bring in an injunction to ban the Just Stop Oil protests, the millionaire environmentalist declared on Twitter: “The protestors are right to be doing whatever it takes to wake people up. The fossil fuel industry is grubby and dangerous… I’m with @ExtinctionR.

On the one hand, as a private citizen Goldsmith is welcome to voice his support for all the disruptive, anti-democratic eco-zealots he likes – though it’s worth noting he has since deleted the tweet. On the other, he’s a Non-Executive Director at Defra and Chair of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), so should have realised that endorsing XR protesters would not go unnoticed.

Many Tory supporters worry that the Government has displayed indifference to the cost and practicality of some climate policies to keep a small but vocal group of lobbyists quiet. That the environmentalism agenda prioritises green corporatism over necessary trade-offs, in part because its effects are unlikely to be felt by the unaccountable intellectuals who advance it. It is telling that in his subsequent apology to CEN MPs, Goldsmith condemned XR’s “controversial and often bonkers methods,” but said nothing (according to reports) of XR’s overarching objectives or his own slight against the fossil fuel industry.

If these views are even close to being reflective of CEN or the wider Party, it shows just how far green ideology is pushing the Tories away from traditional conservative values. It was the grandfather of modern conservatism Edmund Burke who believed that we must base our principles on how the world is, not how we wish it to be. Peddling a sunlit ecotopia in which our economy and society are constituted differently goes against the idea that “a good patriot and a true politician always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country”. Just consider Goldsmith’s use of the word “grubby” to describe a perfectly legitimate industry that provides us with cheap and abundant energy – and which we will continue to depend on until tech innovation resolves the challenge of renewable intermittency.

Tory environmentalists should be promoting policies that address the conflict between conservation and climate change, security and Net Zero, not aligning themselves with a group whose parent organisation once expressed an ambition to “reintroduce capital controls” and “make it illegal for any enterprise other than the State and local cooperatives to create the nation’s money”. XR is a watermelon campaign: green on the outside, red on the inside. It doesn’t offer solutions to the “climate emergency,” yet rejects the market mechanisms that could guide us to Net Zero affordably. Built around the narrative that “capitalism” is destroying the planet, it believes the only way to save the planet is to overthrow capitalism itself. It doesn’t share the Conservative passion for pastoralism, heritage or preserving today for the benefit of tomorrow.

Burke wrote that “society is a contract… between those who are dead, those who are living, and those who are to be born”. We owe it to future generations to decarbonise as quickly as possible – but not in a way that dismantles the institutions on which society and economy today are built, making us all poorer. 

Read More: True Tories have nothing in common with Extinction Rebellion zealots

2022-04-17 01:00:00

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