A bit of a disconnect between protest aims and tactics…

Dave – the editor

On Monday 13 September, activists from Insulate Britain blocked a number of points around the M25 in a bid to get their demands for an accelerated home insulation programme heard. One of the locations they picked was a slip road off the M25 near to Lakeside in the west of Thurrock. By all accounts the action caused a considerable amount of disruption to traffic across the west of the borough.

This is how the protest was covered in the Thurrock Gazette: M25 Thurrock: 12 arrested as protesters block roundabout. A passing mention was made of the demands of the activists but most of the focus was on the disruption to traffic across the west of Thurrock.

This coverage from Reel News is pretty much focused on the demands of the activists blocking the slip road: INSULATE BRITAIN – civil disobedience on the M25.

The demands by the protesters (see the link to Insulate Britain) will be seen by many as laudable in the bid to reduce CO2 emissions. The piece from Reel News didn’t make any mention of fuel poverty. I’ve been reliably informed that a number of people from Insulate Britain have mentioned fuel poverty when discussing the motivation for the action. While for a range of reasons, CO2 emissions and climate change may seem to be a distant concern for many people in Thurrock, fuel poverty for people on low incomes is a harsh reality. Fuel Poverty Action do explicitly make the link between better home insulation, fuel bills lowered to genuinely affordable levels and environmental concerns that include climate change. In my view, the issue of reducing emissions and eliminating fuel poverty absolutely have to be linked.

There are many ways of making a point and getting your demands across. There will always be disagreement about whether the tactics deployed were a help or a hindrance in achieving this. Having scanned social media and various comment feeds, the inescapable conclusion is that blocking the slip road off the M25 went down like a lead balloon. Among the drivers stuck in the jams were working class van and lorry drivers, with a fair few of them on crap employment contracts and working under a lot of pressure. Is it fair to use tactics that will make their working day even harder than it is already?

I’ve been an activist for more decades than I care to remember and know how difficult it can be to get media coverage for a cause and to get the authorities to take notice of the demands you’re making. I know that disruption is often a necessary tactic to get people’s attention. The blocking of the M25 certainly gained people’s attention! The problem is that the focus of that attention was on the traffic chaos with a lot of abuse aimed at the protesters. I’m sorry to say this, with this particular action, there’s a disconnect between the aims of the protest and the tactics that were deployed. The points about the need for an accelerated home insulation programme to help reduce CO2 emissions AND reduce fuel poverty have for the moment, been lost.

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