Jane Clifton: Protesters are like the worst of politicians
Reminder, this is a Premium article and requires a subscription to read. Ben Stokes of England and David Warner of Australia attempt to stop a "Just Stop Oil" protester as Jonny Bairstow of England tackles a "Just Stop Oil" protestor at Lord's Cricket Ground. Photo / Getty Images Theres always a danger of perverse circularity with high-minded social movements, which is how Just Stop Oil (JSO) protesters found themselves being bundled off the road recently by an indignant London cyclist. Here was someone trying his best to live a low fossil-fuel life being penalised along with the gas guzzlers. The acclaim accorded cricketer Jonny Bairstow, who also uplifted a protester, plonking him on the Lords boundary during the Ashes test, suggests protester removal is now gaining social cachet as a sport. Bonus points for a full firemans lift, and league-table promotion if the protester uplifted proves to be a trust-fund dilettante. During this wretched spate of ridicule, US entrepreneur and multimillionaire Trevor Neilson, co-founder and bankroller of Climate Emergency Fund, declared the protests counterproductive. Having a pink-haired, tattooed and pierced protester standing in front of their car, so that their kid is late for their test that day, that does not encourage [people] to join the movement, he said. The movements response: well show you counterproductive! The oil-stoppers next target for disruption was the London Pride march. The Venn diagram of those who both celebrate gender diversity and champion urgent climate-change mitigation must be humongous, yet JSO treated the parade like any old traffic. It issued a peremptory demand for Pride organisers to give an account of the parades funding, floats and every last albatross-choking sequin. The sit-ins and glue-ups may be merely petty terrorism, but they alienate by generating anxiety about what protesters will come for next in peoples life fabric elective and essential. Children and pets have significant carbon footprints; so do the increasingly longer-living elderly. As some protesters have defended the mortality risk from their blocking of ambulances, will actual life-threatening terrorism be their next resort? Its hard to see that theyve achieved even as much as the grandees who jet off to Davos annually in the name of climate change. Rather than achieving public compliance whatever that might look like the movement has sparked a puerile backlash of what-about-ery. What percentage of the protesters use social media, a prodigious emissions generator? And a family could have a house deposit for what that lot spend on tattoos! As for the superglue they stick themselves to things with, its utterly noxious for the environment. The protesters offer no realistic pathways towards solutions. Like the worst of politicians, they dont seek to persuade, reason or recruit, but to instruct and threaten. Theyre also, as Neilson noted ruefully, ostentatiously performative, which enables detractors to write them off as egomaniacs. In France, however, one would barely pause ones aperitif for the most histrionic SJO swoop. Its heartening that the police shooting of an ethnic minority teenager during a commonplace driving infraction ignited the nations fury over what it intuited as institutional racism. But the resultant arson, vandalism and looting, victimising scores of blameless people, have been somewhat less ennobling. Historians quarrel about why French protests over so many decades have descended to such frenzied lawlessness, whatever they purported to be about. They cant still be blaming Louis XVI. For many, the shooting seems an excuse to vent rage about other issues, or indulge in ugly venality. They killed a brown boy, so I ram-raided an appliance store isnt rationally sequential. Still, we may have glimpsed the extreme protest movements reductio ad absurdum future. A stag party well oiled with non-fossil fuel recently gatecrashed a London JSO march, lustily, and doubtless sincerely, professing its great appreciation of oil. Next up: a Just Stop Just Stop Oil disruption movement, butting in inanely to stick up for olive oil and oil painting, and berating the depletion of the Earths precious resources for the decadent vanities of hair dye, piercing ornamentation and tattoo ink. Reminder, this is a Premium article and requires a subscription to read. Inflation kills govts, so what are the parties solutions and how do they benefit voters?