OK, I admit it! I’m a bad loser!
I hate the fact that my country has decided to turn its back on Europe and to elect an inward-looking, right-wing, privileged, Conservative Party that will now ensure that “Brexit happens”. I know I am supposed to accept that “the people have spoken” and that in some bizarre way democracy has triumphed. Apparently I am now supposed to fall in behind our new ‘unifying, healing’ government for the good of the country. Sorry, no!
I am not reconciled and I doubt I ever will be.
I fear for what this country will become over the next five years as we move inexorably towards the political right. This weekend we had an example of what we can expect as this grim government gets into its stride.
Extinction Rebellion is a phenomenon. It has drawn the attention of the world to the dangerous state of our environment as we drown in plastic, our ice-caps melt and Australia incinerates. According to XR, and based on a growing body of scientific evidence, if the countries of the world do not take radical action to reduce carbon emissions with the next ten to fifteen years, global warming will reach a tipping point and become unstoppable.
The effects of that will be catastrophic for the whole world and populations start to move en masse to avoid starvation. Look no further than the Jungle in Calais and the efforts of the Royal Navy to sail up and down the English Channel in search of inflatable boats, to see that this movement has already started.
XR are a bloody nuisance, it cannot be denied. When they stage a protest or a demonstration, they block the traffic and inconvenience a lot of people. They encourage school students to take the occasional day off school to march and show concern for the future of the planet. They practice civil ‘disobedience’.
They are, however, entirely non-violent. When I dropped in to an Extinction Rebellion information day on a Saturday at our local Sixth Form College, I found people sitting around talking earnestly about the climate, informing themselves about the issues and trying to raise money to support those already arrested for refusing to get up off the pavement. No-one was advocating violent resistance.
And yet yesterday it was revealed that the police have added the name of Extinction Rebellion to a list of terrorist organisations that includes National Action and Al-Muhajiroun.
Let us be clear.
National Action is a neo-Nazi organisation that idolises Adolf Hitler and all he stood for. That includes the indiscriminate slaughter of millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and political opponents and the subjugation and plundering of half of Europe.
Al-Muhajiroun is a radical group of extremists who pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and whose followers have carried out bloody murders on the streets of Britain in furtherance of their manic ideology.
Extinction Rebellion is a group of citizens, from countries all over the world, who think it is quite a good idea that the world does not destroy itself by the end of this century through its disregard for the environment in its search for ever-increasing consumerism.
And yet, last November, XR found itself included on a list with National Action and Al-Muhajiroun in a document issued by counter terrorist police in the south-east of England and marked “Official.” The document called upon all police officers, government organisations, including the NHS and teachers in schools, to report their concerns about anyone involved in any these organisations to the “Prevent” programme, which aims to identify and presumably neutralise, all those at risk of committing atrocities.
Teachers and others are told, for example, to look out for young people who “neglect to attend school” or “participate in planned school walkouts.” In particular they are told to look out for people who “speak in strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion or pollution“.
This last sentence warrants reading twice.
So counter-terrorist police now now planning to draw up lists of young people who inform themselves about climate change or pollution and who are angry that their futures are being threatened by governments’ reluctance to tackle these issues.
This document came out in November 2019. Priti Patel was appointed Home Secretary in July 2019.
Because one newspaper, the Guardian, has highlighted and made public the inclusion of XR alongside avowed terrorist organisations, the document itself is apparently going to be withdrawn and reviewed.
But the questions remain: “Why did the counter-terrorist police think it was appropriate to include climate change protesters in the list in the first place? Was the list checked with the Home Office or did the authors just have confidence that no-one in Mr Johnson’s government was going to bat an eye-lid at the inclusion? And given that the police now accept that it was inappropriate for XR to be included in the document, has anyone been disciplined for including them?”
What scares me is not that XR’s name appeared on an inappropriate document, which has now been withdrawn. What scares me is the climate of opinion that allowed the inclusion in the first place.
I’m still waiting for Priti Patel to appear on Radio 4’s Today programme to apologise on behalf of the police.
But wait, the Prime Minister has instructed his ministers to boycott the Today programme, because he considers that the programme was biased in its reporting of the General Election. This is part of a wider attack on the BBC for perceived left-wing bias.
Take care, The Guardian. You could be next.
I think we are living in increasingly dangerous times.