Vox Political’s report on the outcome of yesterday’s fracking debate in Parliament prompted a predictably shrill response from supporters of the Scottish Nationalist and Green parties.
Now, why would that be?
Could it be that these organisations want to split the Left vote, attracting more voters to themselves by presenting an unpleasant image of Labour?
And isn’t this irresponsible at a time when Conservative policies, propped up by Liberal Democrat votes, are causing so much damage to the United Kingdom – including the deaths of many vulnerable people?
Why are they attacking Labour, rather than the real enemy of the people?
Some have claimed that Labour did a deal with the Coalition, agreeing to abstain on a vote for an absolute moratorium on fracking in return for the inclusion of Labour’s list of 13 regulatory procedures – to be carried out before any fracking may be performed – in the legislation.
Even if this is true, it is simply good politics. The entire Parliamentary Labour Party, combining its votes with any others who opposed the Bill, could not have amassed the more-than-300 votes necessary to topple the Coalition’s absolute control over the passage of the Infrastructure Bill into law.
The only reason this writer can see for the Tories to have given even this concession is that we are in an election year and they fear the adverse publicity that would be generated by refusing any kind of regulation at all could harm them at the ballot box.
So, for the Tories, Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP, it seems to be all about the election. Only Labour seems to have spare a thought for the protection of British citizens from harm.
And what thanks did the party get?
Here’s Nicola Ronnquist: “Labour abstained on clause 9 calling for a moratorium! I would hardly call that a victory! labour is a disgrace! The labour supporters have gone very quiet tonight on some of the threads after pointing out they abstained from a moratorium! ! After the EA commitee recommended it!!! Well done labour!!! No vote on the tresspass law! So they will now be able to frack under our homes. The labour traitors! Im voting green now!”
This Green supporter has posted a further 14 comments on the fracking article thread, stirring up anti-Labour sentiment.
Here’s Chris Lovett, another Green supporter: “Bugger Labliar. Go Green.” No argument – just abuse and a call to split the Left vote.
For the Scottish Nationalists, here’s Lee Thompson, who quoted figures on the moratorium vote from Wings Over Scotland, the ScotsNat blog. No bias there, then! He wrote: “The Head of Scottish Labour [Jim Murphy] was all the way in Scotland playing football! My understanding of politicians is that they are there to represent the wishes of their constituents at all times? 52 managed to vote despite knowing they couldn’t win [including Labour MPs – it is a party that does allow its members to speak their minds]… Let’s consider the example set by our politicians, they get paid by us to vote but don’t. If I told my boss there was no point in doing something, I’d get the sack.”
In fact, MPs are paid to represent their constituents to the best of their ability – and we’ll see how Labour achieved this later in the article.
Clare Tereasa Gallagher, who appears to be both Scottish Nationalist and Green, wrote: “The labour party abstained! Red tory scum, only care about the lifestyles they’ve become accustomed to… Jim Murphy was playing keepy Uppy at Pittodrie!“
There were many other comments. Some of them even seem to be by people who were genuinely concerned, rather than pushing their own party line.
The most sensible comment on Vox Political‘s Facebook page came from Steve Gogerly: “The price of oil falling through the floor has made fracking a less than profitable enterprise which suits all of us dubious of its environmental safety. Hopefully a safer method will be discovered before the price rises again.”
It seems entirely likely that Labour is aware of this and the regulations that are now part of the Infrastructure Bill are merely a stop-gap measure. Tom Greatrex MP wrote at length about “the reality behind… Tory rhetoric” in an article for LabourList as long ago as last April.
“this is not an imminent revolution,” he wrote. “Shale gas in the UK is unlikely to really get going this side of 2020 – peak production is not expected to be reached until 2024. Hinting that shale gas offers a solution to the potential tightening of our supply margins in the next couple of years, as some Tories do, is therefore completely misleading.”
He continued: “Cameron promised that shale gas would deliver 74,000 jobs. This week’s report [from Ernst & Young] cuts that down to 64,000, but within that number there are just 6,000 “directly employed”, 39,000 in the supply chain and 19,000 “supply chain induced” positions. In short, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
“But perhaps the key line from the report was on page 4, when EY acknowledge that ‘it is not yet possible to make any forecast of potential recovery rates’. Whilst we know that the gas is in the ground, we don’t know how much of it is extractable.”
He went on to say that shale gas extraction should only happen within a framework of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection, and with local consent – and must not be allowed to develop at the expense of the UK’s climate change commitments.
Put that all together and you’ve got an industry that is on (forgive the poor taste) extremely uncertain ground. Is fracking worth the potential disruption of who-knows-how-many British citizens, not to mention the further harm to our environmental credentials, for the sake of an unknown – possibly very low – yield and only around 6,000 jobs?
The more one examines this matter, the more likely it seems that Labour has skilfully employed a delaying tactic; these new regulations will put any fracking operations on hold while the businesses involved go through the regulatory procedures. After this has been done, it is possible that a Labour government will have been returned to power, and will put an end to the process altogether, in favour of methods that are proven not to harm the environment.
Of course, this won’t happen if the Greens and the SNP succeed in their greedy bid to split the left-wing vote. If the Left is divided between several parties, the way will be clear for the Tories to sweep back into office and do whatever they like, to anyone.
Is that really what you want?
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