Andy Burnham’s call for a moratorium on fracking may be welcomed in many areas, but it still makes him – and Labour – look like a follower rather than a leader.
Too many people will remember that Labour did not support a similar call for a moratorium in January, made by the Green Party and supported by the SNP (if This Writer recalls correctly – Labour was certainly hammered by SNP supporters afterwards).
Instead, Labour called on the Coalition Government to impose a series of regulations that effectively meant fracking would be delayed until after the general election – in the hope that the Tories and Liberal Democrats would be ousted and saner minds would prevail.
This blog supported that choice because it was the only way fracking in England would be halted in the short term; the moratorium plan would not have won support from Coalition MPs but the regulations did – from Tories and Lib Dems who feared reprisals from their constituents if they did not show some restraint.
But Labour did not win the general election – the Tories did – and now the fear is that fracking will go ahead unhindered.
In that context, is Burnham asking for too little, too late?
(Note: A huge amount of crude oil was discovered beneath the Surrey/Sussex border last October. One is moved to ask whether this huge find will be developed and how heavily it will inconvenience the Conservative voters who live above it.)
A moratorium on fracking should be imposed until stronger scientific evidence can show it is safe to drill for shale gas, Andy Burnham, the frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest, is to say.
The former cabinet minister will become the most senior Westminster politician to warn that fracking could pose a danger to communities as licences are “handed out like confetti” on flimsy evidence.
The MP for the Greater Manchester seat of Leigh, who will outline his plans on Saturday at a leadership hustings organised by the Fabian Society, told the Guardian: “I was literally left open-mouthed two years ago when I realised there were about nine licences all over my constituency. Some of them are moving forward.
“These things just seem to be handed out like confetti. That made me really focus on the issue. In my area, we are riddled with mine shafts as a former mining area. Where is the evidence that it is safe to come and frack a place like this? No fracking should go ahead until we have much clearer evidence on the environmental impact.”