Extinction Rebellion took their campaign to save the planet to Steve Reed’s doorstep last night, after a week in which the Blairite MP for Croydon North spoke out on behalf of the oil multi-nationals and called for injunctions and harsh penalties against protestors.
Reed is supposedly Labour’s shadow justice minister at Westminster.
But his call for increased police powers appears to be more closely aligned with the Tories’ Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill than with his party leader, Keir Starmer’s warning that “the biggest threat we now face is not climate denial but climate delay”.
Reed called for immediate and wide-ranging bans on protesters’ tactics to be put in place.
Reed said ministers should “get on with their jobs” and block further action from the Just Stop Oil group after about 40 arrests were made at Inter Terminals in Essex. Others were arrested at Kingsbury oil terminal in Warwickshire.
“Motorists were already being hammered by prices at the pump, and now millions can’t even access fuel,” Reed said. “The Conservatives need to stop standing idly by and put an end to this disruption that is causing misery for motorists.”
Just Stop Oil has been protesting around oil infrastructure, with protesters chaining themselves to pipes and bringing distribution to a halt.
But while Reed was suggesting that a nationwide injunction would “simplify police operations by enabling them to more easily make arrests”, the United Nations has been calling for a complete halt to investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure – exactly what the Just Stop Oil protests were seeking to highlight.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that investing in new infrastructure relating to fossil fuel production was “moral and economic madness”.
Guterres said, “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing production of fossil fuels.”
A United Nations report published earlier this month found that the international community needs to ensure that global greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2025 to avert “catastrophic” temperature rises.
Reed’s reaction against the climate protests provoked angry responses from within the Labour Party.
Mish Rahman, a member of Labour’s National Executive, described the party’s call for an injunction as “shameful”, especially as “the Tory government is already passing authoritarian legislation to curb our democratic rights”.
Rahman said, “This draconian move is a slap in the face for young people and all those concerned about the climate crisis, a demographic vital to Labour’s hopes of winning the next general election.”
And Jamie Driscoll, the metro mayor of the North of Tyne, characterised Reed’s comments as being on the wrong side of history and a denial of Labour’s traditional position.
“Were the Suffragettes dangerous radicals who refused to understand their place?” Driscoll said.
“Were the Tolpuddle Martyrs treasonous conspirators for wanting fair pay? Were the Stonewall rioters immoral to want gay liberation? Was Nelson Mandela just a subversive terrorist?
“What’s the Labour Party for if it’s not to fight for a better world? Protest is an essential part of healthy democracy. If an individual oversteps the mark, there are already laws in place. The police don’t need new powers.
“If you’re not doing something about the climate emergency, it’s probably because you don’t understand quite how dangerous it is. Either that, or you’re profiting from destroying our planet.”
And XR Croydon took their protest to Reed’s constituency office in Thornton Heath last night, using posters including the remarks of the UN Secretary-General to remind the MP of the severity of the climate crisis.
A spokesperson for XR Croydon said, “An MP’s primary responsibility is to act in the national interest and in the interests of their constituents.
“The impacts of the climate crisis fall first and hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable. The science is clear – this is happening now across the globe and the impacts will also increasingly and unavoidably be felt by Steve Reed’s constituents in Croydon North, and across the UK, starting with the poorest and most vulnerable.
“There is absolutely nothing ‘common sense’ in acting against those seeking the end the moral and economic madness of fossil fuel investments. What we do over the next three to four years will determine the future of humanity.
“As the impacts of climate change become more and more apparent all MPs will find voters demanding to know how their elected representatives could have so misdirected their attention and failed them so badly.”
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