Recently I was sent a slickly-made, hour-long UK anti-fracking vid. It was designed to seem really homespun, but the production qualities were just too high, and the chap fronting it (a bluff, endlessly personable northerner) turns out to be based in a New York film studio.
Anyhow, it took the form of extended voxpop clips interviewing nice, concerned folks in the shale gas exploration areas of the midlands and the north. They were avowedly activists, but with one exception (of which, more below) they were all just-like-your-old-mum-and-dad types. One was an eccentric: but Swampy was nowhere in sight.
Obviously, they were all spouting alarmist rubbish as though it were true, whilst all the time claiming not to be Nimbys. There's nothing wrong with being a Nimby, BTW, though it's more honest to admit to it. But here's the thing. They'd obviously been fed the line that INEOS (one of the would-be frackers) is the wickedest company on the planet, and that the reason they are exploring for shale gas is to use it for making (*gasps*) - PLASTIC++. And as one of the women being interviewed says: "... and we don't need plastic".
We don't need plastic ... As a society we are, of course, deep into personal unicorn territory now. Given his success with promising to cancel student loans, we might imagine there isn't anything Corbyn won't offer at the next election and it will be swallowed by hundreds of thousands of voters. Right this minute, with wall-to-wall dying turtles on TV, I'd guess the promise of a *total ban on plastic* would have a significant segment of the electorate rushing to the voting booths in a state of high excitement.
More plausibly, however, there must be very short odds on Labour making a fracking ban a headline policy - notwithstanding the unions who support pretty much any realistic industrial prospects, as well they might. In the aforementioned vid, all the voxpop interviewees were earnest and articulate B/C1/C2s, eminently likely to bestir themselves on polling day, who have been told that fracking will (a) kill them and even more saliently, (b) trash their house price.
Which brings me to the other interviewee. It was Lee Rowley, a Tory MP, who has clearly decided that, because he is their leader, he'd better follow them. He can't conceivably be alone on his side of the green benches. I had been assuming Tory policy was one of getting some exploratory fracking done ASAP, prove up vast reserves (or not, as the case may be), and if there's as much gas there as INEOS, Cuadrilla et al believe, generate cash giveaways on a scale to make even Nimbys think again, comfortably in time for GE 2022.
And if there's an early election? Or if Corbyn is 5% ahead in the polls in 2021? I think we will find every single UK party pledging to put a stop to it all. In an era of fake news and slick vids on social media and personal unicorns being promised for all, this one is starting to get the middle classes seriously exercised. And who's going to tough it out against that sort of opposition?
++ given that Jim Ratcliffe ostentatiously imported a cargo of "shale gas" (actually ethane of course, and not methane) as a plastics feedstock, there is a kernel of truth in this. What a dick he is! The oil and gas industry may live to rue the day they let amateurs front for the UK fracking industry.