Thursday 16 October 2014

The coming revolt of upper middle England

I have always understood that the last recorded words of Roy Jenkins were: "Oh, upper middle, if you don't mind."  He was in hospital and being offered some middle-brow biographies...

That is a way of introducing the revolt of middle England.  There is certainly something about the rage of Nigel Farage, reproduced in so many public meetings around the regions, that is frightening, something of the fierce contempt of the sidelined for sophisticated capital cities everywhere.

But it raises the question: what about upper middle England?  Because I have a feeling that their revolt will follow later next year.

I was reminded of that reading the reports today that the French fracking company are appealing against West Sussex County Council's refusal of planning permission to drill in Wisborough Green.

I have been reminded of it also in the last few days by the news that Ecotricity, the green energy company, was considering joining the group legal action against the vast government subsidies for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

This may seem like a small squall in comparison to the Ukip revolt, but I suspect it may be very much more than that.  Because if there is one form of energy which is even more unpopular with wind farms, it is fracking - with the fear of polluted ground water and the environmental destruction that has followed in some parts of the world.

And the next most unpopular energy source is nuclear, not just for the sheer expense, but the fears of radiation and plutonium theft.

Whatever you might say about windmills, they do not carry the perceived risks of either of those and, in particular, the threat to the health of our children.  This is what will drive the revolt of upper middle England, and despite Owen Paterson, who prefers to subsidise nuclear than windmills, and whose views were given an outing this morning on the Today programme.

There might have been a time when we trusted our leaders enough to take their reassurances about nuclear and fracking safeguards at face value, but not now.  It spells trouble.

Not at first, but once there is a scare - the first fracking mistake, the next nuclear leak, the first poisoning of cattle, the first lost plutonium.

And let me make one other prediction while I'm about it.  Ukip will find itself divided over renewable energy, just as the Tea Party movement has been in the USA: not because some people love wind farms after all, but because - as it turns out - solar energy offers a measure of energy independence to people which they crave.

So, yes, if I was either a Conservative or a Labour candidate now, I might worry about the impact of Ukip on the coming election, and on the traditionally tolerant stance of the English.  But I would be even more worried about the rage that will be unleashed on them a year from now if fracking and nuclear expands.

There is nothing so frightening as lawyers on picket lines, and middle class mothers chaining themselves to diggers on a major scale.  That will be seriously scary for the establishment.  Quite what it will mean politically, I don't know - but hold onto your hard hats.

And make absolutely sure you don't accept the post of Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the next administration.


Anonymous said...

Can you give us concrete examples of any 'environmental destruction' that have occurred anywhere in the work following fracking?

David Boyle said...

I've no idea if the following case turned out to be correct, but - either way - it would certainly be enough to give rise to what I was talking about: