The feral political underclass is moving in

Self-appointed defenders of white society are taking advantage of Britain's anger and disillusionmen

Last Tuesday night, the Klan rode again. Not in Alabama or Mississippi, but in South and West London.

In Eltham and Ealing, hundreds of self appointed defenders of white society took to streets. They were not vigilantes but "patriots". There not to intimidate but "to protect".

"These are local people, not EDL, these are patriots who have come out to defend their area", explained the eponymously named Jack England, the EDL's south-east regional organiser. He then slightly gave the game away by adding, "The EDL has come down, about 50 of us, to manage them and control them, and to sort of guide them to make sure they don't move out of order."

Jack's definition of "out of order" is unclear. According to the Daily Telegraph's report of the scene, "as the number of people swelled, the mood became increasingly violent as suspected looters were chased and set upon."

What constituted a "suspected looter" is unclear. But I can guess.

A local cab driver I know spoke warmly of the night's events. "There were some naughty boys up there," he said, "Some Millwall. Some EDL. It all got a bit tasty."

It got tasty all right. A bus carrying black youths was set upon. Then, not content with targeting "suspected looters", the defenders of white decency turned on the police with bottles. Eventually hundreds of officers from eight different police forces dispersed them.

All of this took place in Eltham. Approximately five minutes walk from where it had all turned tasty for Stephen Lawrence.

Those currently urging against an "overreaction" to the events of last week should pause to consider what happened in Eltham. Personally, I find it sickening.

As I see it, a group of racist, political opportunists joined with a slightly larger group of broadly unpoliticised football hooligans, who in turn joined forces with an even larger group of beered-up, south London corner boys to indulge in a bit of old-fashioned black and paki bashing.

But I'm not deluding myself. Because I know that, in thinking that, I'm in the minority.

Some say the English Defence League was active in Eltham. But whether this is true or not, surely white communities are allowed to protect themselves too?

Who wrote that? Nick Griffin? EDL leader Stephen Lennon? Nope. Daily Mirror columnist Tony Parsons.

The mainstream political class is already moving on. Demanding enquiries. Seeking the reason why.

And moving in behind them are our very own feral political underclass. The EDL. The BNP.

Those who have a long history of smashing and looting and assaulting their way into the public consciousness sense an opening. Actually, not so much an opening as a gaping chasm.

As Britain burned, Nick Griffin's Twitter feed could hardly contain its glee:

Well I did say that the police failure to get tough in Tottenham would lead to more trouble. Should be all over TV that, just as Nick Griffin foresaw the London bombings with what the Crown Prosecution Service called "uncanny accuracy", I called this one too.

Stephen Lennon boasted of 1,000 EDL members patrolling the streets, and claimed, "We're going to stop the riots, police obviously can't handle it".

Meanwhile, Members of Parliament have been groping for answers, David Cameron from his new US super-cop, Ed Miliband from his DIY public enquiry.

But the rest of Britain isn't. It knows what lay behind the riots. Go into any pub. Stand at any supermarket check-out or any bus stop. The riots were caused by rapacious, predominantly black youths with a bag of crack in their pockets, gangster rap on their iPods, and hate and contempt for authority in their hearts.

There are underlying causes, of course. And again, Britain knows what they were. Our rampant benefit culture. Wastrel parents. Idle teachers. And, of course, immigration.

Mainstream politicians are wringing their hands over the wisdom of spraying water at rioters or evicting them from their council houses. Meanwhile one in three Britons would endorse firing live rounds at them.

Of course Britain is wrong. But Britain isn't interested in hearing that at the moment. It's scared, angry and disillusioned. And the focus of their fear, anger and disillusionment is not the BNP or the EDL.

We are in a dangerous place. A horribly dangerous place. Enquiries and soul searching are luxuries we cannot afford. Now is not the time for nuance or abstraction.

The political class needs to get ahead of the curve. It needs to park the liberal angst and the calls for understanding.

If we have to promise water cannon, promise them. If we have to threaten to use baton rounds, threaten. If we have to prepare for troops on the streets, prepare them. Demand exemplary sentences. Reverse the police cuts. Pledge to look at curtailing the use of social networking sites.

Above all, demonstrate that the state does not need to subcontract its obligation to ensure order on our streets. Because if the state doesn't do the job, others will. People do not like vigilantes. But nor are they prepared to stand back and see their communities handed over to those who beat and burned and looted with apparent impunity.

Last week, in Eltham and Enfield, the Klan rode again. And much of white Britain cheered them as they passed.

 

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North Yorkshire has approved the UK’s first fracking tests in five years. What does this mean?

Is fracking the answer to the UK's energy future? Or a serious risk to the environment?

Shale gas operation has been approved in North Yorkshire, the first since a ban introduced after two minor earthquakes in 2011 were shown to be caused by fracking in the area. On Tuesday night, after two days of heated debate, North Yorkshire councillors finally granted an application to frack in the North York Moors National Park.

The vote by the Tory-dominated council was passed by seven votes to four, and sets an important precedent for the scores of other applications still awaiting decision across the country. It also gives a much-needed boost David Cameron’s 2014 promise to “go all out for shale”. But with regional authorities pitted against local communities, and national government in dispute with global NGOs, what is the wider verdict on the industry?

What is fracking?

Fracking, or “hydraulic fracturing”, is the extraction of shale gas from deep underground. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped into the earth at such high pressure that it literally fractures the rocks and releases the gas trapped inside.

Opponents claim that the side effects include earthquakes, polluted ground water, and noise and traffic pollution. The image the industry would least like you to associate with the process is this clip of a man setting fire to a running tap, from the 2010 US documentary Gasland

Advocates dispute the above criticisms, and instead argue that that shale gas extraction will create jobs, help the UK transition to a carbon-neutral world, reduce reliance on imports and boost tax revenues.

So do these claims stands up? Let’s take each in turn...

Will it create jobs? Yes, but mostly in the short-term.

Industry insiders imply that job creation in the UK could rival that seen in the US, while the medium-sized production company Cuadrilla claims that shale gas production would create 1,700 jobs in Lancashire alone.

But claims about employment may be exaggerated. A US study overseen by Penn State University showed only one in seven of the jobs the industry said would be created actually materialised. In the UK, a Friends of the Earth report contends that the majority of jobs to be created by fracking in Lancashire would only be short-term – with under 200 surviving the initial burst.

Environmentalists, in contrast, point to evidence that green energy creates 10 times more jobs than similar-sized fossil fuel investments.  And it’s not just climate campaigners who don’t buy the employment promise. Trade union members also have their doubts. Ian Gallagher, Secretary of Blackburn and District Trade Unions Council, told Friends of the Earth that: “Investment in the areas identified by the Million Climate Jobs Campaign [...] is a far more certain way of addressing both climate change and economic growth than drilling for shale gas.”

Will it deliver cleaner energy? Not as completely as renewables would.

America’s “shale revolution” has been credited with reversing the country’s reliance on dirty coal and helping them lead the world in carbon-emissions reduction. Thanks to the relatively low carbon dioxide content of natural gas (emitting half the amount of coal to generate the same amount of electricity), the US reduced its annual emissions of carbon dioxide by 556 million metric tons between 2007 and 2014. Banning it, advocates argue, would “immediately increase the use of coal”.

Yet a new report from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (previously known for its opposition to wind farm applications), has laid out a number of ways that the UK government can meet its target of 80 per cent emissions reduction by 2050 without the introduction of fracking and without harming the natural world. Renewable, home-produced, energy, they argue, could cover the UK’s energy needs three times over. They’ve even included some handy maps:


Map of UK land available for renewable technologies. Source: RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision.

Will it deliver secure energy? Yes, up to a point.

For energy to be “sustainable” it also has to be secure; it has to be available on demand and not threatened by international upheaval. Gas-fired “peaking” plants can be used to even-out input into the electricity grid when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind is not so blowy. The government thus claims that fracking is an essential part of the UK’s future “energy mix”, which, if produced domestically, will also free us from reliance on imports tarnished by volatile Russian politics.

But, time is running out. Recent analysis by Carbon Brief suggests that we are only have five years left of current CO2 emission levels before we blow the carbon budget and risk breaching the climate’s crucial 1.5°C tipping point. Whichever energy choices we make now need to starting brining down the carbon over-spend immediately.

Will it help stablise the wider economy? Yes, but not forever.

With so many “Yes, buts...” in the above list, you might wonder why the government is still pressing so hard for fracking’s expansion? Part of the answer may lie in their vested interest in supporting the wider industry.

Tax revenues from UK oil and gas generate a large portion of the government’s income. In 2013-14, the revenue from license fees, petroleum revenue tax, corporation tax and the supplementary charge accounted for nearly £5bn of UK exchequer receipts. The Treasury cannot afford to lose these, as evidenced in the last budget when George Osborne further subsidied North Sea oil operations through increased tax breaks.

The more that the Conservaitves support the industry, the more they can tax it. In 2012 DECC said it wanted to “guarantee... every last economic drop of oil and gas is produced for the benefit of the UK”. This is a sentiment that was repeated yesterday by energy minister Andrea Leadsom, when she welcomed the North Yorkshire decision as a “fantastic opportunity” for fracking.

Dependence on finite domestic fuel reserves, however, is not a long-term economic solution. Not least because of the question of their replacement once they eventually run out: “Pensions already have enough stranded assets as they are,” says Danielle Pafford from 350.org.

Is it worth it? Most European countries have decided it’s not.

There is currently no commercial shale-gas drilling in Europe. Sustained protests against the industry in Romania, combined with poor exploration results, have already caused energy giant Chevron to pull out of the country. Total has also abandonned explorations in Denmark, Poland is being referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to adequately assess fracking’s impact, and, in Germany, brewers have launched special bottle-caps with the slogan “Nein! Zu Fracking” to warn against the threat to their water supply.

Back in the UK, the government's latest survey of public attitudes to fracking found that 44 per cent neither supported nor opposed the practice, but also that opinion is gradually shifting out of favour. If the government doesn't come up with arguments that hold water soon, it seems likely that the UK's fracking future could still be blasted apart.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.