If you’re looking for the next great populist showdown, I’d suggest that it might have a green hue to it.
Over the last few weekends, we’ve had a real Anglo-French contrast in rebellion. Here in the UK, a new breed of eco-activists called Extinction Rebellion has been protesting in London, demanding that we make drastic changes in the capitalist system in order to hit a carbon neutral target by…2025. Yep, you read that right. Just six to seven short years to effect a system-wide reboot to avoid an extinction level event. If you want to understand the thinking behind this new movement head over to an excellent blog entry on Medium – the link is HERE or paste the following:
I regard myself as very Green friendly and I take climate change deadly serious. But I also sniff a new fundamentalism in this kind of movement, a kind of new Green Maoism, with true revolutionary intent. According to Extinction Rebellion, we are apparently facing an extinction level event, and nothing but urgent, revolutionary change is required. Anyone who knows their way around utopian inspired revolutionary discourse will recognize the narrative. The end of days is fast approaching, and we need drastic action which requires huge sacrifice. And we in the UK need to set an example by being purer than pure i.e If the UK makes the right sacrifice, then everyone else will follow. The old ideas of Socialist Internationalism are still alive and clearly, the critique that Socialism in One Country won’t work fails to resonate with this movement. This is extreme virtue signaling which I can confidently predict will be entirely ignored in places such as India and China (and the US).
Thinking through the implications of a zero carbon economy would I suggest mean that green commissars, Russian revolution style, would start visiting large parts of rural Britain, confiscating every diesel car, every tractor and every oil heating system. They’d enforce a wilderness revolution on British farms and close Heathrow. Home delivery by van – a lifeline for many rural communities – would be outlawed and wood burners up and down the land seized. Petrol pump prices would go sky high whilst the commissars rewire them via a mass conversion programme.
I would suggest though that we might also see an immediate counter-reaction from one part of the UK – the rural and semi-suburban heartland of the UK. Rural areas and small towns are already simmering with resentment against a trendy liberal urban elite. Rural schools struggle, skill levels are low, and broadband rubbish. Diesel cars are essential, and anger is building. These are the heartlands that voted for Brexit en masse and will form the backbone of a new, Green-tinged, populist revolt.
And if anyone wants to understand what that will look like, visit France. The hi-vis revolt of the last few weekends reminds me of our own fuel protests but with sporting a much wider set of resentments. Living in the countryside, I can say with some certainty that many look at the current French situation and say “well done! Can we take part?”.
Rural areas are not backward-looking and support for sensible pragmatic Green policies is huge. It’s a lie that rural folk hate wind turbines and want to serve up endless quantities of factory farmed meat. In my experience, it is usually ex-city types who shout loudly about wind turbines and local housing developments. Most farmers would love to shift to a more diversified, more sustainable production system and hate enormous agri-industry food production lines. But these are also people who struggle to make a living and think that urban areas dominate the policy agenda.
John Lichfield on the UnHerd website has written an excellent piece on how the non-metropolitans in France have reacted to these worries – as a side note Lichfield has also written by far the best analysis yet of the views of French leftist populist politician Melenchon HERE. Anyway, Lichfield’s excellent analysis of the French rural revolt is online now at https://unherd.com/2018/11/forgotten-france-driven-streets/.
So, I would suggest that if you are looking for the next great revolt, look to the Shires and Heartland Towns of England and Wales. They are moving beyond disgruntlement with trendy urban green Remainer Lefties and are slowly being radicalized. Once the Green commissars start shouting their extinction level abuse at them (as the Vegans are already doing), they’ll start to turn.
All of which will, I think, be a great travesty. The Right Wing will jump on this bandwagon, as it has in France, and demand an end to most Green policies, lower energy bills and an end to Turbine madness. Extremists like Extinction Rebellion will end up setting back the pragmatic case for an energy transformation many decades. The coming populist revolt might even turn into an attack on the whole climate change consensus – as has happened in the US where white working-class attitudes towards global warming are frequently unprintable. More to the point the extremism of ER will only make trying to reach a consensus on the next round of changes – the introduction of say carbon taxes – nigh on impossible.