Readers of these pages over the years (and, naturally, my panoply of law students ) will all vouch for the fact that I hate/despise/loathe/abhor/detest injustice. I hate for people not to be heard. It has been the cornerstone of my adult professional life. I reveled when any firm I worked for took on a seemingly unwinnable case. I regularly thought otherwise and often snatched victory from the jaws of what looked like an obvious defeat.

Insulate Britain: Injunction granted against M25 protesters - BBC News

So, over the last few months, as motorists in London and the surrounding areas have risked a coronary episode through sheer rage at motorway-based protests, I have tried to take a slightly more objective view. Now, of course, my reaction, interpretation and analysis might be very different if I was one of said motorists or, God forbid someone trying to obtain urgent medical attention for a loved one but, for now, I believe an objective analysis is the most appropriate method to look at this ever-growing scenario.

The group ‘Insulate Britain’ are an offshoot of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and were only formed in the summer of this year. XR, to give them their abbreviated moniker, are an environmental ‘movement’, ‘eco-warriors’ if you like, who have been urging our Government to be far more robust in tackling the climate crisis. With COP26 in my own hometown kicking off in a few days time, there can be little real surprise that protests such as these are escalating at this time.

Insulate Britain are looking to the Government to properly see us through the ‘climate crisis’. To do this, they are specifically demanding a ‘national home insulation strategy’ that will provide safer and healthier homes for all. More generally, they want it promulgated that the climate crisis is a threat to us all and action is needed now.

In pursuit of their goal, they have implemented numerous protests based on ‘non-violent civil resistance’. Whilst it is true to say they have not initiated any violence, their tactics have had a profound impact on traffic and vehicular movement in and around the capital and caused severe disruption and stress to the lives of thousands of citizens. Of course, it has had a ripple effect and far more than ‘commuters’ have been affected. Lorries carrying deliveries (of all sorts) have been delayed and , despite a recent pledge that they would ‘allow’ emergency vehicles through, there have been some very distressing stories of seriously ill people unable to get the urgent medical treatment they required.

In addition, the English courts granted an injunction preventing similar ‘sit down’ protests. This means that the activists from IB could be jailed if they block any motorway of major ‘A’ road across England. Some have resorted to going way beyond ‘sitting’ on major roads. The latest tactic (as seen below) is the gluing of their hands to the concrete.

Insulate Britain protesters GLUE themselves to the road to stop themselves  being removed - MyLondon

The group have admitted that they ‘fully understand and appreciate’ the public annoyance and intense irritation at the mass disruption they have caused. But in a follow-up clearly unrepentant remark they have also stated that ‘(They – (the Government)) should know that one way or another, this country will have to stop emitting carbon’. They have said that we can attend to this now in an ‘orderly, planned way, insulating homes and preventing thousands of deaths from fuel poverty or wait until millions have lost their homes and are fighting for water or starving to death’.

Question is – do they have a point? Probably. In fact almost certainly undoubtedly. Are they going about it the right way? Definitely not if you became entrapped in all the melee. But, such is the manner in which they have deliberately chosen to protest, they might just force change and actually be successful. Protests provide a platform for those of us not in power to voice our concerns and be heard. They are specifically designed to draw attention to a cause. It is considerably more likely that they will achieve some sort of result if they hugely inconvenience others rather than just a march or demo outside a building. Indeed data collected over the past ten years or so has shown us that strikes, sit-ins, and blockades are much more effective than what are seen as being largely less disruptive methods such as marches or petitions.

A principal reason for this is that the sort of mass disruption we have seen recently courts a great deal of public and press attention, thus markedly raising the profile of the cause concerned. The main demand of this group is to have all social housing insulated by 2025 and all homes by 2030. This has now been printed by the national press and there can be relatively few who will not be aware of Insulate Britain and their plight, even if they have not been directly affected. If that is so, then (partly) mission accomplished.

Many people critical of the tactics that have been deployed have stated that it hurts the innocent and the vulnerable. This is true but history has shown us that the deployment of tactics aimed at maximum disruption and inconvenience will always create collateral damage. As far as the specifics of targeting roads, any driver will tell you (and I suspect in London more than just about anywhere) that similar disruptions happen daily. Accidents, the perennial British bugbear of ‘roadworks’ and sheer volume of traffic regularly make our daily commute severely problematic and sometimes unbearable. If we find ourselves in a monster tailback and then discover it was some selfish cretin who had been the cause (perhaps careless driving or failure to maintain his car causing it to breakdown) we don’t track that individual down and harass him for his behaviour. Irrespective of how irate we feel or the implications for us being severely delayed.

What I see from this group is them wanting to highlight political inertia. They are wanting to force our Government to take action. For those well versed in ‘climate change’ matters, the insulation of homes is an essential component of lowering Britain’s emissions. In the process, it will also save a lot of people a lot of money. With somewhere in the region of four million people living in fuel poverty in the UK, it does appear to be a pressing matter indeed. Perhaps now, the public will also look into this issue, educate themselves and demand change too.

The group itself has also revealed its ‘absolute disbelief’ that its activists have been repeatedly allowed to disrupt the road network, given the granting of an injunction by the High Court. The Police ‘appear’ to have allowed them to keep closing some very major roads and this has baffled many outwith the organisation. Indeed within the last couple of weeks, a spokesperson for the group said that they had envisaged the whole campaign being ‘extremely short-lived’ because everyone participating ‘would be in custody’. But not so. Why? Could there cynically be a link to the climate summit dues to open in Glasgow at the weekend? Might it be that the last thing the Government wants are hordes of ‘climate prisoners’ in custody as thousands of delegates and hundreds of world leaders descend into the city?

What does appear more than likely is the fact that this mob have found what appears to be a highly effective method of protest and one which has highlighted their cause almost more than any other in living memory. Almost 75% of the public polled had heard of the group compared with only 50% for Stonewall (the group representing the LGBTQ+ community) and a paltry 33% had knowledge of Momentum (the group campaigning for the transformation of the Labour Party). So the message appears to be getting through.

It’s now over to the Government. With doubtless protests due in Glasgow over the next couple of weeks, what’s the bet that the Government makes ‘an announcement’ during the summit that it intends to commence home insulation tout suite.

Cynical, me? Nah. Never.

Stay safe.

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