Sky News: Greenpeace protest at Rishi Sunak’s home
“I’d say shoot them!”
That was the blunt reaction of one Conservative backbencher viewing the protest by Greenpeace activists at the home of the Prime Minister in Yorkshire.
The MP added: “They are lucky. If they’d done that to an American President what they did today then they probably would have been shot.”
Instead, the police arrived and arrested the latest group of eco-extremists to protest about Britain drilling for oil and gas.
It has reawoken a debate among Tory MPs about whether the measures in place to tackle groups like Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion or Just Stop Oil are tough enough.
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While shoot-to-kill tactics may seem at the more extreme end of tackling the zealots, the incident at the Sunak home today has certainly unnerved a few MPs.
Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith suggested that some politicians’ homes should be given the added protection afforded to some sensitive spots such as Royal palaces including the Houses of Parliament.
He said: “We may get to the stage where we are bringing in certain laws for people attacking or trespassing at politicians’ homes. They already do this at certain special sites, parliament being one.”
For those unfamiliar with the daily life of Parliament, there are patrols of police officers armed with guns.
It is though rare to see them being used – the most recent example was the shooting of the Westminster Bridge terrorist Khalid Masood in 2017 but only after he entered Parliament’s grounds and already fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer.
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Equating eco-zealots with an Islamist terrorist may seem extreme but even before today’s events, there were senior Conservative MPs advocating having Extinction Rebellion and its various offshoots including Just Stop Oil proscribed.
One senior Tory backbencher said: “These people are stopping ambulances taking people to hospital. They are attacking our infrastructure and they should be treated as a threat to national security.
“It is only because they are linked to climate change and mostly come from wealthy middle-class families that we are not taking more extreme measures with them.
“If a few were locked up for 20 years for their activities then you would suddenly see a major drop off in these protests.”
Tougher legislation on protests which faced opposition from Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP was meant to give police the powers to tackle the incidents more effectively.
And while the police used their powers to good effect for the Coronation in May, they have appeared to go back to their softer tactics of before.
When she was Home Secretary Priti Patel literally called in police chiefs to ask why they were handing out cups of tea to protesters blocking major roads.
After today’s events, she told Express.co.uk: “I think it would be sensible for the Home Secretary to review what has happened, the operational security breach, vulnerabilities to the Prime Minister’s residence and the police response.”
But a colleague was more critical of Ms Braverman.
“There’s been a serious security lapse for those guys to attack the Prime Minister’s home in the way they have.
“The Home Secretary is the minister responsible for the protection of senior political figures and royalty and there’s been a failure here. Under no circumstances should something like this happen.”
On the general point, Mr Clarke-Smith said there is a real question over whether the new tougher laws are working.
Protests or attempted protests by Just Stop Oil on roads, at Wimbledon, the cricket tests, horse racing, the British Grand Prix and even George Osborne’s wedding suggest that more may be needed to crack down on the zealots.
Dudley North MP Marco Longhi though offers a simple solution.
“I’d like to see them live their own lives as they would like to see us live ours.
“No fossil fuel-based energy, clothes, transport or anything else and if any of them have acquired wealth on the back of fossil fuels they should give it all to projects to reforest and protect the seas.
“Hypocrisy is the name of their game – by a long way.”
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