Boris Johnson is accused of a sneaky u-turn that could see him haemorrhage Tory voters

Boris Johnson
Tracy Keeling

Boris Johnson’s government stands accused of u-turning on a policy on fracking less than two weeks after it was announced.

At the start of November, the government made a dramatic u-turn on fracking. After years of Conservative support for the controversial practice, it announced a moratorium. But, according to inews, the government later issued a document which contradicted that promise.

Support for fracking among Tory voters stood at 37% in recent polling. So Johnson’s government is even risking hemorraghing Conservative voters with this latest change of direction.

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To pause or not to pause

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced on 1 November that fracking was “paused unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely here”. Labour, which has pledged to ban fracking completely, suggested at the time the move could be an election “gambit”.

Now inews reports that, just three days after the government’s moratorium announcement, it issued a document suggesting otherwise. The document reads:

It should be noted that the Government has made clear that on the basis of the current scientific evidence, and in the absence of compelling new evidence, it has taken a presumption against issuing any further Hydraulic Fracturing Consents. While future applications will be considered on their own merits by the Secretary of State in accordance with the law, the shale gas industry should take the Government’s position into account when considering new developments.

So the government says it will consider fracking applications “on their own merits” in the future, not temporarily end consideration of applications as per a moratorium. Furthermore, inews reports that the document also said:

there was “considerable merit” in loosening planning laws so local councils would no longer be able to block firms from drilling for shale gas.

“Phoney ban”

In response, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey called the government’s previous announcement a “phoney ban”. She commented:

You can’t trust a word the Tories say on fracking. In just over a week their policy has evolved from a ‘ban’ to a ‘temporary pause’ and now, seemingly, an extreme ‘frack-at-will’ policy imported from Trump’s USA.

Frack Free Lancashire’s John Hobson said:

This fudge has all of the hallmarks of a Government who are trying desperately to please all sides in this argument, but are failing to please anybody. It is time they applied a single approach, consistent with the evidence, and banned all fracking permanently.

The government and the Conservative Party did not respond to inews‘ request for comment.

Unpopular choice

Johnson came under fire in parliament recently after MPs discovered a fracking lobbyist is writing the Conservative Party’s election manifesto. The PM himself has also rooted for fracking in the past: a dirty energy source that’s turned out to be the wrong solution to our energy and planetary needs.

The practice is deeply unpopular in Britain, including among Tory voters. So this apparent u-turn doesn’t look good for Johnson. Neither does the fact that his government seems to have told one thing to the public while saying something entirely different in private.

Featured image via YouTube – Channel 4 News

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