When Green Party leader Natalie Bennett visited Barton Moss yesterday afternoon she arrived to see a huge queue of lorries backed up in the road leading to the iGas exploratory drilling site, masses of police and four anti-fracking protectors tube-locked onto each other, sat on legless chairs around an afternoon tea table being serenaded with strains of the James classic Sit Down. It was like a bushtucker trial on acid.
One of the protectors in the tube lock-on had a Green Party vest and his face painted green. The Barton Moss Community Protection Camp had put on a special party to welcome their most high profile supporter…
"They have indeed, although they tell me that most days are fairly lively here at the moment" she laughed "I think non-violent direct action is something that we in the Green Party believe is sometimes necessary when you have a situation like you have now, where the Government simply isn't listening to public opinion, isn't listening to the evidence and isn't making the right policy choices. So we're here supporting this protest and saying that what we need to do is invest in energy conservation and renewable energy."
While the Camp protectors spent hours being freed by the Greater Manchester Police Protester Removal Team, Natalie Bennett articulated the reasons behind the Barton Moss mayhem and the alternatives to fracking that are about to be put into practice.
"Shale gas is no kind of future but someone was just saying to me `Oh it's just a short term option'" she recalled "Yet at the weekend Cuadrilla came out and said `In five years time we'll know if there's any viable shale gas in Britain', so the claim that this is some sort of short term solution plainly just doesn't add up.
"One of the things that there isn't much publicity around yet is that on Friday there is an application for the proposed first tidal lagoon for generating electricity going in for Cardiff Bay, and that's a great example of British developed technology with good jobs" she added "The idea is to eventually have five of them across the broad stretch of the north and Wales that would generate 10% of our electricity demand. It's a much better idea."
It's an idea that's catching on, as more and more opinion polls show opposition to fracking in the UK is growing by the day. Yet Greater Manchester Police continue to treat protectors as they treated the miners during the brutal strikes of the 1980s (see previous Salford Star article – click here), and Salford Council and Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart, continue to remain silent around issues happening on their own doorstep.
"In terms of the police I know that Peter Cranie [Green Party MEP candidate] has expressed concerns and written to the Police Commissioner" Natalie explained "It's very evident just walking in here today that there's a huge level of policing for something totally non-violent. Why are there so many police here? You really have to ask that question.
"In terms of Salford Council it's a real abdication of responsibility not to be informing people or at least leading the debate, whatever your position on it" she added "To just be stepping back and going `This is all too difficult', which is what I get the impression they're doing, is a real abdication of responsibility. Local people should be asking `What is our Council doing?'"