People want an end to eco-zealot’s disruption – I’ll ensure we do stop it

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a press conference at Number 9 Downing Street about the British National Health Service (NHS) in London on June 30, 2023. The National Health Service (NHS) in England will get more than 300,000 staff under a new plan announced by the government to deal with a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses. (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

AT THE weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours watching the cricket.

But the most memorable moment in the match had come on the first morning when England’s Jonny Bairstow coolly carried away a Just Stop Oil eco-zealot who had run on to the pitch hoping to disrupt the match.

People want an end to eco-zealot’s disruption – I’ll ensure we do stop it, writes Rishi Sunak

England’s Johnny Bairstow was hailed as a hero by PM Rishi Sunak after carrying an eco-activist off the Ashes pitch

The crowd cheered their approval as Bairstow heroically handled the protester.

What I liked most was the matter-of-fact way he did it — he kept calm so the cricket could carry on.

Britain isn’t a place of extremes. We just want to get on with our lives, and leave others to get on with theirs.

That tolerant, live-and-let-live approach is now being challenged by the likes of Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.

First, they block roads, stopping people getting to hospital or work, or spoiling people’s enjoyment whether watching cricket, football, snooker or attending a garden show.

But that’s only a means to an end.

What groups like Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil and Animal Rising want to achieve by these tactics is to bypass and undermine our democracy — to disrupt, to delay and to revel in the publicity that generates.

I say policy should be decided by those who were elected to do so, not by a paint-wielding or road-blocking, noisy minority.

If they got their way life would be truly miserable. Extinction Rebellion, for instance, demands we achieve net zero by 2025. That would destroy entire industries, cripple the NHS, throw millions out of work and paralyse the electricity system.

We will achieve a net zero economy — but not in a way that kills jobs, and over a period of time, not overnight.

Nor can it be a coincidence that these groups so often attack events and places — sport fixtures, art galleries, museums — that give people pleasure and that project the best of British across the world.

With Wimbledon already begun, the British Grand Prix upcoming and the start of a new football season not far away, we’ve got a summer of great sport that will be watched globally.

So this week the Government is holding at Downing Street a summit of major sporting bodies, the Home Secretary and the police to discuss further ways we can reduce the chances of people’s enjoyment being ruined.

We’ve already toughened the law against disruptive protests.

Since we did, police in London alone have made 144 arrests of the “slow walkers” and are clearing protests in ten minutes.

Of course, Labour voted against these measures at every turn. Officially, Sir Keir Starmer claims to condemn the eco-warriors. But as usual he is saying one thing and doing another.

Only two weeks ago, Sir Keir promised to implement Just Stop Oil’s key demand — no new UK oil and gas licences, despite all the 200,000 jobs that would be wiped out. It can’t be a coincidence that one of the main men behind Just Stop Oil also gives vast sums of money to the Labour Party.

And today day we learned that in Wales — the only place where Labour holds power — Welsh Labour ministers are “co-operating” with Extinction Rebellion to shape policy. We should remember that Labour have said their government in Wales is their “blueprint” for the rest of the country.

This all comes down to values. What Sir Keir’s slavish support for Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion’s policies tells me is Labour’s priorities and values are different from mine. And, I think, from most of the country’s.

As Bairstow showed at Lord’s, people want an end to this disruption.

And I will work with the police and sporting authorities to ensure we do stop it.