Brendan O’Neill

In praise of the working-class revolt against Insulate Britain

In praise of the working-class revolt against Insulate Britain
Getty images
Text settings

Every time Insulate Britain takes to the streets, I feel a warm glow. I find myself feeling moved by the direct action that takes place. I’m not talking about the eco-muppets themselves, of course, and their tantrum-like gluing of themselves to motorways and busy London roads. I’m talking about the working classes who have started to rise up against these am-dram middle-class apocalypse-mongers.

That’s the direct action we should be cheering. This is the revolt that should warm the cockles of progressive people everywhere, or just anyone who believes in reason. The ticked-off HGV drivers, the deliverymen, the blokes trying to get to their building sites, the angry mums taking kids to school, the people on their way to visit poorly relatives – all have started to agitate against the end-is-nigh irritants clogging up the roads of the nation. And I’m loving it.

This week we were treated to footage of truck drivers dragging eco-zealots off the road. These are men trying to earn a living, trying to ensure that the things we all need get delivered on time. At Dartford Crossing, one HGV driver says he probably lost work as a result of Insulate Britain’s antics. The father of two was an hour late for an interview. No wonder he was seen pulling protesters out of the way. To my mind, this man’s a hero – someone who wants to work, and to work in a field where there are severe shortages right now, and yet he’s held up by extreme greens droning on about the end of the world.

The Battle of Dartford Crossing, as I think we should call it, summed up what is at stake in the unspoken clash between working people and the often quite posh performative moaners of the green lobby. Here we had the commonsensical public lined up against the intemperate hotheads of Extinction Rebellion and its offshoot groups, whose main aim now seems to be to inconvenience Brits just trying to go about their business.

The Daily Mail captured the clash well. One man ‘ripped Insulate Britain banners out of protesters’ hands’. Others ‘dragged the protesters off the road’. The rest ‘honked their horns’. It was like a microcosm of the stand-off between the reasonable majority and the increasingly unreasonable activists of the extinction wing of the environmentalist movement. The former wants to work, wants greater economic growth, wants to enjoy a richer, more comfortable existence; the latter thinks we should all don hair shirts and whip ourselves for the hubris and pollution of our reckless species.

The working-class revolt against Insulate Britain is often noisy and colourful, but it’s not violent. Who can forget the footage from last week showing a group of working-class men clearing protesters off a road so that an ambulance could get through.

‘It’s a f**king ambulance, you stupid prick, get out of the road!’, one of them cried. I want that on a T-shirt. This is the revolutionary cry of working people sick and tired of being talked down to and disrupted by greens who think they know better than us. It’s the call of people whose moral compasses are still intact, meaning they know that letting an ambulance go on its way is rather more important than staging yet another public sob-fest about climate change.

Every time Insulate Britain stages a protest now, there is pushback from the people. We’ve seen an angry woman berate protesters for preventing her from visiting her mother. We’ve seen a cafe owner turn down the money raised by a whip-round among the protesters who were blocking the road to his workplace: people want to work, not receive insulting charitable handouts from the virtue-signallers who are preventing them from working.

The more stunts Insulate Britain carries out, the more the public turns against it. YouGov found that in mid-September, when Insulate Britain kicked off its road-blocking campaign, 25 per cent of the public supported its actions. That has now fallen to 18 per cent. Now, more than half of the public strongly oppose what Insulate Britain is doing.

This isn’t the first time green agitators have come up against the sense and anger of working people. Remember the clash in Canning Town station in October 2019, when early-morning commuters, just trying to get to work, dragged a pair of XR protesters from the roof of a tube train? Or think about how irritated the working-class meat-sellers and fishmongers of Smithfield and Billingsgate markets respectively were when their workplaces were blocked by XR offshoot Animal Rebellion.

All of these incidents shine a light on the underlying class dynamic of the green screech of rage. This is a largely well-to-do, well-educated movement, and its target is increasingly ordinary working people.

The world-ending fantasies of the green movement are a bourgeois luxury that the vast majority have neither the time nor the inclination to indulge. It all brings to mind that wonderful gilets jaunes slogan: ‘They talk about the end of the world and we’re talking about the end of the month.’

‘Whose side are you on?’, leftists love to ask. Okay then, whose side are you on now? Hard-working people who want to keep their lives and the society we all live in fit, healthy and functioning, or the self-indulgent predictors of doom who think publicly performing their eco-neuroses should take precedence over everything else? I know who I’m with. I just hope the working-class revolt against Insulate Britain turns into a larger rebellion against the deathly, regressive cult of climate-change alarmism. Now that’s a revolt I’d go to the barricades for.