It was always unlikely that Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, would express his unwavering support for the anti-fracking protesters at Balcombe in West Sussex.
But a comment piece in which he laments the “blinkered totalitarians” at the heart of demonstrations against the oil firm Cuadrilla’s exploratory drilling has drawn the ire of green groups.
In a column for the Yorkshire Post, Sir Bernard wrote: “It seems they want us all to live in their yurts, tepees and wigwams in a sort of glorious, save-the-planet pre-industrial squalor – regardless of our manifest objections. If that is not totalitarianism, I don’t know what is.”
Describing Sir Bernard’s comments as “ill-judged” and “offensive to local communities concerned about fracking”, Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones said: “It’s not totalitarianism to want the Government to invest in clean, renewable energy technologies. You don’t have to live in a yurt to want to avert dangerous climate change.”
Sir Bernard said that he has “no desire whatsoever to see our glorious countryside ravaged”, and in fact “you can hide a fracking operation in what is left of our countryside far more easily than its industrialisation with wind and solar power plant[s]”. Accusing environmental campaigners of hypocrisy, he claimed there was “no evidence” to suggest that greater investment in renewable energy had cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Inga Wilde, a spokeswoman for No Dash for Gas, the group behind the protest, refuted the suggestion that the anti-fracking demonstrators were simply the same “zealots” who protested the badger cull and nuclear arms. “One of the most inspiring things about the people who turned up to the Reclaim the Power camp is that there were lots of people from across the country from different anti-fracking groups – and lots of local residents were supportive of the camp,” she said.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Lawrence Carter said: “As a climate change denier, it’s not a surprise to hear Sir Bernard would be happy to have his garden in the ‘desolate north’ taken over by frackers.”
It wasn’t just campaigners who found themselves on the receiving end of Sir Bernard’s wrath. He lambasted our “limited politicians” for their failure to “provide secure supplies of energy at affordable cost”.