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Chris Packham branded ‘irresponsible’ by No 10 for defending protests at MPs’ houses

No 10 has hit back at the veteran TV presenter in a row over campaigners’ rights

Lydia Patrick,Archie Mitchell
Monday 04 March 2024 18:07 GMT
BBC presenter Chris Packham says ‘The science tells us we have to act’
BBC presenter Chris Packham says ‘The science tells us we have to act’ (Getty)

Downing Street has criticised BBC presenter Chris Packham for being “irresponsible” after he said that activists have a right to demonstrate outside the homes of MPs.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said police forces would label such demonstrations “intimidatory” and move protesters on under a new policing protocol.

The 62-year-old Winterwatch presenter came under fire for supporting climate activist group Just Stop Oil’s controversial habit of gathering outside politicians’ homes, as long as they were “peaceful and non-violent”.

In an interview with Times Radio on Monday, he said: “I think that we need a portfolio of protests, basically, because we need a radical flank, and Just Stop Oil are seen by many as that radical flank.

Packham’s comments have been branded ‘clearly irresponsible’ by a spokesperson for the prime minister (PA Wire)

“They are the people who, in some people’s minds, go a step too far. And that might be, you know, standing outside an MP’s house. But the fact is that they are motivated, as I am, by a manifest fear for the health of our future.

“The science tells us we have to act. These people are frightened for my future, for your future, for the future of any children they might have. They need to draw attention to this issue.”

But Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said on Monday: “Any protests at the home addresses of MPs, councillors and other elected representatives will be considered intimidatory.

“We have seen examples – whether it’s Tobias Ellwood’s home being surrounded by protesters, whether it’s other MPs’ constituency offices – and there are examples from other MPs about the intimidation their families have suffered. We have seen examples that are clearly unacceptable.”

When asked about Packham, the spokesperson responded: “It is clearly irresponsible to encourage people to protest at the home address[es] of MPs.”

A number of MPs have spoken out about an increase in threats and abuse since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in October.

Police were called when around 80 activists gathered outside Mr Ellwood’s home in Dorset last month, brandishing flags, placards and a megaphone. One sign had the words “complicit in genocide” written across the face of the MP, who chaired the defence select committee from 2020 until last year.

Pro-Palestine activists protested outside Tory MP Tobias Ellwood’s home last month (Sky News)

Just Stop Oil has a history of protesting outside MPs’ homes, and activists have also targeted the residences of Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer.

Packham is passionate about the climate crisis and has recently secured permission for a judicial review to be carried out in respect of the government’s decision to reverse some of its green policies.

He sent a challenge to Mr Sunak in October after the government watered down policies aimed at cutting the UK’s climate-warming emissions to zero overall by 2050.

The rollback, which Mr Sunak announced in September, included delaying the ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035, reducing the phase-out of gas boilers from 100 per cent to 80 per cent by 2035, and scrapping the requirement for energy efficiency upgrades for homes.

The prime minister said at the time that the UK’s approach to net zero was imposing “unacceptable costs on hard-pressed British families”.

In an announcement on Monday, law firm Leigh Day, which is representing Packham, said Mr Justice Eyre had granted permission for the legal challenge to be heard in court.

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