July 3, 2023 - 10:00am

When the Wagner mercenaries marched on Moscow the weekend before last, the world looked on agog. Why were the Russians turning on themselves?

As if to prove the adage that history repeats itself as farce, this weekend we were treated to another internecine conflict: the spectacle of Just Stop Oil disrupting the Pride parade in London.

Previously, JSO had made a point of targeting “normie” events — like the morning commute or various sporting fixtures. There have been some upmarket protests too — at the opera, for instance, or the Chelsea Flower Show. However, these are conservative-coded arenas and thus an expected target for radicals.

Pride, however, is Left-coded — hence the consternation when a group of JSO activists obstructed a float, refusing to budge until the police hauled them away. What’s more, the protesters were following through on an ultimatum. Last week, they challenged Pride in London with a list of demands, including an encouragement to join the campaign against new oil and gas. “Not meeting these demands will mean we may or may not take action at this weekend’s events,” they warned.

The stunt split progressive opinion. The writer and think tank director Sunder Katwala tweeted that he could “rarely recall seeing a more ill-judged piece of NGO advocacy”. He went on to describe the JSO “threats” as “weird”, “entitled” and “shameful”. However, LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell thought that the group’s requests seemed “reasonable”. Owen Jones concurred, drawing attention to “pinkwashing” by Pride-supporting corporations.

Really, though, JSO’s actions are entirely consistent with their claims about the climate emergency. If other progressives also agree that we need to achieve Net Zero within a few years (as opposed to the official target of 2050), then they can hardly object if JSO insists upon the obvious order of priorities. There can be no social progress without society, and no society without climate stability. Or, to put it another way, if it’s neighbour-fighting-neighbour for the last rat sandwich, you can forget about LGBTQIA+ and every other progressive cause.

That’s why JSO feels entitled to tell Pride what to do. After all, if they can’t persuade their fellow blue-hairs to get with the programme, then what chance do they have with mainstream opinion? Until they fall into line, then, the rest of the Left shouldn’t just be included among the climate protesters’ targets — they should be first on the list.

Yet it’s unlikely that progressive opinion, JSO included, is willing to follow this logic to its conclusion. If the climate emergency really is as pressing as they say, then we don’t just need statements of common purpose from resource-hungry jamborees like Pride and Glastonbury. Rather, we need them to lead by example and abolish themselves. 

Is it fair to expect such levels of self-sacrifice? Yes, because that is precisely what the radical environmentalists expect from the British people as a whole. If Britain is to set the example that inspires the world, then progressives must set the example that inspires Britain.

Of course, it could well be that the rest of the Left doesn’t actually believe that JSO is right. What they might really think is that we still have time to decarbonise while maintaining the familiar patterns of life. They might even realise that Britain, under the hated Tories, has made major progress in that direction. Just don’t expect them to admit it. 

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.