Cumbria Chairman At 10 Downing Street
On Thursday 12th July I travelled to London with representatives of Furness Opposes Biomass, a local pressure group and the main organised opposition to the proposed Centrica wood-burning biomass power station at Roosecote.
The purpose of the visit was to present, at 10 Downing Street, a petition of an unprecedented 14,000+ signatures from local people who are opposed to the construction of this plant.
|(L to R) Kevin Booth, Dennis Yates, Scott Symon. NM, Ray Guselli, Ken Williams, Dave Salt|
We left Barrow at 07:30, quick change at Lancaster, and then a swift train into Euston, where we arrived at 11:10. It was nice to be back in the capital. I lived and worked there for many years and in a certain respect it was rather like coming home.
|With Emilia Hanna in the Quaker Centre|
First port of call was a meeting in the Quaker Centre on Euston Road with Emilia Hanna from Biofuelwatch. I experience a certain level of discomfort I have to admit when I am finding common ground (as a UKIP activist) with environmental campaigners such as Emilia. That aside, we must always do what is right and this certainly is. If it means that Biofuelwatch and Friends of the Earth stand shoulder to shoulder with UKIP as the strangest of bedfellows then so be it. I am certain the feeling is mutual.
Emilia told us that in all her time supporting campaigns like ours around the UK there has never been such a huge public outcry, never such a large number of signatures to a petition and never a petition handed in to Downing Street. It made us feel like we were definitely breaking new ground and paving the way for others.
Councillor Williams decided that the weather was so good, we should walk to Downing Street. I was all for the tube but the majority fancied the stroll and I went along with it. I suspect that they were feeling less enthusiastic for exercise when we finally emerged into Trafalgar Square and an agreement was made to definitely get the tube back later.
So we headed down Whitehall, passing all the ministries and fighting our way through crowds of tourists, finally reaching Downing Street and negotiating an earlier hand-in with the armed police guarding our PM’s residence. Our slot was originally 3pm but they had a word and we were duly permitted entry.
Myself, Cllr Ray Guselli, Cllr Ken Williams, Scott Symon, Dennis Yates and NW Evening Mail political correspondent Gareth Jones (The sixth member of our party, FOB member Dave Salt, remained at the gates) were then led into an airport-style security check with metal detector and x-ray of course and through the other side we met with the police officer on door-duty to talk about what would happen. This was about 10 yards down from the house itself.
He explained that the usual thing was to pose for pictures outside, then knock on the door, hand in the petition and photograph the handover and this is precisely what we did, although not so smoothly as it appears. You have to remember that 10 Downing Street is a busy front door with a large workforce. We had to step aside several times to allow people entry or egress from the building.
It is a strange feeling to stand on that iconic doorstep. The place where every Prime Minister in living memory has stood and greeted the waiting world following election. The heart of UK politics. That said I soon got a grip and remembered that the party of bad ideas was at work behind me and that an expression of stern disapproval would be most fitting.
When it was all done we headed for the Houses of Parliament and the nearest pub. Our relaxation was then interrupted by a telephone call from Granada Reports who had turned up to film the event and do an interview. They made do with interviewing Cllr Guselli and filming us walking to the gate and handing over some rolled up paper. Shame they never told us they were coming actually because they could have actually filmed the petition handover at the door. Never mind though – the report appeared later that night and it’s the story that counts.
Our seats were booked for the return trip, which was just as swift, getting us back to Barrow for about 10:15 at night. It was a great day and an important gesture to make. It keeps the anti-biomass story going and shows those small but noisy few who sneer at our cause that we will not go away and that we are determined to succeed.
Noel Matthews @uknoel
Cumbria County Chairman