Co-conspirators may have to read this sentence twice but – Ed Miliband was absolutely right. The Tory whips, for reasons of their own, announced this morning that the Opposition Day Motion on fracking was to be elevated to a Confidence Vote in the Government. So, Liz Truss’s parliamentary machine, Miliband said, was defending not just one of the most unpopular causes in the country (fracking) but the most unpopular cause (Liz Truss).
How could it get worse? One of the most senior cabinet ministers would have had to resign in the middle of the debate.
Suella Braverman had used an Oxford comma against the explicit punctuation directives from Downing Street and had fallen on her Parker 51.
The shock resignation registered on the Richter scale; it shook the very foundations of the Government. And to bring us back to the point, it was a far more powerful seismic event than fracking had ever produced.
Ed Miliband – his voice keening with sorrow and indignation – told the House that the British Geological Society couldn’t rule out fracking earthquakes at the level of 4.6. He wound himself up to wailing point to list the effects of a 4.6 earthquake. He told us that there was a serious possibility that disturbances at that level could result in plasterwork cracking. Really? Plasterwork? Actually cracking? It couldn’t be ruled out.
Let it be noted the greatest tremor caused by fracking was 2.9 on Richter which is ten times less powerful than the plaster cracking event. It was less than a pound of sugar being dropped on a kitchen floor. This didn’t stop a local activist claiming to have been “literally thrown out of bed” by the shock.
Such stories, pumped round communities by the environmental companies, are why fracking is so unpopular. It is a fabulously successful history of informational pollution. So successful that facts are powerless.
People sometimes say politics isn’t a popularity contest. It really isn’t anything else. Jacob Rees Mogg – Le Grand Horizontale – said again and again that local communities would have a veto over whether their shale could be fracked. And almost everyone in the Chamber – bar clever Richard Graham – assumed local communities would reject it.
It ain’t necessarily so.
Guido’s solution: give all affected homes free gas for the life of the well and see how local opinion comes around. The capital value of local houses will rise, there’d be enough in the budget to fix any cracking plasterwork, and people will ease themselves gently but decisively away from the fabricated horrors.
When fracking becomes popular again, by a miracle of popular thinking, even Labour politicians will realise how safe it is, how carbon-friendly it is, what a necessary transition fuel it is.
But all that is in a parallel universe.
Here, where we are, the walls are shaking, and any number of our most senior politicians are about to be literally thrown out of their beds.