The coalition’s last stand

by Daphne Liddle

THE QUEEN’S speech delivered in Parliament on Wednesday contained only 11 Bills, most of them not so controversial. It seems that in the run-up to next year’s general election the Tories and Liberal Democrats are running out of things they can agree on.

But both parties are all in favour of unrestricted capitalist greed and fracking is one seriously controversial issue that they do agree on.

The change to the trespass laws that would allow fracking companies to extract shale gas from under people’s homes and land without having to ask permission or give compensation was widely signalled in advance.

And so on Wednesday morning a group of protesters from Greenpeace staged a protest at David Cameron’s country home at Dean in Oxfordshire by turning it into a “fracking site”.

Activists in hard hats and high-vis jackets turned up on the doorstep of the cottage, sealing off the property’s front gate with security fencing.

A leading Greenpeace activist explained why they were making the protest: “Because today’s the day that the Prime Minister is set to use the Queen’s Speech to announce a new law, one that’s already deeply unpopular with home owners across the country.

“It’s been dubbed the fracking law -- and put simply, it’ll clear the way for fracking firms to drill for shale gas under our homes, even when they don’t have permission.

“Fracking — or hydraulic fracturing — is a destructive and dirty process using a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to blast rocks and release trapped gas and oil.

“Despite Cameron’s rhetoric, we know that fracking won’t help those struggling with fuel poverty. We know that emissions from fracked gas are likely to make climate change worse.

“Scientists say that two thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change. A fracking boom would undermine the growth of the UK’s clean energy industries. And leave towns and villages across the UK inundated with trucks and drilling rigs for years to come.

“We’ve been expecting David Cameron to announce the new fracking law for a while now. So today, as the Queen prepares to lay out Government plans for the coming 12 months, we’ll be setting up our own fracking site, right outside the Prime Minister’s front door -- letting him know just what it looks like when his garden is turned into an industrial zone.

“The fracking industry is trying to hold politicians to ransom. Just last week, Cuadrilla boss Francis Egan threatened that if Parliament doesn’t change the law so firms like his can drill under our homes without permission, fracking in the UK could grind to a halt.

“We’re planning to remain outside Cameron’s home long enough to make sure our message gets through -- or until the police force us to move on.”

Other Bills in the Queen’s speech include one to give “small firms” “fair access” to Government and other public sector procurement. In other words a privatisation freefor- all in which the “rights” of private sector adventure capitalists to line their pockets will take precedence over the rights of citizens to quality and standards in the delivery of public services and no rights at all for the public sector workers who are now providing those services.

There will be a register of beneficial ownership that will outline who owns and controls British companies. Childcare regulations will be made more flexible so those providing it can make more profits.

The way National Insurance contributions are collected from the self-employed will be simplified. Revenue and Customs will be given new powers to enforce payments in tax avoidance cases.

The Highways Agency will be turned from a quango (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation) into a Government-owned company, with a shake-up of its funding, probably to prepare it for privatisation.

And so it goes on, a miserable end to a miserable government of oppression and impoverishment of the working class.The chances of us getting anything better from next year’s general election depend on the organised working class — the unions and the Labour Party — mobilising for a serious fight-back inside and outside Parliament.

And there is an even more important battle to be waged inside the labour movement to get rid of the apologists for rampant capitalism and replace them with leaders willing to fight for the working class in the titanic struggle that is looming.