26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Director’s support for activists rebounds

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A Non-executive Director at the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is under pressure to resign after making comments in support of environmental activists, Extinction Rebellion (XR).

Financier and environmentalist, Ben Goldsmith (pictured) attacked the Opposition Labour Party’s call for injunctions against XR’s Just Stop Oil campaign and expressed his support for XR in a Twitter comment.

“The protesters are right to be doing whatever it takes to wake people up,” Mr Goldsmith said.

“The fossil fuel industry is grubby and dangerous.

“We need to unhook ourselves from our dependence ASAP. I’m with Extinction Rebellion,” he tweeted.

Ms Goldsmith’s comments, which have since been deleted, triggered outrage among Conservative Party MPs, with one calling for him to resign his DEFRA position or be sacked.

Member of Parliament, Chris Loder accused Mr Goldsmith of “inappropriately interfering in political matters”.

The code of conduct for board members of public bodies, including non-executives, states: “You should be, and be seen to be, politically impartial… You should abstain from all controversial political activity… On matters directly related to the work of the body, you should not make political statements or engage in any other political activity”.

Other MPs have also reportedly slammed Mr Goldsmith’s comments about XR including Fay Jones, who called the statement “unbelievable”.

Sky News reported former Cabinet Minister, Damian Green as saying “surely he can’t stay on after that”.

Almost 1,000 Just Stop Oil protestors have been arrested since they began a 12-day campaign blockading oil terminals on 1 April, with the group vowing to continue until they were all jailed.

Mr Goldsmith posted another tweet, retracting his initial comments and explaining they were “in a personal capacity”.

He said his “sympathies” with XR protests were due to the escalating climate crisis.

However, he recognised the disruption the protests were causing to people’s lives and livelihoods.

London, 15 April 2022

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