Tory adviser faces calls to resign as he says he's 'with Extinction Rebellion'
Ben Goldsmith is facing calls from Conservative MPs to resign over his remarks defending climate protesters
Tory adviser Ben Goldsmith has faced fury after he defended the disruptive tactics of climate protesters and said he stands “with Extinction Rebellion”.
The millionaire financier slammed Labour for their call for "injunctions" to stop Extinction Rebellion's disruption, saying it was "not a good look".
In a Twitter post that has since been deleted, he said: "The protesters are right to be doing whatever it takes to wake people up. The fossil fuel industry is grubby and dangerous.
"We need to unhook ourselves from our dependence ASAP. I'm with Extinction Rebellion."
Mr Goldsmith, a board member at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is now under mounting pressure from Conservative MPs to quit after the declarations.
This comes as Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil stage a wave of demonstrations across the UK to demand the Government stops new oil and gas projects.
In the past two weeks, hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested as they’ve blocked oil terminals, abseiled off London bridges and staged sit-ins on major traffic arteries.
This morning, Just Stop Oil occupied and glued themselves to an oil truck on the roads near Purfleet terminal in Essex to "stop the flow of oil".
Yesterday, Extinction Rebellion campaigners superglued, chained and locked themselves to block entrances to major insurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London.
Throughout the week, they have also staged sit-ins causing major traffic disruptions across London and last Friday morning, activists abseiled down Tower Bridge causing its closure for several hours.
Tory MP members of the Conservative Environment Network reacted with fury to Mr Goldsmith's tweet.
Nickie Aiken, Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster, said: “Perhaps Mr Goldsmith would like to come and speak to my constituents and businesses who have their lives disrupted; their medical appointments missed; carers late to support our most vulnerable, their police teams taken away from their neighbourhoods to deal with protesters.
“No one should be in denial of the climate catastrophe we face but XR should seriously reconsider how they protest.”
Chris Loder, West Dorset MP reportedly said: "Ben Goldsmith is inappropriately interfering in political matters when he is a Defra director. He should either resign and stand for election or be sacked by George Eustice."
Mr Loder also vowed to quit as a member of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), which is chaired by Mr Goldsmith.
He said: "One of us will not be a member of this organisation at the end of today."
Labour Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed said: “This from a Conservative official is an insult to people facing misery trying to get to work.
“While the Government continues to refuse to act, Labour has called for immediate injunctions to put a stop to this disruption.”
Mr Goldsmith later posted another message to Twitter, saying: “This morning I tweeted in a personal capacity my sympathies for the Extinction Rebellion protests. Support of ER is neither a (Conservative Environment Network) nor a (Defra) position. I have therefore retracted these tweets.
“I recognise the disruption these protests are causing to people’s lives and livelihoods. I’ve always previously stood publicly opposed to the controversial and often bonkers methods employed by ER."
He continued: “That being said, I know I’m not alone in feeling a rising sense of panic as the reported science grows ever grimmer. Awareness and action are not commensurate with the scale of the issue, even if we in the UK are now leading the way globally.
“The (Conservative Environment Network) caucus is playing an outsized role in the UK’s emergence as a global leader on environmental and climate restoration. This is huge cause for optimism.”
Mr Goldsmith is the brother of foreign office minister Lord Goldsmith.
A Government source said: “Ben expressed a personal view – not that of the Government.
“People have the right to protest, and the issue of climate change is very important, that’s why we’re taking such ambitious action to tackle it.
“But these XR protests are not peaceful protest – they are disrupting people’s lives and it is wholly unacceptable. That’s why the Government is taking robust action to stop them.”
A spokesman for the Conservative Environment Network said: “Extinction Rebellion protests do nothing to help tackle climate change. Their actions risk undermining public support for environmental policies. We support strong action to stop these protesters from disrupting people’s lives and livelihoods.
“We are pleased Ben Goldsmith has retracted his comments regarding Extinction Rebellion. They do not reflect the position of the Conservative Environment Network, which has consistently opposed the terrible tactics deployed by protesters intent on playing havoc.”