Watching the denialists

Victor Anderson reports on MP Watch, a new initiative to target global warming deniers

There used to be an organisation called the Democracy Users’ Network. The idea was that there are untapped opportunities within the current official system, often because people are alienated from the whole setup or unaware that these opportunities exist. It can also feel daunting, of course, to take on big issues, or big enemies, by yourself.

MP Watch has developed from some of the same thinking – but this time combined with acute worry about the climate crisis. Although it should now be very obvious that the climate crisis is real, there are still some MPs who either simply deny its existence, or (because it enables them to deny they are denialists) consistently oppose doing anything to tackle or respond to it.

Some have banded together as the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG). All except one – Graham Stringer, who is a Labour MP in Manchester – are Conservatives, and some of those are ex-UKIP. Under the Truss administration, they gained influence because Truss appointed to influential advisor positions many people from ‘free market’ think-tanks, many of which are linked to climate denial organisations and funders in the USA.

MP Watch is a new national network inspired initially by Steve Baker Watch. Steve Baker was a very active backbench MP in the fight between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ versions of Brexit, a key organiser of the victorious hard side. He now has a job in the Government as Minister of State for Northern Ireland. He was also until recently a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation – the climate denial arm of the Tufton Street think-tanks. It was he and Craig Mackinlay who started the NZSG group of MPs aligned with it.

A group of his constituents in Wycombe got together to form Steve Baker Watch to monitor and campaign against what he was saying about climate. They have written to him, held numerous vigils outside his constituency offices, leafletted in the high street in High Wycombe, bought space to write articles in the local paper, canvassed door-to-door, and had their activities reported in local and national newspapers. Since then, two other constituency groups have sprung up, targeting Craig Mackinlay in South Thanet and Robert Courts in Witney. There are plans for more, including in Graham Stringer’s constituency in Blackley & Broughton and Jacob Rees-Mogg in North East Somerset.

The national network will help in co-ordinating messaging, publicity and campaigning activities, as well as encourage and support the setting up of new constituency groups. Let MP Watch know if you would like to be involved and/or think your MP should be targeted on this issue. MP Watch is particularly interested in hearing from people in the following constituencies where they want to start up new groups: Shipley, Workington, Blackley & Broughton, Ashfield, Hastings & Rye, Blackpool South, Fareham and NE Somerset.

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