I’m old enough to remember, as a politically fascinated 17-year old just a few weeks shy of having my own vote, those agonising moments just after 10pm on Thursday 9th April 1992, when the Exit Polls indicated a shocking majority for the Tories. Throughout the election campaign, the polls had shown that Labour, under Neil Kinnock’s leadership, were almost certainly on course for a majority over the tired, sleazy Tories, led by “grey” John Major following Margaret Thatcher’s unceremonious dumping a couple of years earlier. Just a few days before the election the Labour Party even held a triumphalist, rock’n’roll style rally in Sheffield, with Neil Kinnock punching the air like a Welsh, ginger Springsteen: “We’re alright! We’re alright!”
They weren’t alright. I’m really not quite sure why The Sun claimed to have won the 1992 election, as it was as basically down to John Major’s deliberately understated “soapbox” tours of much-needed marginals winning out over Labour’s hubristic, self-congratulatory rallies, but it became one of the paper’s most famous headlines of all time.
Well, fast-forward a scary 27 years (gulp!), and this time I think it’s fair to say “It’s The Wind Wot Won It”. In England and Wales, anyway. We’ll come back to Scotland later. Granted, nobody will come out and say they voted either for the Tories or against Labour specifically because wind blight is their most urgent problem. But scratch the surface and you’ll see there’s clearly something of a correlation between opposition to wind blight and electoral success. Or rather, those parties that push wind blight on communities against their will tend to get massacred at the ballot box.
The “Derrybrien Hypothesis” I posited at the end of my previous entry – the party most vocally opposed to wind blight usually wins an election by a landslide – certainly seems to have been confirmed once again. In England and Wales, anyway.
You can now read back through this blog since its very first entry, almost 3 years ago now (even more scary!!!!), and you can re-read its entire contents in the context that OFFICIALLY, ADMINISTRATIVELY and LEGALLY the next five years will be in adherence with the paradigm that I have already laid out.
And for me, read millions of voters around the Pennines and their foothills, stretching from Tyneside and County Durham in the North East down through Yorkshire into Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, then back around to the North West via Staffordshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.
The people of The Peak and Pennines have spoken!
It’s the same story in Wales. The photo at the top left of this article shows one of the Welsh Conservative Party’s campaigning posters. The map at the top right shows the corresponding election results. You can re-read the 4 or 5 blogs I wrote about Welsh Labour’s appallingly corrupt Hendy Wind Farm scheme, in the context that a few months later those responsible have had a fucking slaughtering at the polls. Sadly it’s too late for Llandegley Rocks. But maybe not for the rest of rural Wales.
Every passing remark about an unwelcome wind turbine I’ve spotted near Doncaster or Bishop Auckland; every video I’ve ever shot of broken wind turbines near Mansfield, or blighting the moors near Burnley, or surrounding Keighley with a ring of steel; these can all be re-examined in the new knowledge that those responsible have just had their entire approach rejected by the very communities they’ve ruined.
It’s necessary to see the wider, deeper link between wind blight and what it represents in order to truly understand its connection to the election result. As I’ve said before, many, many times, the towering turbines, with their narcissistic white paint and brutal, warped blades, against which I’ve railed for so long, are symbols of something alien and unwelcome imposed onto our heartlands, against our will and without our consent.
It’s not just about “clean, green energy”, it’s about power and control, and these people can intuit that in a heartbeat. Their only real opportunity to express their discomfort is via the ballot box. One of the most ignorant and factually incorrect accusations made against Brexiteers, or even Conservative voters in general, is that they are racist. I’ve said before that if anything makes people feel strangers in their own country, more nationalist and anti-globalist, it’s seeing the traditional landscapes that define this Green and Pleasant Land thrown under the bus in the name of pushing renewables down our throat.
It’s no surprise (to me, anyway), that, having had their own industrial base shut down over the decades, the proud communities of the North and Midlands are hardly going to be happy seeing their precious open spaces colonised by preening German wind companies like Energiekontor, rubbing their noses in the fact that there’s apparently no need for old industry any more, and that this is the way of the future, whether they want it or not.
Looking at a map of the Pennine seats that switched directly from Labour to Conservative, an awful lot of them are seriously affected by wind blight:
Workington: Winscales Moor Wind Farm overlooks the town directly; Siddick Wind Farm is on the coast a few miles north, and there’s the massive Robin Rigg Offshore Wind Farm. No wonder Workington Man has finally turned around and said “Sod this!”
Barrow & Furness: West of Duddon Sands and Barrow Offshore Wind Farms dominate the coastline
Blyth Valley: there’s both a Blyth Wind Farm (onshore) and a Blyth Offshore Wind Farm
Durham North West: Burnhope Wind Farm and Humbleburn Wind Farm
Bishop Auckland: I’ve made my feelings known about West Durham Wind Farm
Sedgefield: Butterwick Wind Farm, scene of a recent turbine fire
Darlington: Lambshill Wind Farm
Redcar: the beachfront is now dominated by the intrusive Teesside Wind Farm
Keighley: the textbook example of everything I’ve been saying all along, now confirmed by the residents. They’ve been screwed over by those in authority they trusted to have their best interests at heart! My entire blog was kickstarted by the horrors of the Jaytail Farm wind turbine (in my avatar) and its impact on the hills above Keighley.
Hyndburn: don’t get me started on this one! Energiekontor have totally ruined the moors with the horrid Hyndburn Wind Farm.
Bolton: mercifully there is a small pocket of protected upland (the West Pennine Moors) ranging from Winter Hill all the way to Hyndburn, where the gorgeousness instantly gives way to turbine hell. I have blogged about the individual turbines around Edgworth and their negative impact on the vicinity.
Bury: to the west of Scout Moor, it’s taken the locals a few years to get angry enough to reject Labour, but they’ve finally gone and done it.
Heywood & Middleton: swinging around Scout Moor to the south, exactly the same applies. Only Rochdale itself seems to have no problem with Labour threatening more wind blight. Weird! (Mind you, such a famously left-wing town – birthplace of the Co-operative Movement – would possibly be the last place in the UK to ever swing behind the Tories; plus their most notable Liberal MP was Cyril bleedin’ Smith…. so hardly surprising they’ve stuck with Labour for the time being).
High Peak: the true voice of the Peak, the “People’s Park”!!! I will never ever forget, and I daresay the residents are also aware of the Labour Party’s role in creating the National Parks. Should the Mountain People themselves decide in the future to return their votes to Labour, I’ll take that as a good sign of recovery in the party, an indication that they might be sorting themselves out. Till then, if the High Peak says “No!”, then so do I…
Penistone/Stocksbridge: home of the horrendous Spicer Hill / Royd Moor / Hazelhead abominations I’ve referred to again and again and again. Enough is clearly enough too for the residents!
Rother Valley: home to Penny Hill Wind Farm, horrible blight of the precious green belt for miles around Rotherham and south east Sheffield.
Don Valley: Doncaster is surrounded on all sides by wind blight, much of it caught on camera.
All the above seats swung directly from Labour (proposing 2,000 more onshore wind turbines, whether wanted or not) to the Conservatives (proposing to keep the community veto of any unwanted wind blight) in the 2019 election. The difference between these pledges may not have made Question Time or The Guardian – and I’d wager a genuinely knowledgeable discussion about wind energy would have been conspicuous by its absence from Channel 4’s climate change debate (the “block of ice” one, which I didn’t get to see myself; feel free to fill me in if i missed anything germane!) – but it wouldn’t have been lost on shrewd Northerners.
The Labour Party of the 1940s (Jesus, do we have to go that far back to find a functional Labour Party??? Strewth, they really have got serious problems…) would have protected the precious common lands and open spaces in between the industrial zones from corporate encroachment, as a symbol of the working man’s right to escape all traces of industry and commerce in his free time; a reminder that ultimately industry is a mere subset of nature.
What the Labour Party have done for these seats in the interim has been not only to preside over all the jobs disappearing from their industrial bases, but also to now allow wind blight to colonise the rapidly disappearing rural areas.
Now I realise it’s flawed thinking to lump all the blame on Labour. Both parties share the blame for the industrial decline of the North and Midlands. And indeed the Tories were perfectly onboard with wind power up until David Cameron’s prescient pledge in 2015 that enough was enough. Before 2015 there was no real difference in any of the major parties’ policies.
What this suggests to me is that, when it comes to understanding the issues of wind blight and just how badly it affects these communities, the Tories have learnt and moved on, whereas Labour haven’t budged, if anything they’ve gone backwards. And let’s be clear, this demonstrates that the Tories have had their finger on the pulse for much longer than they’ve had Boris in charge; indeed the change of policy towards wind farms even predated Brexit, albeit by not a lot. Credit to David Cameron for getting the ball rolling.
Regrettably in the kamikaze 2017 election, Theresa May was diabolical at communicating any new-found alignment between the Tories and these working class communities; and with his initial commitment to respect the referendum result, Jeremy Corbyn was able to temporarily stem the exodus of Labour Leave voters. Still, although the last two years may have seen Brexit temporarily paralysed, at least there have been no broken promises regarding wind blight.
The Tories are bloody lucky that it’s not the party as a whole that’s taken a hit for the Brexit delays, and much credit for that must go to Boris for drawing a line in the sand and managing to get traditional Labour voters to hold their nose and lend him their vote in order to get the job done.
I suspect Boris’ work was made easier by the fact that the Tories still oppose the imposition of wind blight on communities, against their will and without their consent. And they have indeed delivered on this commitment. The big test was the Scout Moor expansion, and the Tories stood up for the people of Heywood and Bury; you can see that they have now shown their gratitude!
Finally…. Scotland is the antithesis to the thesis above. The Tories’ anti-wind message didn’t cut through in Scotland half as much as the SNP’s continued support for trashing their hills. Why is this? I’ll have a think about it and maybe come back to it in another entry. Any ideas why the people of Scotland are much more keen on a pro-wind party than the people of England?