9 November 2000
Protest pays: What the papers say

By FWi staff

“PROTEST PAYS” is the verdict of the most of the morning newspapers, reflecting on Chancellor Gordon Browns Pre-Budget statement.

On Wednesday (08 November) the Chancellor announced measures to appease fuel tax protesters who almost brought the country to a standstill in September.

Farmers will no longer pay vehicle tax charges for tractors and other agricultural vehicles, and red diesel duty will be frozen at current rates.

Other measures include reducing tax on low-sulphur fuel; lowering “road” tax for lorries; and a “Brit disc” to force foreign lorries to pay towards UK road costs.

The Daily Mail says the Chancellor used the statement to buy off “the countrys most potent pressure groups”.

In its editorial, The Independent states bluntly: “Direct action works.”

It describes concessions as “a pretty clear act of appeasement with all the dangers that that implies”.

Daily Telegraph columnist Boris Johnson suggests that fuel protest leaders Brynle Williams and David Handley are now running Britain.

“Next to these farmers, MPs are about as effective as a wet paper bag,” he says, claiming that power has been haemorrhaging from the democratic system for 30 years.

Mr Brown gets better press from The Guardian which says he sought to appease protesters without throwing away his hard-won reputation for fiscal prudence.

The Daily Express concludes that Mr Browns announcement shows that “he cannot think there is much mileage in the rural vote”.

His announcements on fuel duty and road tax reductions are unlikely to make a radical difference in the country, where the car is a necessity, it claims.

But the Chancellors announcement has not satisfied hardline protesters, who have vowed to go ahead with protests.

Beef farmer Clive Swann told the Express that he is prepared to wreck the country and bring down the Government in order to save his farm.

In The Guardian, environmental writer George Monbiot takes a different view of the situation.

He says it is “a source of enduring mystery” to him why farmers are calling for cheaper fuel as it has “destroyed British farming”.

He says cheap fuel has allowed overseas produce to outcompete with British goods and let supermarkets centralise distribution and play farmers off against each other.