14th October 2008

Democracy, climate change and the right to protest

On 13 October 1908, the Suffragettes went to Parliament and demanded that their society change. Yesterday, on the 100th anniversary of that historic event, campaigners from all over the UK joined forces outside Parliament to demand Government action on climate change.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is proud to have been a part of that demonstration and to lend its support to people – young and old and from all sections of society – whose only purpose was to highlight the hypocrisy of the present Government in preaching the urgent need for global action to combat climate change while practising a policy of building new coal fired power stations and encouraging a massive expansion of the UK’s airports.

Just as in the case of the Suffragettes a century ago, so also today, a sea change in the Government’s policy is needed. Yesterday’s demonstration was peaceful and law abiding and did credit to all who attended. Despite this, some sections of the media, for whatever reason, sought to dramatise the situation by reporting that ‘protesters had sought to force their way into Parliament’.

SSE members who were present witnessed what actually happened. When the demonstration ended a number of people wished to go into the House of Commons to put their points to their MPs, if available. A key pillar of our democratic system is that members of the public have an absolute right to do this. However, the police refused to allow anyone to enter and the doors of the Commons were locked shut. Again, to their credit, those who were refused entry showed commendable restraint and eventually dispersed in an orderly manner.

SSE Campaign Director, Carol Barbone, who witnessed yesterday’s events commented: “Ever since SSE was established, six years ago, we have put our trust in the democratic system and despite seeing people locked out of our Parliament yesterday, that will remain our position.”

Carol Barbone continued: “The Government risks alienating law-abiding citizens by not only refusing to listen to their case but also by refusing to allow them to exercise their democratic rights to attend Parliament.”

Ms Barbone concluded: “The Government’s rush to expand our airports and build more coal fired power stations demonstrates a cynical disregard for the environmental consequences – akin to the Victorian attitude that (still) prevailed at the time of the Suffragettes. It’s time for the Government to stop locking its doors and start facing up to realities.”


SSE’s formal objective is to contain the development of Stansted Airport within tight limits that are truly sustainable and, in this way, to protect the quality of life of residents over wide areas of Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, to preserve our heritage and to protect the natural environment.

We have resolved to use all lawful measures necessary to achieve our objective including:
• Pursuing our vigorous campaign of publicity, lobbying and grass roots activities
• Increasing public awareness of the issues in order to gain support
• Making representations to Government departments, local authorities, the City and other decision-makers and influencers
• Identifying and implementing legal challenges
• Challenging BAA’s expansion proposals via the planning system
• Conducting and commissioning inquiries and research to support the campaign
• Building partnerships with like-minded organisations based on common ground

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits