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Opinion

Targeting the homes of politicians is the wrong way to protest – and Leanne Wood should recognise that

06 Aug 2023 6 minute read
Greenpeace activists at the Prime Minister’s constituency home in North Yorkshire. Photo Greenpeace via Twitter

Martin Shipton

It’s beyond question that the level of toxicity towards politicians has rocketed since the Brexit referendum campaign of 2016.

The vilification of individuals as “traitors” and worse helped create an environment in which MPs and other elected members have been subjected not merely to horrific levels of abuse on social media, but to physical intimidation.

There was a succession of ugly scenes at Westminster during the impasse over Brexit between 2017 and 2019, with MPs – more often than not women – being jeered at and forced to run the gauntlet by hard right extremists as they went about their Parliamentary business.

In addition two MPs were murdered in their constituencies, and while in both cases a terrorist motive for the attacks was established, the violent deaths seemed to chime with what has become a depressingly familiar narrative.

In such circumstances, it’s reasonable to expect elected politicians to act responsibly and not do anything that could be construed as inflaming a difficult situation.

This week, following Rishi Sunak’s announcement that he wanted to see a resumption of drilling for North Sea oil and gas, Greenpeace decided to hit back by climbing onto the roof of the Prime Minister’s constituency home in North Yorkshire.

The environmental campaign group proudly tweeted about its action – and former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood made clear her enthusiastic support for Greenpeace’s protest by retweeting it, together with affirmative emojis.

Admirer

I have long been an admirer of Greenpeace’s commitment to saving the planet and remember well the scandal that erupted in 1985 when French secret agents bombed the group’s flagship Rainbow Warrior in a New Zealand harbour, killing a photographer, as the vessel was on its way to protest against nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Later I was helped by Greenpeace when I was investigating a reprehensible US company that planned to build two toxic waste incinerators in the north east of England.

But in my view Greenpeace was wrong to target the Prime Minister’s home. There are plenty of UK Government buildings that could have been used for a protest instead. That would have made it clear to all that the source of grievance was not Mr Sunak as an individual, but his actions as the head of government.

Ms Wood, in my opinion, committed a serious error of judgement when she backed Greenpeace’s direct action at Mr Sunak’s constituency home. In doing so, she threw in her lot with those who favour the personalisation of political protest. As someone who herself has been subjected to foul abuse by enemies on the far right, it’s surprising that the former Plaid leader hasn’t grasped the inconsistency of her behaviour.

When challenged on Twitter by Jeff Jones, a former Labour leader of Bridgend council, she doubled down and insisted she was right. In fact, she went further and asserted that Mr Jones was himself part of the problem.

Responding to Ms Wood’s retweet of the Greenpeace protest, Mr Jones tweeted: “Totally wrong Leanne.

“What if someone did this to your private home because they didn’t like a policy you supported? Another reason for people not standing for public office.

“This is a sinister development and you have to ask where was the security?”

Ms Wood replied: “If you are angrier at me for posting my support for this action, than you are with the Tories for their fossil fuel addiction, then I’m afraid you are part of the problem.”

In a further tweet, Mr Jones wrote: “I’m not angry with you. And to describe me as part of the problem is frankly absurd. We live in a democracy and there are certain things that should not happen in any democracy. Any attack on any Prime Minister is an attack on democracy.”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper subsequently set out the official Labour position: “This is against the law and rightly the police are taking enforcement action – the Prime Minister’s home and family should never be targeted in this way.”

Senedd return

Some will argue that Leanne Wood’s view on the matter is of little consequence. She lost her Rhondda seat to Labour at the last Senedd election in 2021 and currently holds no office in Plaid Cymru.

Yet it is an open secret that she wants to return to the Senedd at the next election in 2026, when her chance of election will be greatly enhanced by the addition of 36 more Members and the introduction of a new “closed list” voting system.

There is also speculation that Ms Wood’s game plan is to take back the leadership of the party that she lost in such humiliating circumstances in 2018, being defeated in a members’ vote both by Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth.

With the Conservatives likely to face defeat in the general election everyone assumes will take place next year, Labour is odds on to come to power at Westminster. In Wales, there will then be a wholly different political dynamic, with an administration led by Sir Keir Starmer unable or unwilling to deliver the changes that people are hoping for.

Disillusionment is likely to set in, giving Plaid Cymru an opportunity to make gains at the next Senedd election.

What Plaid doesn’t need is a maverick ex-leader making irresponsible comments from the sidelines that are unlikely to go down well with voters.

In the main, people don’t want to see the homes of politicians being targeted by campaign groups. They have the imagination to know what it would feel like if it happened to them. Such actions are unlikely to be much more popular than those undertaken by the climate activists who throw paint at famous pictures in galleries or try to stop the London Underground by sitting on the roof of tube trains.

Ms Wood should also think about how she would feel if, in the not impossible scenario that she became Deputy First Minister, a bunch of fascists climbed on the roof of her home in reaction to something she had said or done that they disagreed with.

Rhun ap Iorwerth should have a serious word with her.


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Lolly Mountjoy
Lolly Mountjoy
11 months ago

Rhun should have a serious word get a grip she’s not a politician she is entitle to her opinions the same as you or I doesn’t matter if you personally don’t agree

Tracy lewis
11 months ago
Reply to  Lolly Mountjoy

Sadly in the culture we are living in, if you don’t ‘agree’ you are vilified and cancelled!!
I do not condone trespass as it is against the law, but having an opinion is not and freedom of speech must be allowed

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 months ago

How many homes and lives lost through the actions of this man, can we be permitted to ask ?

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
11 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Oh come on Mab, leave the poor billionaire alone!… No questioning our betters….

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

The image reminds me of the stark truth of Grenfell Tower…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Cathy, have you watched the Lemmy/Motorhead video for the song ‘God Was Never On Your Side’ switch God for Tory and away you go…

CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

You are indeed permitted, look at your comment sitting there all shiny and proud. You’re also permitted to engage in sophistry. Sunak – not good. Climate issues – important. Activists targeting individuals at their homes – bad… unless leftists don’t like you then it seems it’s OK. Ironically, it should undermine ones faith in our ability to mitigate climate change if these are the actions taken by the climate-conscious amongst us. But no, the message the message the message until power is taken. And then? Well, they’re willing to destroy art and target people at their homes… No wonder the… Read more »

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
11 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Well actually direct action (of the non-violent kind) can be devastatingly effective. That’s why governments hate it so much and why the current Tory government has effectively outlawed it and why Keir Starmer has refused to say whether or not he’ll return our right to non-violent protest if he gets elected. Some of these protesters may have destroyed works of art and disrupted sporting events but Rishi Sunak’s actions (I’m referring, amongst other things, to the North Sea oil and gas licences) is helping to destroy our environment. You can’t get much more disruptive than that short of all-out nuclear… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Duw, these takes are so cut and paste that you even started with a meme! “Thhhhhey are the really disruptive ones” doesn’t justify the action. Neither is it right to do any of the things you accuse Starmer and Sunak of. I think sophistry and the New Left ideology leads to all sorts of moral failings and actual harm (pick an issue du jour to fill this space) – you are a sophist – am I now justified in scaling the roof of your house? Am I justified in taking ‘direct action’ against you? Of course not. Two wrongs and… Read more »

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karl
karl
11 months ago

Compare this to the angry harrassment of our First minister at his home, I am fine with this clever photo opportunity style of peaceful protest. Protest has to be bold to be seen by a mainstream press that controls what people here to protect criminals like Sunak. Yes the hate mail and evil Express and even BBC would put a narrative on it, but would be seen for people to think hopefully.

Rob
Rob
11 months ago
Reply to  karl

Yet on that occasion Andrew RT Davies did have the decency to condemn the protesters.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
11 months ago

Plaid Cymru lost its way under Wood, it became an organisation of issues, ignored Wales problems and opportunities and peddled nineteenth century politics.
Her commitment to Wales is there in black and white – helping to resolve a problem in north east ENGLAND!! If Wood returns to the Senedd or indeed becomes leader again, that will be the end of Plaid Cymru.
Rhun should invite her to join some fringe socialist movement – where she belongs – and take her toxicity out of Plaid Cymru.

CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

You can assume the total number of her supporters by noting the rather worrying attempts at apologia in this comment section. Don’t extrapolate, this is closer to the actual number. She lost the leadership, she lost the Rhondda – Cymru shrugged and bid her ffarwel. Resentment. however, is one hell of a potent liquor and moaning is much easier than thinking. It’s easier to wreck than to maintain, let alone to build, and Leanne Wood is the living embodiment of this.

Geraint
Geraint
11 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

I read that as Martin Shipton having asked for help from Greenpeace when he was a journalist in the north east of England.

Tracy lewis
11 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Sadly Plaid getting into bed with Labour was the ‘end’ of Plaid!

Steffan Gwent
Steffan Gwent
11 months ago

Dafydd Wigley was leader of Plaid Cymru twice so a return for Leanne Wood would not be unprecedented. The narrative of this article may even help mobilize her supporters.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
11 months ago
Reply to  Steffan Gwent

I supported leanne in her campaign to become plaid leader in 2012, and i supported her in her campaign to retain the leadership in 2018 – but i dont agree with her with regards to the homes of politicians being targeted. Dont make the mistake of assuming you know what people who have supported leanne think Steffan. PS. we’ve only just got a new leader in plaid (rhun) – i dont think Plaid members will be looking to change leaders (again) anytime soon. And i think Martin is being a bit mischievous in suggesting anyone in plaid is talking about… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Leigh Richards
CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Clywch clywch, very well stated. On the original comment: I don’t want to speak on behalf of Steffan, so I won’t. What I took from his comment, however, was that 1. there is precedence for a leader to be in place non-sequentially and 2. it is the current group of supporters she has that may be emboldened by this position, not people who may have once supported her or who just follow and support her utterances but may not want her as leader. My question would be how would they be mobilised by this sentiment exactly? What was keeping them… Read more »

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
11 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

I cant speak for others in Plaid CJ but as someone who i think its safe to say is regarded as being on the left of the party all i can say is im not aware of any plans by others on the left to reinstall leanne as leader (and leanne certainly hasnt given any indication thats something she herself seeks). I have a lot of respect for Martin as a journalist but i cant help wondering if he maybe threw that into the piece to generate a bit more traffick (and by looks of things it’s certainly worked lol… Read more »

Steffan Gwent
Steffan Gwent
11 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Perhaps Leanne Wood being ‘a maverick ex-leader making irresponsible comments’ is necessary. No other Plaid politician spoke out against Jonathan Edwards MP when Adam Price for ages was too weak as leader to condemn domestic violence in his own ranks.

CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  Steffan Gwent

The necessity of the counter factual, the heterodox ad the truly ‘maverick’ is seldom the virtues sought in a leader of a political party. Leanne Wood has takes that fall in line with 90% of corporations, every major media company, the bleeding edge of the US Democrat party and the entirety of the PR, HR and humanities and applied ‘studies’ deps in universities. She isn’t fringe, short of wan declarative statements and virtue signalling, usually on issues outside of Cymru. Steffan, ma’ gwell yn ein plith. Gwell menywod, gwell o tu hwnt i’r Fro Gymraeg a gwell sydd gyda’r lliw… Read more »

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
11 months ago

Awful woman…..a very large share of the blame for Plaids pitiful election failures is down to her and her legacy.

Mawkernewek
11 months ago

First the gushing admiration of Britain Remade now joining in a pile on on Leanne Wood by the author of this article.

CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

First walking then chewing bubble gum? What an age we live in. I like some of the editorials from Shipton, don’t like others. He seems to think freely, albeit always from an ideologically Left position. What’s next – “The people of the Rhondda join in political pile-on of Leanne Wood by voting for Buffy Williams”? Almost every “pile-on” Leanne Wood “suffers” seems to amount to valid criticism for the politically naïve/nakedly power hungry/ideologically possessed/morally questionable/vapid positions she takes. If she engaged with such criticism in good faith, addressing and discussing her positions like an adult, maybe such “pile-ons” wouldn’t occur.… Read more »

Mawkernewek
11 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

I couldn’t quite decide whether Britain Remade is Blue Labour or Red Tory. Maybe it’s in the zone where it is hard to distinguish and where it doesn’t matter anyway.
What would be the right way to protest? To be honest much of the criticism of the Greenpeace action comes across as concern trolling not engaging with the actual issue of climate change and that new oilfields are incompatible with the path to net zero.

CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Agree on “Britain remade”, neo-liberalsim mark2, rise of the laptop class **now with fewer actually impressive people!**. Also agree – they don’t matter. Bleugh On the “right way” to protest: civil disobedience with the expectation of arrest and large organised marches. Destroying art (especially when you’re 4-years-old with more barrels in your name than a pub cellar), stopping regular people from getting around in their day-to-day lives (again, whilst not getting arrested quickly), anything that puts you life or others at risk and turning up at the private property of individuals have all lead to there being a big drop… Read more »

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
11 months ago

I like Leanne Wood. She is not afraid to speak her mind and speak up for our country. I respect people like her. I really don’t understand why Plaid Cymru turned on her. I hope she does come back to the Senedd.

John Davis
John Davis
11 months ago

The calls of “traitor” were made frequently by Leave supporters against Remainers and very much endorsed by the rightwing media. Tory MP David Bannerman called in parliament for Remainers to be criminalised. This is not surprising. Remove EU oversight and you can remove required scrutiny of offshore bank accounts, you can interfere with the courts, you can interfere with the election process to favour yourself, you can shut down unfavourable journalism, you can ride roughshod over an unwritten constitution, you can ignore parliament when it suits, you can make law by ministerial decree, you can break international law and you… Read more »

Rob
Rob
11 months ago
Reply to  John Davis

I agree that Tories and Leave supporters have created a toxic political environment. But when Leanne Wood or others on the left resort to the similar tactics they sink to their level and become just as bad as they are.

Bethan
Bethan
11 months ago

Hearing a lot about various political parties either backing or smearing this activism. They’re allowed their opinion like the rest of the world but were they there at the property? Are they moonlighting as police officers and have first account information from inside the interview rooms that would make their opinion mean anything other than a great excuse to sling mud? It was Greenpeace v Sunak and I side with Greenpeace on this one sorry. I don’t claim to be a saint but I do believe in fairness and perspective. Previous murders of MPs can’t be blamed on Greenpeace. Any… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
11 months ago

Shame that Leanne seems to have elected to cancel her prospects of resuming any representative role in politics. Now a full time “anti” good at churning out hostile stuff on Twit but rarely if ever seen putting together any kind of articulate ideas about improving the life prospects of people in Cwm Rhondda or Wales in general.

CJPh
CJPh
11 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Was she always like this, or just an opportunist who lost the cover being run for her by Plaid? Sa’ i’n gwbod os clywes i erioed r’un polisi base’n poblogaidd oddi wrthi hi.

Now, shall I do Beibl, Tanakh and Quaran verses as replies again? I need more downvotes from people who can’t read.

Rob
Rob
11 months ago

Quote…. “Ms Wood replied: “If you are angrier at me for posting my support for this action, than you are with the Tories for their fossil fuel addiction, then I’m afraid you are part of the problem.” …and this is the kind of devisive rhetoric that we need to get away from. ‘Your either with us or your with them’ which puts people off their politics altogether Leanne Wood came third in the leadership campaign and lost her seat. Time to move on from her. If she were ever to return to the Plaid leadership it would be a huge… Read more »

Riki
Riki
11 months ago

Um no! Politicians should be held to account, they are the ones who make policies who affect peoples lives. Are we really saying that they have no responsibility because they are off the clock at certain times? That’s a ridiculous notion!!!

Rhi
Rhi
11 months ago

You’re gonna nice and polite us all to death.

Ben
Ben
11 months ago

This article is exactly why we are all screwed, too afraid to protest even when it is dooming the planet

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben

But there are ways to protest.
Attacking people’s homes – no matter who they are -is reprehensible and those supporting such action, especially a former leader of Plaid Cymru, should be thoroughly ashaned.

Ann
Ann
11 months ago

As far as I can see this was a well researched and planned stunt by Greempeace. The only people put at risk by it were those taking part. I am fairly confident that they would not have done it if they had found that the Sunak family’s plans had changed so that there was someone at home. I only wish that I had the energy and courage to do more to show this so-called government what I think of ghem!

Glen
Glen
11 months ago

Presumably Leanne thought Mark Drakeford was fair game when anti-lockdown protesters congregated outside his humble abode in Pontcanna.

CapM
CapM
11 months ago

“..the source of grievance was not Mr Sunak as an individual, but his actions as the head of government.” I’m not convinced that the two are separate. Was Truss’s incompetence not due to her deficiencies as an individual, likewise was Johnson’s performance as PM not due to his dishonesty etc. “They [the public]have the imagination to know what it would feel like if it happened to them.” The public also know that they are not in a position of immense power and influence or are millionaires hundreds of times over. They might empathise with this PM or not Also defining… Read more »

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
11 months ago

This is a typical MSM obfuscation piece, let’s all jump on Leanne Woods and Greenpeace, how about, just for a change we take a closer look at Sunaks disgusting energy policies and the fact that infosys, Sunaks family business has recently signed up Shell and BP in multi million pound deals, I really thought Martin Shipton and N.C was above this sort of journalism.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
11 months ago

There may well be issues with oil that need to be addressed. What bothers me is those screaming for an end to its use have not provided any sensible alternative.
We will always need to travel, move goods around, take the children to school, have emergency services available to react.
How do you suppose the food will turn up in your local shop, or the bus take you and the children somewhere? Or get to the doctors? Or hospital? Or work? And holidays?

CapM
CapM
11 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

“We will always need to travel, ..” You mention travel for essential reasons – education, health, food distribution, emergency services. Are you seriously suggesting that those arguing for reductions in oil consumption are advocating that children should not go to school, that we shouldn’t go to work, that we should avoid going to the doctors, go hungry and let our homes burn down if they are on fire. If not then why bring such examples of the use of oil for travel up. Examples to reduce oil consumption could be- no flying for holidays, no driving over 50mph, petrol/diesel rationing. These… Read more »

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
11 months ago

Why do so many commentators on here have such a problem with direct action/civil disobedience? Greenpeace have a long history of this and have often been proved right.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
11 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Agreed. But they did not attack people’s homes!

CapM
CapM
11 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

“attack” is an inaccurate term to use in this instance.
It was a temporary protest, there was no permanent effect on Sunak’s home no damage to it and he and his family were not threatened, they were thousands of miles away at the time.

UK politicians have been attacked and assaulted and even killed, and many experience messages attacking them and threatening them with injury and worse repeatedly.

How about we keep things in perspective.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 months ago

‘Come Home to a Blackout Curtain’…

This guy is a big part of the gang that screwed the UK…

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