Greenpeace takes over Sunak’s house as govt launches National Risk Registry

Commentary Environment Opinion Policy & Politics

Oh the irony of the UK prime minister’s house being scaled by Greenpeace activists on the same day Rishi Sunak’s government launched the National Risk Registry.

It’s  broad and diverse detailing  what the government believes are the most serious risks facing the UK including threats to lives, health, society, critical infrastructure, economy and sovereignty.

Among the 89 biggest threats to life in Britain identified are a future pandemic, Russia disrupting global energy supplies, the impact of extreme weather, the potential of AI, the threat of nuclear war and the likelihood of the assassination of a public figure.

But nowhere is mentioned the risk posed by a group of climate activists climbing onto the roof of the prime minister’s family home and draping it mournfully in black cloth. They did so in the full glare of day. Adorned in bright scarlet jackets and contrasting hardhats. Nonchalantly strolling through the grounds of Kirby Sigston manor house. Right up to Rishi Sunak’s front door. Which they actually knocked on to announce: “This is a peaceful protest.” And they continued unchallenged. And unhindered, proceeding to position the ladders they’d carried and fix their ropes to scale the mansion’s walls. To occupy the roof of the prime minister’s house. Drape its edifice in black and unfurl a banner from Sunak’s grade II listed guttering declaring “No New Oil”. Even taking time to pose for photos in the front garden..

It wasn’t mentioned in the risk registry because surely something so utterly bizarre couldn’t even be contemplated never mind achieved. But it was.

AT 8.29am today (August 3) Greenpeace UK posted on social media: “BREAKING: Climbers are on the roof of Rishi Sunak’s mansion draping it in 200 metres of oily-black fabric to drive home the dangerous consequences of a new drilling frenzy.”

And for five hours, four activists protested from Sunak’s roof just days after his decision to tear up the UK’s climate commitments and instead “max out” Britain’s remaining reserves of North Sea oil and gas by awarding a hundred new licences to drill for the fossil fuels.

A “dark day for life on earth” was broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham’s assessment while Oxfam’s climate change policy advisor Lyndsay Walsh denounced the “wrongheaded” decision. She railed against the “government’s hypocritical and dangerously inconsistent climate policy”, epitomised by the awarding of the new licences. “Extracting more fossil fuels from the North Sea will send a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate commitments,” said Walsh.

Greenpeace was even more critical, condemning the announcement as “a cynical political ploy to sow division”. Later the campaign group posted: “@RishiSunak is giving tax breaks to oil companies, allowing them to make OBSCENE profits. Meanwhile, the UK public is struggling with unaffordable energy bills – we need renewables, not new oil.”

And fears are deepening that the PM is poised to give the go-ahead for a new licence to drill at the UK’s largest untapped oilfield, Rosebank, west of the Shetland Islands.

It’s why, Greenpeace say, they targeted the Sunak’s house today, leading to the arrest of five activists.

“This is the prime minister. He is the one that was standing in Scotland going to drill for every last drop of oil while the world is burning. He is personally responsible for that decision and we’re all going to be paying a high price if he goes through with it. It is personal,” said Greenpeace campaigner Philip Evans.

While the group’s agenda would have been to raise awareness and pile pressure on the government to rethink its climate policy, their audacious stunt probably succeeded more in exposing a spectacular security fail by the police and UK’s security services.

North Yorkshire police are seemingly under most fire but serious questions are being asked of the UK’s security services and how exactly a very conspicuous group of Greenpeace activists managed to effectively take over the PM’s house.

Retired senior police officer Peter Walker said they could well have been terrorists planting a bomb and even paraphrased the IRA statement claiming responsibility for the 1984 Brighton hotel bomb at the Tory party conference: “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once – you will have to be lucky always.”

That bomb killed five and came close to wiping out then-PM Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet.

Of course, Sunak and his family were not at home when Greenpeace – an organisation committed to peaceful, direct action –  arrived given the family was, as the group was aware, starting their 10-day holiday in California. So the threat was not immediate. But then neither was the Brighton bomb (planted weeks before and undetected by UK intelligence and security services despite numerous checks and security sweeps).

It’s therefore very lucky indeed that today’s brazen activists weren’t members of a more nefarious group or organisation to whom unhindered access to the British prime minister’s residence would be a major goal.

Which makes what Greenpeace managed to do at Sunak’s manor house all the more incredible.

The Sunaks – in California on their first family holiday for four years – will be hoping a lot more vigilance is being paid to their accommodation during their ten day trip to the US. Wherever that is they may be residing because while the PM owns a “lavish” £5 million penthouse flat in Santa Monica – “which reportedly even has a ‘pet spa’” – No 10 has “refused to comment” exactly where Sunak will be staying, “citing security concerns”.

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