Greenpeace activists scale Sunak’s house in protest at oil drilling ‘frenzy’
Aug 12, 2023
Greenpeace activists have scaled Rishi Sunak’s mansion in protest against what they called his new fossil fuel drilling “frenzy”.
The campaigners draped the Prime Minister’s grade II listed manor house in North Yorkshire with an oil-black fabric to “drive home the dangerous consequences”.
They took the action on Thursday while Mr Sunak and his family are away on holiday in California.
Police were at the scene “managing the situation”, as Greenpeace faced criticism from Conservatives for targeting the family home, built in 1826, in Kirby Sigston, near Northallerton.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, who is standing in for Mr Sunak during his holiday, told the protesters to “stop the stupid stunts”.
A former deputy chief constable of North Yorkshire Police said it was a “major breach of security”, as he called for an “investigation into how this has been allowed to happen”.
Mr Sunak, MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, has said he plans to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves by granting more than 100 new licences for extraction in the North Sea.
He has also hinted that the UK’s largest untapped oil field, Rosebank, to the west of Shetland, could be approved despite fierce opposition from environmental campaigners.
Climate-conscious Conservatives have joined campaigners to warn against the move, amid concerns it will hinder efforts to reach net-zero by 2050.
After scaling the house, the four activists held up a banner demanding “no new oil” as they urged Mr Sunak to “be a climate leader, not a climate arsonist”.
Protester Alex Wilson, who lives in Newcastle with her partner, who was also on the roof, released a video message from on the roof of Mr Sunak’s house.
“We’re all here because Rishi Sunak has opened the door to a new drilling frenzy in the North Sea while large parts of our world are literally on fire. This will be a disaster for the climate,” the climber, originally from East Yorkshire, said.
On the ground, Greenpeace UK climate campaigner Philip Evans defended the action at the Prime Minister’s family home.
He told the PA news agency the group had knocked on the door when they arrived and said “this is a peaceful protest”, but there was no answer.
Asked whether it was intrusive to target someone’s home, Mr Evans said: “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.”
North Yorkshire police said they were “responding to reports of protest activity”.
“Officers have contained the area and no-one has entered the building,” a statement added.
Peter Walker, who stepped down as the force’s deputy chief constable in 2003, said he was “absolutely astonished” the protesters gained access to the house, as he called for an investigation.
He told LBC radio: “It is clearly in my view a major breach of security.
“If free access is being granted to that property, people who wanted to do much more serious things would be able to leave devices or booby traps or something like that, and I really think this is a major failing, and it grieves me to say it because it’s my old police force that has failed.”
Mr Dowden defended the Government’s environmental policies as he criticised the protesters.
Speaking on a visit to Able Seaton Port in Hartlepool, he said: “I think what most people would say is ‘can you stop the stupid stunts’, actually what they want to see from Government is action.
“That’s what you’re seeing here today, the world’s largest offshore wind farm being built right here, creating jobs.
“But at the same time we’re going to need in the coming decades oil and gas as part of our energy mix.
“The question is do we produce it here, where we get more tax, we create more jobs, or do we do what the Labour and others say which is say ‘no more investment in our North Sea oil and gas’?”
Alicia Kearns, the senior Tory who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the action was “unacceptable”.
“Politicians live in the public eye and rightly receive intense scrutiny, but their family homes should not be under assault,” she said.
“Before long police will need to be stationed outside the home of every MP.”
Government minister Alex Burghart called the activists “plonkers”.