It is good to hear action is being taken to deal with protesters whose demonstrations stop taxi drivers earning an honest living.
Over the past 18 months, Just Stop Oil protesters have brought roads across the UK to a standstill with a variety of demonstrations. These have included gluing themselves to roads in towns and cities to block traffic, protests on motorways causing huge disruption, as well as slow marches through London which hold up traffic.
The group’s goal is clear – it wants the government to stop new fossil fuel licensing and production. But its demonstrations have sparked angry backlashes from motorists, with some turning violent.
Among those caught up in the disruption are people travelling to work, those on the school run, as well as people with medical appointments and emergencies.
It also includes taxi drivers who have been unable to reach fares because of the disruption, or whose fares have got out of the cab because they are getting nowhere fast. The longer the protests continue, the more money taxi drivers are losing, yet they still have to pay bills such as fuel, maintenance and taxi insurance.
The group said it will step up its operations during the summer and recently held a day of action during which 200 protesters targeted 15 locations in a bid to “paralyse London”.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has warned the group that he “will not let eco-zealots ruin the British summer” with slow-marching columns. While the Prime Minister agreed that Britain must transition to net-zero carbon, he said it must be done in a “sensible, practical and democratic way”.
And he told ITV he thought the protests were doing the group’s cause more harm than good.
He said: “What I’m not going to be doing is giving into what I’d call eco-zealots who are busy disrupting all of the things over the British summer whether that’s the Proms of all things to all the sporting events that we love. That’s not a constitutive way to tackle climate change.
“I don’t think that’s right and I’ve given the police more powers to tackle this type of disruptive protest and I actually think they are doing enormous damage to their cause by behaving in that way.”
Among its recent demonstrations, Just Stop Oil forced play to be stopped at Wimbledon and during an Ashes test match by throwing orange confetti. Protesters also interrupted a snooker championship, as well a live recording of the Channel 4 programme The Last Leg.
During clashes between motorists and the group, we have seen frustrated drivers drag activists off roads and, in some cases, have even clipped them with their vehicles as they try to get through.
Traffic jams are a daily problem for taxi drivers who do their best to find the quickest and most convenient route to pick up and drop off passengers. But when major accidents or incidents such as this bring havoc to the roads, they are helpless to do anything about it.
And it is during conflicts such as this that accidents can happen and vehicles are damaged, leading to a claim on a driver’s public hire insurance or private hire insurance.
There is nothing wrong with powerful, peaceful protest. But while some might argue that campaigners have to cross a line to get people’s attention, the harm and disruption they are causing seems disproportionate to their right to freedom of speech.
Many taxi drivers may well share some of the goals of the campaign group and there have been instances in which cabbies driving electric vehicles have been stopped from earning a living, despite having made the switch to a zero-carbon vehicle.
And the taxi industry as a whole is looking at ways to make motoring greener with a variety of pilots and studies, as well as incentives to make the switch to EVs. There are already thousands of EV black cabs and private hire vehicles currently in use, with more on the way.
While the environmental message is too important to ignore, it seems unfair that campaigners are taking such drastic steps that people are being prevented from earning a living.