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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
What have the petrol protests achieved?
Protestors claim a "moral and just victory" as they call a halt to the blockade of oil refineries.
But the protests have caused chaos in the UK. The NHS has been put on red alert, supermarkets have reported panic buying and emergency services have been affected.
Despite the public action, taxes on petrol remain the same. Campaigners warn they may be back if taxes aren't reviewed within 60 days.
So what did the protests accomplish? Have the demonstrators given in too soon? Or have they inconvenienced the UK and disrupted industry for too long?
This debate is now closed. Your reaction:
Dave Beaven, Devon, UK
There's one sound way of escaping the brutal level of taxation in the UK, and that is to do what I did - emigrate.
The Government is totally out of touch with the average family. What if Messrs Brown and Blair had to bring up a family on low earnings and have to take them to school and drive to work. How can they explain to their children that they can't have much to eat tonight because they simply don't have enough money? I do hope that you are happy Mr Brown and Mr Blair, maybe one day you will understand that some people are living in a cruel world thanks to the Government.
My wife and I were on holiday in the UK when the fuel crisis broke out. We landed in Manchester on the 10th of September. We were thrilled to finally see our family's birthplace but our dreams turned into a nightmare because of no petrol. It is a shame that so few people can cripple such a great nation. We left early to go back home. We are keeping a stiff upper lip because we will save up again and will be back. Next time I know our dreams will follow through.
J. South, England
The protesters represent all of us much more than the arrogant bunch in Westminster. This is the beginning of the end for Big Government - and the Canutes in Brussels will be the first to feel it! Keep the pound and lower taxation!
Gareth Phillips, Wales
What the 'protest' has taught us is that employers will always stand together when their profits are threatened. The road haulage industry and the big oil companies joined forces because they had a common interest.
Take a look at the 'demands' - nothing about reducing fuel costs for the public, just for the haulage industry.
This was an attempt to hold the country to ransom by a few businesses who resented having to pay a bit of tax, supported by the oil companies.
High tax has not stopped smoking or drinking, it will not stop driving. The environmentalists have never argued that people shouldn't travel, just that they should do so without polluting. Car driving doesn't pollute, but bad car and engine design does. At present almost all motor vehicle design fails to give proper regard to the environment. Even the gadgets in a car, e.g. air conditioning, rely on burning petrol.
Credit to Tony Blair for his strong leadership against a disgraceful action by politically motivated thugs. This is in strong contrast to Hague who failed to speak out against their bullying behaviour and seems to support anything from civil disorder to racism in a sad attempt to be popular. The 'protestors' certainly do not have my support.
As a married man and a car user, I have felt the squeeze of extra taxation under Labour. But what is the alternative? Hague and Portillo have the competence of a pair of Thunderbird puppets with the strings cut. Generally, Labour are not doing a bad job. The economy is growing, inflation is at an all time low and for the first time we have a Government genuinely trying to improve the health and education systems. I am prepared to give Labour another term in office to prove themselves and if they don't, at least it has allowed some time for the development of a credible opposition.
No-one likes prices rising, but we know that we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels. No-one likes paying taxes, but we do need better hospitals and schools, pensions and police. We've all got our views, but at heart we know the right way to proceed is to have an accountable and elected government.
The polls subsequent to these demonstrations have shown how bizarre people's beliefs are. One minute they're in favour of Labour policies and as soon as a few truckers start blockading fuel terminals people all of a sudden change their minds and think Labour are useless. I think Labour should reduce fuel taxes but slash road spending to make up the shortfall. That way people will get want they want (with lower fuel taxes) but have to put up with the consequence of badly maintained roads.
This government only worries about the financial sector and woe betide the next election when I foresee the largest swing back to the opposition. Not even Maggie at her wildest ground the country to such a convincing halt.
Mark Lisle, Germany
The fuel crisis exposed this government and all its weaknesses. Worst of all it showed the voting public the contempt Tony and his cronies have for us.
Our family are British and have been following the fuel crisis. We feel that the people of Britain have to stick together as a whole, not just truck drivers and farmers, if you don't stick together you will have another situation like the miners strike were they were defeated by Maggie. Stick together and you WILL win.
Mandhoj Tamang, Canada
It is very interesting observing Government action following last weeks problems. All the noise coming out is about Jack Straw's committee to stop the problem happening again by law. There is no comment about stopping it happening by addressing the cause of the problem.
All a bit like Stalinist Russia, so it seems to me.
Dr Adam Jacobs, UK
The government response to the protestors was pathetic. No dialogue to resolve things and no action to remove the blockades. Whether you agree with her views or not at least Maggie would have sent a message via the police - go home or face arrest.
Taxes are not just the governments excuse to nick some money off you and pocket it for themselves. I have just recently returned from living in Sweden where 60% of the government's revenue comes from taxes. Here it is around 40%. And I could go on but my question is; where on earth do people think the money comes from for everything? Fairies?
Tim Powell, UK
I agree with Tony Blair's refusal to bow to the fuel protesters' demands. A responsible government cannot be coerced in this way. On Newsnight, I was amazed at one suggestion that the PM should have bowed to the inevitable as had Jospin in France. I was delighted to hear Roger McGough's contribution - 5 car family - reminding us of some people's greed and disregard of the environment. Isn't this what the fuel tax (initiated by the Tories) is all about?
There's an old adage " a fool and his money are soon parted" - I suggest " a fool and his electorate are soon parted". Are you listening Tony?
Tony Blair once again shows his arrogance, it was not just the truckers who were showing disgust at fuel Tax's. 90% of the population were and are still behind the protest!
Like the Dome this government represents a big waste of space!
I feel that the fuel protesters have gained us nothing. Mainly because once you start something so serious, you have to see it through to the end. Something the protesters where afraid to do.
The government will now pass even more draconian laws, which will make our country even
less democratic then it is now. I for one will never vote for Labour again.
I have watched with horror the events unfolding in the UK over the past couple of weeks. Does the rule of law still stand for something, or is the country to be ruled by a vocal minority, whipped into action by a right-wing press? Have we moved from a system of one person one vote, to one truck, one vote? All credit to Tony Blair for refusing to give in to intimidation; a law should be passed to enable the confiscation of lorries which are preventing traffic from moving freely.
The protests have revealed that the usual environmental justification for increasing petrol prices is not the government's true reason for increasing the tax on petrol. This environmental excuse for the high price in petrol has been markedly absent over the last week because it is an excuse OPEC could equally use for their maintenance of high prices. And the government's priority now is to force OPEC to lower its prices, how un-green, how un-environmental, how hypocritical.
From what I can observe the protests haven't completely met the objective of changing the bureaucracy and decreasing taxes. I wish you people all the best because if the politicians are blind to the needs of the people, then I do believe a widespread revolt will occur not only in Britain, but all of Europe.
They must feel very proud of themselves, bringing the country to its knees, wasting billions of pounds of tax payers money and causing disruption to millions.
They achieved several things, obviously they reduced the availability of petrol and disrupted the country. They also got the almost immediate and complete attention of the government.
People now know that the government are weak when confronted with a mass public protest like this, and this will I hope prompt people to take action again and again when policies that benefit a minority and penalise the majority are being pursued.
I think that they have done us a service! They have reminded us all how utterly dependent on certain non-renewable resources we are! They haven't achieved much else, in my humble opinion. I think that the protesters were being selfish and naive.
What the fuel crisis has achieved is sending a message to anyone who wants to make a point that they can bring the country to a standstill and have the government to blame for it. Will the public support people using the same tactics to reduce pollution?
This protest has given as nothing except hard times looking for fuel long waits and empty shops. We will not win by hurting ourselves. Try a different approach because this one has not reduced the fuel price in fact its gone up.
The main thing that this past week has shown is that the public can be so easily duped by a bunch of selfish bullies who in reality don't give a toss about the rest of us no matter what they may claim. Their actions in inconveniencing everyone else showed this to be the case.
People have learned nothing. They will not give up their cars and will still crowd the streets. At one time England had the best in public transportation and health coverage, but both have been abused. Pretty soon they will have neither.
What has been learned is that high taxes with little to show for it (poor schools long hospital queues and dire public transport) can no longer be counted on.
Steven Braggs, UK
The protesters have managed to prove that Britain is governed by an out of touch, apathetic Labour party.
Taking a walk near St James Park in London, judging by the number of police vans loaded with riot gear, Tony knows the way to take part in a civilised debate....
A natural Labour supporter all my life (but no more) I never thought I'd live to see the day when the leader of a party whose very history and existence was based on demonstration and direct action, sneer at those who still have the courage for such action.
Mr Blair has bitten off more than he can chew this time - and by a very long way. Whatever the effect of this crisis on fuel prices, one thing is beyond doubt - he's finished as a credible leader.
Andy Smith, UK
It has shown that a few hundred people can take the UK to breaking point.
Both the Government and the public should have learnt from the brief fuel shortage. The Government now realises just how powerful protests can be when they have overwhelming support. The public should now realise just how much society relies on the car and how poor the alternative transport methods really are.
The protest has shown how little Tony Blair and his colleagues understand the financial situation that high fuel prices leave businesses and families in. As Mr Blair and his cabinet colleagues earn good salaries and for the most part rarely have to drive themselves much, it is no wonder that they are so hopelessly out of touch.
Absolutely nothing. A rag-tag bunch of people motivated solely by unenlightened self-interest, arrogating to themselves some sort of democratic mandate, disrupting the lives of millions of people. Just like the so-called "Countryside Alliance", though I seem to recall the Government folding in the face of their protest. And most sickening of all was the desperation of the Tory party to clamber onto a bandwagon that had just left town, clearly completely indifferent to the suffering this tiny minority was causing the rest of us. Nauseating.
Campaigners usually never think that it will create any real problems. We all now know that it does. I can't imagine a cut in duty for the general motorist but perhaps the government will help hauliers in some way.
Even if the haulage industry wins some concessions in the short term, it has done itself serious long term harm. This week has proven that the time has come for the nation to seriously examine our dependence on fossil fuels - a finite resource - and start to use them more efficiently. This means more local produce, local distribution and a much smaller haulage industry. If we can achieve this we might find ourselves in a very competitive position when the real oil crisis hits in a decade or so.
I bet all of those who are against the actions of the blockaders are only capable of moaning about fuel prices. Get out of your TV chairs and join the protests and let the motorist be heard!
Myself and my partner are already well overdue a holiday and we are supposed to be driving to Devon on Saturday. How would the truckers feel if they had their holidays cancelled? They'd probably protest about that as well. There has to be a better way than this mess that they have caused.
I fully support the protesters when the media starts blaming Tony Blair and the Labour party instead of the protesters being branded as thugs. The HIGH fuel taxes, which started this problem in the first place, may be dropped (if everything hits the fan for labour).
Albert Devakaram, India
I was disturbed to hear so few green voices among the motorists. While there was anger at the personal cost of rising prices, there was little corresponding sadness at the environmental consequences of what they wanted. It was selfishness, of a kind. More worrying has been the lack of green voices in government. I suspect this is because Tony Blair and his cabinet, like most of the nation, think that environmental issues are for cissies. Well, what they sow, they reap. When they finally do something for the environment, let's hope it's not going to be too late.
I am disappointed at the activity of the blockaders and at the typical misinterpretation by this nation's press, of comments made by both parties in this dispute.
These protests have been driven by personal greed and ambition and do not reflect the feelings of the country as a whole. Removing tax on petrol will not satisfy the greed of the individuals involved, it will just further fuel their self-centred and arrogant ambitions.
Mr Blair predictably reverts to the NHS in his defence of high fuel taxes, knowing full well that few will argue against increased spending on health. This is such a simplistic viewpoint. The health of the nation is as much about prevention, education, environment and society. It is not just a case of throwing money at the NHS. There are obviously urgent needs, but governments should also be focussing on preventing illness. Unfortunately politics does not favour long term strategies.
If farmers and lorry drivers don't like the expensive petrol then they should charge more for their services and products. That way we would all pay through higher prices for everything and so higher inflation.
The protests should have given Mr Blair and Chancellor Dick Turpin an idea of the depth of feeling concerning fuel taxation.
If as they really do listen to the public, they should act sooner rather than later.
If the Government continue to bury their heads in the sand and allow this situation to develop once more then they really do have no excuses and no one else to blame.
John F, UK
Well done to the protesters. For too long this Government have lived on spin doctoring and complacency. Blair should have listened to the voices of reason over the last 18 months, aired by farmers, drivers, fishermen, nurses etc. Maybe now he will understand the people count and his policies are to serve not control.
Blair's arrogance is quite staggering. He continues to blame OPEC rather than face up to growing discontent caused by his Governments ridiculously high taxes on fuel. Perhaps now he will face up to the reality of the situation and not take for granted the voting electorate.
What people fail to understand is its the government that have caused the problems in the NHS and industry in general. It is a demonstration that we have too long been nation to sit and take issue's, moaning without doing anything about it. Lets not forget how much political unrest there was during the poll tax, the government reverted their policy then, the same should happen now. Whether people like it or not we need fuel to live, to transport everything from milk to the sick and injured.
The ESSO decision to put up prices today is absolutely ridiculous. May I Suggest the Dump -the pump campaign moves away from BP and boycotts ESSO.
I disapprove strongly of the action taken by the blockaders. They should not be allowed to hold the entire country to ransom.
While fellow EC countries are paying half what we pay - its hardly a level playing field for UK business or UK citizens.
Stop blaming OPEC Mr Blair, it's your taxes that we're upset about and we'll continue to campaign until you do your job and address the problem.
Roy Coates, UK
The perennial British boast "We are British; things like this do not happen in this country" is grossly exaggerated.
The price hike by ESSO and TOTAL is an absolute disgrace. All motorists should boycott those stations where ever possible.
N. Khan, UK
I do not support these protesters at all. Nine out of ten 'ordinary' people my wife and I have talked to do not support the protest. I believe the media is not giving enough attention to the thoughts of millions of ordinary people in the UK.
Are we all so naive? The oil companies have exploited this whole process. Petrol has reached its economic ceiling so if the oil companies want to charge more then they've got to get the tax reduced. The same thing happened with family credit - where the government ended up subsiding employers
Caz, Great Britain
The protesters have proved that this country panics easily, can't think as individuals, and would rather have its petrol 2p cheaper than spend that money on health, education, etc.
I've watched the coverage of this crisis since it started, and it rapidly became evident to me that the Government have exaggerated a lot of their claims in order to make the protesters look like villains - but we're not that stupid!
All the demonstrators have accomplished is to disrupt the UK's normal law abiding way of life. These people who claim a "moral victory" are deluding themselves; they have never had the public on their side and never will. If they wish to register their dissatisfaction with the way of life in the UK they can either do this at the next election or move to elsewhere in the EU under the freedom of movement and employment we enjoy.
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