Behind the scenes

Tory MPs accuse Boris Johnson of pandering to ‘climate terrorists’ in mine row

PM under fire after government orders fresh public inquiry into controversial project in Cumbria

Boris Johnson is facing a rebellion from Conservative MPs in the North after bowing to pressure to halt plans to build a coal mine in Cumbria.

Environmental groups are celebrating after Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick last night ordered a fresh public inquiry into the controversial project, effectively blocking the construction of the deep coal mining site.

But the decision sparked a flood of angry messages on WhatsApp groups of Tory MPs, who “have pounded Downing Street with furious complaints about the U-turn”, says The Sun

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson reportedly told colleagues on the messaging platform that the government had “bowed to climate terrorists” and that the decision was “a kick in the teeth”.

Jenkinson also released a public statement expressing his “disappointment” in what he described as “a capitulation to climate alarmists”. 

The £165m mine is slated for construction in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland, one of the most deprived areas of the country, and would the first of its kind to be built in 30 years. Cumbrian Country Council have twice approved the project, which local Tories say the project would create hundreds of jobs.

But the decision will now be taken by independent planning officials - a process that is expected to take months.

Jenrick’s intervention came amid claims that cabinet minister Alok Sharma, who is heading the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow later this year, was privately “apoplectic” at the government’s previous failure to halt the plans, The Independent reports.

But Johnson appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, with speculation that the PM will instead now face the wrath of his private secretary, Copeland MP Trudy Harrison.

An unnamed Tory MP told The Sun that “she’s been made to look a fool and should not put up with this”.

ITV’s political correspondent Daniel Hewitt tweeted last night that Harrison “does NOT intend to quit” over the inquiry decision, however. 

Politico’s London Playbook also “hears she won’t be quitting”, and predicts that any rebellion from Conservative backbenchers is likely to fizzle out if Harrison is unwilling to “go nuclear”.

All the same, the news site adds, the ongoing row over the mine “has caused a political headache for Johnson that won’t stop throbbing”.

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