Whilst it is true that MPs do not have any direct impact on fracking licences – it is the responsibility of local councils to deal with applications – MPs are the ones who are most likely to feel the force of public anti-fracking wrath. It will be their names on the ballot paper in 2015.
The University of Nottingham has been conducting a survey of public attitudes to fracking in the UK since March 2012. Their May 2014 summary suggests that while opposition to fracking in the UK has deepened, Conservative supporters are far more likely to be in favour of the process than Labour supporters.
However, political affiliation is by no means the only factor that influences views on fracking. The issue will vary in importance depending on location – the level of Nimbyism involved in political decision making cannot be understated.
This is true not only of voters themselves, but of individual councils, some of which are prepared to flout the party line to oppose fracking in their area.
For example, the government’s most enthusiastic backer of fracking, George Osborne, has found himself at loggerheads with the local council in his own Tatton constituency.
Further cross-party divisions have appeared, too. In January this year, a group of MPs from the three main parties and council leaders came together to call for a greater share of potential fracking profits for their Lancashire constituents.
With the issue dividing people according to political affiliation, location and personal opinion, who voters turn to if they wish to cast an anti-fracking vote is a critical question.
BBC political research editor David Cowling says: “If opposition to fracking is to have any influence on the 2015 general election, it is most likely to be in those few areas where the process is already well advanced.
“But if none of the main parties is opposed to it, who do the dissenters vote for? Possibly either the Greens or independent ‘anti-fracking’ candidates.
“If so, any political impact on individual seats is difficult to forecast… but it’s likely to cause a few main party candidates some sleepless nights before polling day.”
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