A Green Party candidate has hit back at claims in a national blog that she is pro-fracking because she works at a research centre looking into future energy sources including shale gas and coalbed methane.
Michelle Palmer, 31, who is the parliamentary candidate for Ellesmere Port and Neston, featured on the well-known Guido Fawkes website because of her employment at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park.
Guido Fawkes, AKA Paul Staines, wrote: “The Greens are fielding a pro-fracking parliamentary candidate for Ellesmere Port and Neston. Despite the party’s avowed opposition to fracking, they are putting forward Michelle Palmer to fight their corner in shale-rich Cheshire. Palmer has just taken on a job at world class fracking research centre Thornton Science Park which was established as part of a government strategy to reassure people that hydraulic fracturing is safe.”
Michelle, who works as personal assistant to Professors Joe Howe and Philip Leigh, told The Chronicle The Green Party nationally advised her not to challenge Guido Fawkes as it might be ‘a bit like poking a bear’.
She added: “I work with both Joe Howe and Phil Leigh as the article says. I have had conversations with them where I have expressed that I am deeply sceptical on fracking, discussing the need for further research and more development across the whole energy sector. It has been my experience that both Joe and Phil are pro-renewable energies and pro more research into all alternative energy options. My scepticism over fracking has certainly not affected our professional relationship.”
Michelle, who is married to Matthew with two young children, added: “The university is in the process of creating an ‘Energy Systems Demonstrator’ building which will integrate multiple sources of electricity – including hydro power from the Dee, wind power, solar power (both PV and thermal) and electricity from the grid – with a live systems grid which will allow research and exploration into different methods of storing and transmitting electricity. There are many other projects on site. The site is not a ‘fracking research centre’. “
Michelle, who is originally from Buckinghamshire but has lived in Ellesmere Port for nine years, pointed out she is a personal assistant and ‘doesn’t run the show’.
“I do not see how working for the University of Chester in any way makes me hypocritical,” she commented. “I have chosen to stand as a candidate because I feel honesty and trust should be restored back into politics and we need people who are going to work for all their constituents and work for the people rather than for themselves. The Green Party’s economic policies include bringing in a Living Wage as standard and building more social housing. Our policies are about making life better for the average working person.”
A response from the University of Chester
A University of Chester spokeswoman said: “Several University of Chester staff and students have been, and continue to be, involved actively in politics, across the party spectrum and including independent candidates, at all levels. One of the virtues of working in academia is that universities are environments, which encourage more freedom of expression and freedom of enquiry, informed by evidence-based research.
“Unfortunately not all media titles operate within the same code. Comments made by ‘Guido Fawkes’ were done so without reference to the university, or to those named in the blog, in terms of fact checking. Perhaps it is not insignificant that the piece was published on April 1.
“Investigating alternative energy sources is just one aspect of the work at Thornton Science Park, which provides a unique and mutually beneficial focus for industry, small businesses, teaching and research. Some alternative energy sources may be viable, some not. It is only by investigating them scientifically that professionals will be able to make recommendations with any confidence to all interested parties.”