She famously won a campaign for Gurkhas to settle in the UK, and now Joanna Lumley has a new target in her sights: stopping wind farm companies blowing up ordnance on the sea bed and deafening dolphins.
The Absolutely Fabulous star wants companies to stop detonating unexploded wartime bombs they find on the sea bed around Britain’s coast when they are building new wind farms because of the damage it is causing to marine life.
Lumley says: “At the moment, they currently use high explosives. It wrecks the seabed, it kills millions of fish and sea life. And also it deafens whales and dolphins who live entirely on their auditory systems, the way they speak, communicate to each other, the way that they find each other, find food, have companions, pods, mate, is entirely based on this.
“Once you’ve damaged their system, they float, they go out to sea, they die, they starve of hunger.”
Lumley’s victory for the Gurkhas in 2008 – the Gordon Brown’s Labour Government was forced to find homes in Britain for all Gurkhas who served before 1997 after initially refusing – was a politically defining moment. “We eventually got the backing of the whole country and lots of politicians of every colour and hue. We were triumphant,” she says.
Now she wants the Conservative Government to force these wind farm companies to use a system called deflagration which makes the ordnance safe without a huge explosion. The problem appears to be that Boris Johnson is not listening.
Lumley says she has already tried to take her campaign directly to Number 10 – but her letters to Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds, an environmental campaigner, have not been answered. “I have actually written to the Prime minister and to Carrie Symonds. Sadly I haven’t heard back, it isn’t even acknowledged yet. And I do hope they see it because she [Miss Symonds] is tremendous, she’s a great leader in the green world, and changing things and pushing and powering things through.”
For its part a Government spokesman says: “We are working closely with the Marine Management Organisation, nature conservation bodies and marine industries to reduce underwater noise but must ensure any clearance method used is both safe and effective.”
In an interview on Chopper’s Politics podcast, out on Tuesday, Lumley offers some advice for our Prime Minister about how to increase his popularity: he should admit when he gets things wrong. “I like people who listen and have an answer and sometimes they’re allowed to say ‘I don’t know, I simply don’t know’. I think that’s why the Prime Minister was so popular early on,” she says.
“He used to say, ‘I simply have no idea’ or ‘let’s try that’ or ‘I’m so sorry’ or ‘please go ahead’. And I think that there’s something human about that. Just trotting out party lines is boring to hear.”
Lumley has done her best to keep busy during the lockdowns; she recorded three episodes of the recent ITV series Finding Alice in socially distanced conditions, as well as with assorted book commentaries, poetry readings and plays.
The one thing she has not avoided is binge-watching the Crown on Netflix (“People say, ‘everybody knows it’s made up’. They don’t! People think this is the truth. They believe it’s the truth. I couldn’t watch it!).
Lumley, 74, has had her first Covid-19 jab, with her second due next month. And she is a keen advocate of coronavirus passports for international travel.
She says: “I carry my vaccination programme with me all around the world, with hepatitis and rabies and all the things written on it.
“Why not just add this Covid jab on it? And then that means that people in the countries where you’re going feel happy about you, people you’re with… I actually wouldn’t mind they’re going “may I see your papers”, I wouldn’t mind saying ‘of course’.”
Things are going to get better. “People think, “oh, this will never change.” Of course it’s going to change. It’s changing all the time, is getting better all the time.
“And this one will fizzle out and burn out and become something that our human life can manage and run with.”
Lumley is worried about the prospect of theatres opening with half-full houses because of the continuing need to socially distance. “The truth is, is that if you sit in a house that’s half full or third full, it already feels like a flop,” she says.
But for now she just wants wind farm companies to stop blowing up bombs and deafening whales and dolphins. “Let’s get this done tomorrow, it’s nothing, it’s the scribble of a pen,” she says. “Like Elvis Presley, I like quite a lot of action. I’m not combative. I don’t fight people. What I love to do is to say, ‘you can do this differently because you can, it can be done differently and there will be no harm done. It’ll be a win-win situation’.”
Listen to Christopher Hope’s full interview with Joanna Lumley from Tuesday on Chopper’s Politics podcast using the audio player at the top of this article, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your podcast app.
Chopper’s Politics podcast is available from Tuesday at playpodca.st/Chopper
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