Plans for a Cumbrian coalmine illustrate the Tory dilemma: green policies or jobs? | Gaby Hinsliff

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Ministers’ refusal to stop a mine being dug in a marginal seat shows a tension between the environment and ‘levelling up’

Something is stirring deep beneath the earth. Or rather, someone. The veteran eco- warrior Daniel “Swampy” Hooper, alongside his teenage son, the daughter of a Scottish laird raised on an off-grid island and an undisclosed number of other protesters have spent weeks secretly excavating a honeycomb of underground tunnels beneath Euston Square Gardens in north London. Now they’re refusing to leave their muddy burrows in protest at the building of the HS2 high-speed train route, due to terminate nearby.

To the protesters, the project is a monstrous scar on the landscape, destroying ancient woodlands and wildlife habitats in its path. But to northern Tories in particular, it’s a potent symbol of “levelling up” between north and south, bringing jobs to places and people neglected in the past. And this particular muddy standoff symbolises a rather bigger political conflict.

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