SO, just as the travellers at Dale Farm are reluctantly travelling again, the country has acquired another illegal settlement – this time at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Church of England has been uncertain in its response, veering from blind panic at the prospect of some health and safety liability, to stern determination to evict and thence – inevitably – to hand-wringing obsequiousness to the protestors. For the Anglican Church it's never so much `What would Jesus do?’ as `What would Polly Toynbee prefer us to do?’’.
But I get the impression the Church isn’t too far out of step with national opinion, certainly modish opinion – well, okay, the BBC. The protestors are regarded as idealistic young things, heart in the right place, reproach to their elders etc..
Just about everybody points to the country’s long tradition of peaceful protest and how this makes us great, compared to say Syria.
There is, of course, a great difference between us and Syria, and between us now and at the time of the Chartists, and that is that every adult has a vote and is free to use to change things. If the right to protest means the right to make a nuisance of yourself and inconvenience other people, then I’m not sure it’s a right we should any longer tolerate in a democracy.
The protestors claim that they are being ignored by the politicians and this is the only way to make them listen. I think what they mean is is that they cannot muster sufficient votes to alter society in ways they seek and therefore they will employ other means which will give them greater clout than enjoyed by their fellow citizens who don’t employ such tactics but have to rely on the use – or threat of use – of their single, solitary vote.
This tends to be overlooked because the St Paul's protestors’ cause is modish and Left Wing. I wonder how they would be viewed if they were camping outside the cathedral demanding a restoration of capital punishment; a referendum on Europe or greater controls on immigration. Can’t see Rowan Williams purring his avuncular approval at any of those.
This is odd, given that for all three of the causes mentioned, any protestors could genuinely complain that they represent majorities whose views are consistently ignored by the politicians. Also, unlike the current St Paul’s protestors, they would be arguing for concrete and coherent proposals which could be effected.
The problem is that each of these causes would fit the description of being `Right Wing’ and you can bet that if they dared to sully the steps of St Pauls with placards championing them, the Dean and Chapter would be calling for the bailiffs faster than you could say `exorcism’.
A few years ago a group called `Fathers4Justice’ felt they were not being heard and attempted a number of high profile stunts which were generally dismissed as being childish and proving their unfitness for fatherhood. The Guardian columnist George Monbiot dismissed these men – who had in many cases been denied access to their own children for a number of years – as `right wing whingers’. The CofE was silent. But then the Left will always take the side of women over men – unless it’s Muslim women of course.
That’s it then, I’m afraid we must reconcile ourselves to the presence of tented city, in the City, Unless the English Defence League or fox hunters pitch up and pitch their tents.