Thursday, 27 October 2011

A mixed lot

There are a couple of pubs we usually adjourn to after a meeting in EC1. One is London's most hidden pub that until relatively recently was actually in Cambridgeshire. It was sited in what was a 'peculiar' of the Bishop of Ely, and was licensed by Ely magistrates rather than City ones. The other is an old 18th century corner-house on Watling Street, a pub since the 1500s, that survived both the Blitz and the 1960s. It was outside the latter yesterday evening that we came face to face with a trio of 'occupy' folk from St Paul's doing a bit of an explore. Three girls in stained anoraks with unwashed hair and bangles who may even have looked attractive after a hot bath, a decent dinner and a day with the hairdresser stared in quiet fascination at a row of loud men in suits quaffing £4 a pint lager. The suits stared back, equally fascinated. They looked as though they were on the point of soliciting drinks, or money, but couldn't quite do it and moved on. 

In one of those peculiar flashes of insight I imagined a similar scene in that same place some half millennium earlier. The English Reformation may have been many things, but it wasn't a benefit to the common people. Overnight, they lost hospitals, schools, the dole, charity, shelter and social care, none of which would be re-provided by the wealthiest in the land who enjoyed the plunder. Least of all was the Reformation of benefit to women. The nunneries offered a real alternative to life as a chattel, where women could live together and govern themselves, protected by stout walls and piety, owned by themselves and not by men. When Henry's agents pulled down the walls and ejected the sisters onto the street just such a group as our occupy protesters must have wandered the City, gazing in fascination at doublets straining over the fat bellies of London's new middle class.   

Simon Jenkins writes this morning in the Guardian
There are serious gaps in the transparency of modern democracy. Between elections, the traditional mediators between electors and those in power have withered. The "customary associations and little platoons" have dwindled. Power over policy has been removed from parties in parliament and at the grassroots, from trade unions, from the professions, from local government, from intellectuals, even from the formal civil service. These conduits have been replaced by thinktanks and lobbyists working in private collusion with ministerial staffs. When David Cameron in opposition said that lobbyists were "the next big scandal waiting to happen," he was right. But that was before he came to power. ..... (the 'Occupy') protest is more a dull ache of frustration at power being dispensed in corridors rather than streets, a power that is ever further from their grasp.
1979 was a watershed in British politics. Before, we berated the grasp of something called 'the Establishment' on power, and the reaction against it in the 1980s gave us a rainbow alliance of greens, anarchists, wimmins, Trots, oddballs and wierdos in the Town Halls, all antipathetic to Mrs Thatcher. That, too, was billed as a 'reformation' of politics. Unfortunately it was. It led to the most ruthless centralising of power the nation had seen since the Second War; the Conservative Party alone lost a million members between 1979 and 1997, me amongst them, as local associations were disempowered. Like that other Reformation, it succeeded only in making things worse for the majority and created a powerful closed-shop metropolitan political class.

As the Chinese are said to say, beware of what you wish for. 


Anonymous said...

'Closed shop' is true but in the street there is formenting angst and as yet unfocused menace, the realisation is starting to sink in, the day of reckoning is nearer, just not quite here... [sigh]. As yet the Z factor generation are not up to speed.

Blue Eyes said...

They may be a closed shop but I think there are enough communications channels open to the decision-makers that this won't get nasty. London will avoid turning into Athens for the moment.

R you sound as if you are about to go and pitch your own tent at St Paul's (although I trust it would be rather more comfortable than those I've seen on the tellybox). I don't blame you, the gripes that #Occupy are those which are shared by many people outside the top 5% of earners.

However it is no use complaining about the status quo if you haven't got a proposal for change. Surely the only way to really change the attitude of, say, the Tory party, is from within?

After all, the Tories aren't going to suddenly become localist if all the localists are sitting at home complaining on the internet.

Greg Tingey said...

You drink in (some of) the same pubs as me!
The Mitre has been CAMRA's London pub of the year, and runner-up more than oce, and I wa in the Old Watling on Tuesday ....

However, I disagree about the "Reformation"

Do you really have ANY idea as to how thoroughly evil an organisation the RC church is?
The recent paedophile scandals are merely the visible tip of a very nasty octopus.

Meanwhile, re-regarding the protestors...

I went down yesterday, to talk to these loonies ....
And that's what they are, harmless loonies, various - christian, socilaist. muslim -all demented.
St Pauls' has not been "forced to close" - looking at it at 13.45 (25/10/2011), it could have easily been opened, and kept open.

The best thing to do is ignore them.
By giving them attention, we are doing the worst possible thing.
Furthermore: In the meantime, it isn't inconveniencing the greedy and incompetent corporations one litte bit.

Which would tend to indicate a practical complete failure on someone's part.

Right protest - possibly.
Completely wrong place.
One of the protestors I spoke to was carrying copies of Totalist Wanker, erm, Socialist Worker, open eager, bright-faced, claiming that they weren't "stalinist" and this time should be different ...
I might has well have been trying to convince a young jesuit that the Big Sky Fairy doesn't exist.
No connection to the real world, at all.
There was small stall trying to push supposedly moderate islam there, as well - I asked them about the equality of women, and they lied to me - as if they were Roman Catholics, in fact.
A really deranged woman got up and started spouting something about rape and Jesus, waving a foil-covered card cross, and had to be watched very carefully.

Coherent protest?

Yet, something is wrong - state corporatism, as practiced in China now, and the USA and formerly in the Third Reich is a great danger.
The protesters are confusing this with "capitalism".

Nameless Director said...

I thought I just pop in to mention my latest 47% salary increase. Does that annoy you?

Anonymous said...

does the Mitre still have a live tree growing inside the pub over in the corner by the window ?