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 These conduits have been replaced by thinktanks and lobbyists working in private collusion with ministerial staffs.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.