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Thursday, 13 June 2013


Simon Jenkins has penned a fine piece for the Guardian on the impact of real rather than virtual demonstrations, and the role of the city square in rocking the foundations of government. All quite true. No amount of interweb polemic can equal the image on the evening news of a copper's cudgel rising and falling on the person of some patchouli-scented crustie. However, it's probably harder than you think to get folk out on the streets and squares if I'm any example to go by.

I've been on exactly two 'demonstrations' in my life; the first was the Countryside Alliance march against the Hunting Ban, the second the anti Blair-War march in February 2003. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them. And on that limited experience, here's my checklist for bringing Britain's silent majority out on the streets:-

1. The ostensible reason has to be intellectually defensible with a degree of moral respectability 
2. Fellow protesters and march organisers must be law-abiding and committed to peaceful protest
3. Demonstrable shared values help; I remember how all we men doffed our caps as we passed the Cenotaph on the CA march
4. The likelihood of bumping into people you will like and may nip-off for a pint with should be high
5. The march route should pass a few decent restaurants for lunch (a Westminster to Mayfair leg at about one-ish is ideal)
6. Above all, fellow marchers must be PLU. There is nothing more guaranteed to prevent a Brit marching than the possibility of being accidentally photographed with someone whose acquaintance they would normally avoid. 

Oh, and until Waitrose start selling Throwing Vegetables in 450g blister packs ("perfectly decayed, piquant with sulphur and squishiness, firm enough for a decent lob but deliciously rotten") these things must be entirely non-physical. 


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

People Like Us ...

G. Tingey said...

Of course, in Turkey there is the OTHER issue.
In the cities, certainly, the educated & the young want their revolution back.
They want Ataturk's secular state.
They may all be "good muslims" in a CofE sort of way, but the last thing they want is some sort of evangelical/calvinist/puritan/Calvinist takeover - which Erdogans islamist party represent.
They are frightened, & with good reason.

Edward Spalton said...

We are not a very demonstrative people on the whole. I went on the Countryside March too and a great occasion it was. But like the "Not in My Name" march on Iraq, the political effect was zero.

About 12 years ago I went on a respectably sized demonstration against EU membership (I would estimate 10,000 strong), organised by the Democracy Movement. We marched from Park Lane to Trafalgar Square and were addressed by speakers from all over Europe. Lorry drivers were hooting their horns in support. One young lad climbed on his grandfather's shoulders to reach the rope flying an EU flag from a hotel. All the other hotels on the route struck their EU colours after that. It was very good natured and included people from the Labour and Trade Union movement. At one point several hundred bikers roared around Trafalgar Square in support.

BBC cameras were among the crowd as were small groups of pro-EU people with whom we had some vigorous but cheerful banter.

Yet on the BBC nationally there was no report at all -although they did cover a small group of thirty or so racially aggrieved persons demonstrating outside Downing Street that same day.

When we complained the BBC said "nothing happened". When we asked whether they meant we needed to start a punch up to get reported, they went all coy.

The same thing happened to the hugely successful election meetings organised by Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum party. In those days Eurosceptics were simply unpersons.

The cost and effort of organising something big can be completely negated by the state media. Perhaps smaller eye-catching stunts on the "Fathers for Justice" model would be more cost effective.

Anonymous said...

Those that protest effectively have nothing to lose.

The Countryside Alliance protest was mostly attended by pissed off people who had jobs and would be heavily inconvenienced by the risk of a spell in the nick.

Other protests such as the poll tax riots are attended by a very different crew.

Edward Spalton said...

Anonymous ,

By coincidence, a friend of mine who is of mature years was arrested in connection with his activity on behalf of the Countryside Alliance - for no reason which he could see.

It was a most unpleasant experience to be banged up for nine hours in a urine-stinking cell with only a copy of the Daily Mirror to read. He was released without charge.

This is a technique which the police tend to use on people of views which they regard as Politically Incorrect. "The process is the punishment" and - ranging from arrest to intimidatory questioning - it has happened (for instance) to street preachers who mentioned the scriptural view of homosexuality and even to a couple who objected in a phone conversation to a council's propaganda. . The highly respectable Christian Institute has set up a defence fund which has been successful in claiming damages for people who have received the treatment..

Not that I'm claiming the Countryside Alliance as a Christian cause - but the principle is the same. Under the umbrella of combating "hate crime" the police are "pushing the envelope" by over zealous use of their powers