Monday, May 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Boris Johnson

An open letter to the Mayor of London

Dear Boris,

I'm sure that like me, you cherish our right to protest. But like me you also believe people should obey the law. And also like me, you will no doubt believe that those who have the power to enforce the law should do so.

Tomorrow, the State Opening of Parliament takes place. It will be a magnet for the many tourists who visit the Capital. They will line the route to watch the Queen as she proceeds from Buckingham Palace through Parliament Square.

And what faces her when she gets to Parliament Square? A mini hippy camp. Over the last few years a few tents have been allowed to go up on the edge of Parliament Square. But in recent weeks the whole of the grass of Parliament Square has been taken over by people who don't seem to be there to protest about anything in particular. They even drape the statue of Winston Churchill with their banners.

The whole Square is an embarrassment to our city and our nation.

What I don't understand is why you and the Metropolitan Police have done nothing to enforce the law. If you or I launched a one man protest in Parliament Sqaure or Whitehall we'd be swiftly moved on under anti terrorism laws. Why is the law different for these people who now inhabit the Square? I don't happen to agree with the anti terrorism laws, but there are other byelaws which are being blatantly transgressed too. You know that and so do I.

I'm all for a quiet life and am well aware that the people now residing (and that's the right word) in Parliament Square would not go quietly. But a line has to be drawn, and you should draw it now.

Like most people I am embarassed whenever I pass the site, and yet I should feel proud of a Square that is home to the Houses of Parliament, the Supreme Court, Westminster Abbey together with many historical statues.

Please do something about it. The time for action is long overdue

Kind regards

Iain Dale

41 comments:

JuliaM said...

Well said. I was up in Westminster on Friday, and the sight of this collection of dole-scrounging layabout scum was utterly beyond belief...

Stepney said...

Agreed. A bit of the Noriega treatment would be terrific.

Wagner - volume up to 11.

24/7

And spray the idle sods with soap. They hate it.

English Pilgrim said...

Couldn't agree more.

John R said...

Good letter, unfortunately I'm sure the soap-dodgers will all still be there tomorrow.

Shame we dont see a quick and decisive 3a.m. swoop to clear them out before H.M. goes to the HoC.

Paul said...

Save the hippies!

Hawkeye said...

Let them stay there if that's what they want to do, but please ensure that their "properties" meet the minimum standards required for housing in that part of town.

They should only need to spend a million or two each or, like any slum, it should be condemned as unfit for human habitation and bulldozed and the inhabitants rehoused on (say) Lundy or Rockall....

waymore said...

Could not agree more. Move them on, as a scurity precaution at least. Or offer them labouring work and they will gone in a flash.

Libertarian said...

Totally agree Iain

Joe Public said...

Did someone suggest there might be some cyclotrimethylene trinitramine in one of the tents?

Plato said...

Well said, Iain.

It's a disgrace and an eyesore.

mangalez said...

couldn't disagree more. think the camp is a wonderful example of our democracy. thing is, while the labour govt tried, you can't be selective about how you apply or enforce democracy. those people have every right to peaceful protest, and i think the fabric of our society can only be stronger for them.

Iain Dale said...

Mangalez, if this was a proper protest I might agree with you, but it isn't. It's a camp.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Wagner.. pah... how about good flag-waving country or better yet some face melting metal.

mangalez said...

Iain,

yes it is. i'm not sure many protest camps would look like an entry in the RHS. kind of goes with the territory.

Opinicus said...

You are supposing that Boris has either the will or the power to do anything about. The motley crew on Parliament Square are a disgrace but we deserve them.
Nothing can be done until we elect someone who will do something.
The political class are eunuchs

Paddy Briggs said...

What rubbish

Democracy and freedoms have occasionally rather ugly consequences. But to bulldoze this rather squalid camp would set us on the path which ends in Tiananmen Square. Leave well alone....

Mirtha Tidville said...

The problem is the PC Plod are waiting for their PC instructions before they move,as always, and the chain of command appears to be pretty much as it was before May 6....still well done Iain your letter is timely and appropriate hope Boris takes note....

As for mangalez, well you always get one dont you...

Roger Thornhill said...

Totally agree.

If I tried to camp there or anywhere without leave, I'd be subject to extreme action.

Rule of Law. Enforce it. And that includes no favouritism.

Roger Thornhill said...

p.s. Thanks, Paddy, for prefixing your comment with a summary of its contents.

vervet said...

Paddy Briggs, you are a twonk, and no mistake.
Did Iain or any other commenter mention bulldozers or tanks ? - I think not.
Comparing these idle 'protestors with no particular issue' with the brave Chinese of Tiananmen is patently ridiculous and disrespectful.

DespairingLiberal said...

According to the Telegraph, they are mainly protesters - albeit of varied kinds - joined by some homeless people.

I agree it's an eyesore and detrimental to Britain's image, but in general the media outlets don't agree with your description of them as non-protestors in your BJ letter.

Mizter T said...

What total, utter bollocks Iain - and how at odds it is with what you supposedly espouse about the freedom to protest.

"The whole Square is an embarrassment to our city and our nation."

What a pompous arse you can be. I'm actually proud of it - people come to London from all over, and there they can see freedom in action, right across the road from the Mother of Parliaments.

And as for the comment from "Libertarian" above - shame you don't understand what the word means.

James Croft said...

I agree with mangalez, so I suppose that means "you always get two". I don't think it is appropriate for Iain Dale or anyone else to prescribe what counts as legitimate protest in a democratic society. What seems to you to be an eyesore may well be a legitimate form of protest against any number of government activities, and you give no reason in your letter to believe otherwise (indeed, reasoning of any sort is distinctly absent).

Further, the idea that visitors might consider this display of democracy to be unsightly is, at the very least, questionable. It seems to me just as likely that visitors from more repressive countries, with a less vibrant culture of political participation, might be inspired and excited by the sight of people agitating their government.

When individuals such as yourself get to decide how others should protest their government we will have lost an essential aspect of our freedom. I would have thought you to have more respect for the great tradition of British liberty, Iain.

Iain Dale said...

I made clear in the letter, which you appear not to have read, that I am all in favour of legitimate and lawful protest. This is neither. It is a camp.

andrewbmckay said...

Brilliantly put Iain.

Twig said...

What do they want?
(and when do they want it?)

DespairingLiberal said...

"This is neither. It is a camp."

Says you. Most of the newspapers disagree. Have you been and interviewed the people there like they have? No? How come you are so certain that it isn't a protest then?

Lauchlan McLean said...

It is trespass, pure and simple, I think I will pop over to Boris's and pitch my tent in his front garden and wait to see what the result of that action occurs.

thespecialone said...

If these soap dodgers are claiming any kind of benefits, why are their benefits not stopped as they are obviously not actively seeking employment?

Phil C said...

Surely this is a civil matter. Recently, when "travellers" camped in our local station car park, they were unable to get the police to show up to help evict them, on the grounds it is not the police's responsibility to enforce property rights, and no breach of the peace had as yet occurred.

Whoever owns Parliament Square should commence civil action.

If the State does not find that this answers, well they should change the law for everybody. I have always thought that the State should be subject to exactly the same laws that it imposes on the rest of us.

James Croft said...

Iain, you say "I made clear in the letter, which you appear not to have read, that I am all in favour of legitimate and lawful protest. This is neither. It is a camp."

First, intriguing that you should assume that, since I disagree with your position, I have not read what you wrote. A distinctly ungenerous approach to debate, characteristic, it seems, of your stance on the issue under discussion as well.

Your response does not address at all the question I put to you - by what right do you get to decide what counts as a legitimate form of political protest? You say it is a "camp", and not a protest, as if a camp cannot also be a protest.

In the history of civic action, the establishment of a camp in an area of symbolic significance is a frequently used form of democratic protest. Examples include Faslane Peace Camp and various climate camps around the world. You give in your letter, and in your reply to me, no reason to believe this camp is not like those. I am challenging you to give such a reason. You may have a very convincing one, but thus far you haven't given it. You will forgive me, I think, for not accepting at face-value your bald assertions.

It is ironic that you should accuse me of not having read your letter, while missing entirely the meat of my response. Care to try again?

DespairingLiberal said...

According to Wikipedia, "the central garden of the square was transferred from the Parliamentary Estate to the control of the Greater London Authority by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. It has responsibility to light, cleanse, water, pave, and repair the garden, and has powers to make bylaws for the garden."

I suppose this does mean that BJ has the power to remove the camp - the fascinating thing will be to see if the GLA flout High Court rulings and attempt to remove Brian Haw as well.

jailhouselawyer said...

Zeig Dale! Zeig Dale! Zig Dale!

Martin said...

The answer is to simply have the plods turn up at 3am on a Wednesday morning and just grab them all and thrown them in the back of a van. No media, no cameras, no problem.

Lady Finchley said...

It's a squalid mess - Brian Haw is a dole scrounger as are all the others there.

They can protest all they want - just leave when it's over and take their stinking crap with them. I've had enough. And so have the police who hate them too but nobody in power has had the balls to move them on.

Jimmy said...

"Like most people I am am embarassed whenever I pass the site, "

Well you can't take your vote back now.

Guy Herbert said...

If you want to go that way, the permanent signs, which are the main eyesore would appear to be a matter for the City of Westminster council, under planning and environmental legislation, not Boris Johnson.

For myself I think that there is a lot to be said for the protest (not because I agree with the conspiracy-laden gibberings of Haw) but, as other commentators have said, because it shows we permit even nutters their say. If it is 'tidied up', how many minutes before the Chinese Embassy insists that the Falun Gong vigil and occaisional Tibetans are removed from Portland Place? It would be a nod of assent to totalitarianism.

The permanent encampment aspect is a legitimate concern if it has privileges that others don't, or if taxpayers are expected to subsidise the participants, but those are quite distinct questions.

As is the question of breach of other laws. I note police took no action over a mass display of support (with flags) for a proscribed (as 'terrorist') organisation, the Tamil Tigers, a few months ago.

JuliaM said...

"Says you. Most of the newspapers disagree."

I'm pretty sure, if I trawled through the comments, that I'd find that in all other issues, the primary concern of DesperateLiberal would be what the newspapers had to say on a particular subject. Right?

Jill said...

Oh god dahling, get over yourself. Clear the square, it blights my sensitivities. No doubt you are one of those clamoring to open a new free school so your sensitive self does not have to associate with the feckless poor.

You and your like are the problem with our society, you say you agree with right to protest, does that mean after everyone has been bathed and to the hairdresser?


Good luck running the country into the ground, I think Georgie Bush is looking for a new place to hang out.

okonski said...

The people in power in London know why they allow the protestors to remain there. Their calculation is this: If they are evicted, they might actually turn to a more effective way to rock our boat. So let's leave them there so we can show we have democrazy. We can then go on looking after ourselves.

As for Boris, does he really have a clue? Being a Mayor f London should be more than making fumbling noise and cheap jokes that makes nobody laugh.

Sally Roberts said...

Perhaps they could move on to Regents Park....possibly next door to the Lion enclosure.