Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Civil Liberties & Parliament Square

The reaction to my posts yesterday about the squat in Parliament Square has been fairly predictable, with the usual suspects on the left accusing me of wanting to send in the tanks, Tiananmen Square style. How typical of the unthinking left. All they want to do is close down a debate by attacking the person who sparked it off. Apparently I am a right wing authoritarian thug who is against any form of protest. I got used to being called a 'fascist' when I was at university and had the temerity to defend Margaret Thatcher. It was a term of abuse hurled by people who never knew the meaning of the word. And so history repeats itself.

I am a defender of civil liberties. I want the laws repealed which ban spontaneous protests within a mile of the Palace of Westminster. People should have the right to protest about anything they want to. But their protests have to be within reason. Organising a march on Parliament is within reason. A semi-permanent tented site on a world heritage site is not within reason.

The leader of the camp left a comment on the blog last night. I'll print it in full here...

My name's Mike and I'm sending this from in my tent in Democracy Village, Parliament Square.

I have a job, infact have only been out of work for two weeks in my life. I'm not a hippy. I just know things are screwed up and have had enough. We all need to step back and realise what's important.

Last year I donated a kidney to my sister and this made me value my life a bit more. Part of this means thinking about the world as a whole. But action has to start small and local and this is why I'm here.

My main contribution thus far has been setting up the websites http://meltdown.uk.net and http://democracyvillage.org

These have now taken on a life of their own and I'm very proud of the work put into them. They were only my first and third websites I've setup. For those interested, I work for the public sector and my second website was for work.

Village life is great - we meet twice daily to discuss anything. Any decision is by consensus. This does take longer so for some areas, we break up into smaller groups. We've been successfully policing ourselves and have become self-sufficient. We are running workshops on various topics including how to setup renewable energy sources, how to deal with the police, citizen's journalism, early morning yoga as well as lots of language classes. Diversity with unity, deeds not words and this is what democracy looks like have become village mantras. My new friend Anna said yesterday that this was the best university in the world. There are no fees and all are welcome.

The 3 core reasons we all agree that we're here are war, economy and climate. My area of expertise has been of things economic.

I know for instance that 97% of the UK money supply is in the form of debt. Debt that under the current system has to be repaid. But this debt is created by private banks when you and I take out a loan / credit card / mortgage. The banks then have the audacity to charge interest on this newly created money. "The process by which banks create money is so simple, the mind is repelled." (J.K.Galbraith) Do you think there's a moral need to repay this fraudulently created money? There is no legal reason since the contract is void as there is no consideration on behalf of the lender. This is the defense Jerome Daly successfully used to avoid the bank foreclosing on his home in the 60s and nothing has changed apart from the bankers now have way more political power. It's time to wake up and realise the enemy is here across the road from our beautiful Democracy Village. Please come and chat anytime. With love and peace, Mike

Sorry, Mike but you undermine your case. All of the things you want to discuss are fine, but you don't have to do it in the middle of Parliament Square. If you want to protest about something, fine, do it, and then move on and have your discussions elsewhere. Like any normal person would. Oh, and Mike, I'd love to know what part of the public sector you "work" in and how come your employer is happy for you to be squatting on Parliament Square and not be at work. Because whatever part of the public sector it is ought to be drawn to the attention of David Laws...

There has also been much spluttering at the arrest this morning of Brian Hawes. His tent was searched and he obstructed the Police. What did he expect? A medal? The Police were entirely within their rights to search any tent on Parliament Square a matter of hours before the Queen was due to pass by. I'm not sure how any right thinking person could think otherwise.

The people on Parliament Square have created an eyesore. Their occupation of the area is now denying other people their right to use the Square. That is a civil liberty too.

UPDATE: Ben Brogan gives a typically trenchant perspective on this HERE.

UPDATE: And Adam Boulton joins the fray.


Sean said...

Two points

a. How is this group self-sufficient? Are they growing their own crops, building their own sewers and trading with money made on Parliament Square for things they need?

b. The bit about banks creating money in the form of loans and having the temerity to charge you interest on these. It's simple: if you don't like those terms, don't borrow the money.

There are a lot of good-intentioned people on the left of politics but I continue to be astonished by their economic ignorance.

Not a sheep said...

Don't be ridiculous Iain, the likes of you and I have no civil liberties, we exist to pay taxes and keep quiet.

Mog said...

Well said Iain. A perfectly sound, sensible, reasonable response.

It's always the crumblies who get the sympathy and get away with stuff any normal, upstanding, citizen would be instantly arrested for.

Maverick Ways said...

Brian Haws Arrested:


Unknown said...

Actually I agree with Mike..

It's all the fault of those nasty horrible banks

We should all live in tents and practice morning yoga

Love peace and happiness for all!!!

Old BE said...

The point surely is that there is no human right to set up a camp on an empty patch of grass. Even common land has rules. If they want to set up a cutesy little democracy village then fair play, just do it on land where they have permission to be.

necessaryjp said...

Disagree Iain. I usually agree with you, but it doesn't matter whether it is an eyesore, it matters that it can exist there. However I do agree with the Police searching it of course.

I work in politics and visit the Palace of Westminster regularly. When I do I see Big Ben's Clock, the Palace, PCH and it all makes me feel proud and this includes the shabby tents. They all add to our messy democracy and all show reflections of it. Aesthetic qualities shouldn't be considered a pre-requisite to take part in democracy and if this serves a purpose for secitons of society who feel disenfranchised from the 'usual' system then great, I'm glad they have something.

Plato said...

Well said, Iain.

Since we aren't in Iraq any longer - why Brian Haws is still there is a mystery to me.

I want protests right outside Parliament to be allowed, reading the names of the dead at the Cenotaph etc etc.

There is no excuse for making Parly Sq an eyesore - some peeps seem to think it's their version of Greenham Common.

p smith said...

The point is Iain that if Brown had arrested Haw in this way, the Tory blogosphere would have been accusing him of authoritarianism and Stalinist tendencies. Funny how power changes one's perceptions isn't it?

For my part I can't get too excited by this story either way. There are much bigger things to worry about.

Iain Dale said...

p smith, Brown wouldn't have arrested Haw, neither has Cameron. The police did. For obstruction. Are you seriously suggesting Boris or anyone ordered them to arrest Haw?

Desperate Dan said...

Hear Hear. Parliament Square has become a foul unhygienic eyesore. Brian Haw started off protesting about the Iraq War but he's now changed the subject of his protest to justify his continued presence. The rest are just squatters who've set up an illegal campsite in central London. In common with most of the hooligans, murders, arsonists and anti-social mobs making a nuisance of themselves on the world's stage at the moment "protesters" is far too benign and inoffensive a word to describe them.

David T said...

Protest is vital. Even stupid protests by idiots should be protected.

There is however a difference between a protest - a march at a particular place at a particular time, a placard stuck in your window - and the sort of piss taking in Parliament Square.

In particular, I find it remarkable that Brian Haw - who is a mentally ill tramp - has been allowed to get away with this crap for so long.

Penfold said...

There will be more of this sort of activity, with wishy-washy lefties ascribing their actions to fighting the fascist right and the unneccessary or harsh cuts to public spending.
Whilst some of these people may have jobs, they will be in the public sector, and these people will either be activists or easily manipulated, like Middle Eastern suicide bombers.
They should not be pandered to, as they are part of the left's response to losing the elections, and part of their efforts to de-stabilise the coaltion.

People like Brain Hawes have been pandered to for far too long. He has nothing new to say and what he had to say all those years ago wasn't radical.

As you rightly say, demonstrations, no problem, though, having said that NuLab passed enough legislation to outlaw any demo and criminalise any demonstrator. As for camping in Parliament Sq this has to stop. And I'm surprised that the Met Police have done nothing to stop these events. It's as if Paul Stephenson is defying the government and laying down the grounds for extra monies and no ration cuts as some bargaining chip.

Boy on a bike said...

Tanks? Cool. Mind if I take one for a spin? I promise not to bend it. The only good hippy is a flat hippy.

GMCurrie said...

For more aesthetically unpleasing inconveniences, try here:


Unknown said...

Fascinating little conspiracy theory he has going re: fractional reserve banking.

But Jerome Daly lost the case on appeal. Because the judge in the original trial openly admitted that his ruling was contrary to the state constitution and to several state statutes. Oops. In the real world, lawyers who run these kinds of arguments get disbarred. Like... erm... Jerome Daly after he claimed he didn't have to pay income tax.

Which poses a further question: why are British protesters channelling the more amusing arguments of the US tax nutters? Yes, as we know, roll eyes, the US constitution bans any money not based on gold and silver; income tax is illegal; etc etc etc. But what is the relevance? And how have I managed to miss this surge of US patriotism among the peace movement?

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! It all reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where King Arthur gets fed up with the tedious, boring anarchist and grabs and shakes him and shouts WILL YOU BLOODY WELL SHUT UP!!!

And the anarchist says 'Aha, now we see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

Weygand said...

I'm not quite sure what donating a kidney to his sister has to with this but perhaps she might return the compliment by sharing some of her brain with him.

Unknown said...

"The Police were entirely within their rights to search any tent on Parliament Square a matter of hours before the Queen was due to pass by. I'm not sure how any right thinking person could think otherwise."

Yes Iain, and the police are so on top of their job that they don't bother to search the tents on Parliament Square the same way when the PM comes in and out of work just about every day.

Now then, isn't more dangerous and complacent of the Met if they assumed lesser likelihood of a threat to key govt figures on the other 364 days of the year which the Queen doesn't come by?

Such double standards...where is your shame, Iain?

"I'm not sure how any right thinking person could think otherwise."

Of course not, you clever user of the pun. Left thinking persons could easily think otherwise.

GMCurrie said...

During the election campaign, my neighbour was putting 'VOTE LABOUR' posters in her window - until the Glazier's bills became too much..


(OK, I'll get me coat...)

Old Holborn said...

i rather like the remark made by BoJo that these protesters are blocking the place for "authorised" protesters.

An "authorised protester" is a terrifying concept, if the government approves of you there's no point in protesting.

I say let Brian Haw stay until the law that allows him and him only to protest there is abolished.

Goodwin said...

"right wing authoritarian thug"? Actually I think you're a confused lefty tosser.

Lady Finchley said...

I have never heard such hippie crap in my life.

Can you imagine if the Countryside Alliance had set up a camp at Parliament Square?! They'd have been cleaned out in a jiffy!

David T said...

Comment on Indymedia sums it up well:

"The only problem is that if the camp goes on too long then it looses message and impact, look at brian, hes gone mad, his "camp" is a tatty mess and he shouts at people who even slightly disagree with him. "

I think that's a fair assessment. Here is the man in action.


Anonymous said...

Lets take Mike's word that he is employed and assume he is a fully paid up member of society, so pays all his taxes.

Maybe he can tell us what band of Comunity Charge the tent city falls under. The accomodation might not be very good but it does have a big garden with a nice view. Good transport links too. What is the rent like? Westminster council probably needs the money which is why they let him stay.

Maybe they could move MP's there to save on second home allowances.

Lauchlan McLean said...

Why is his employment status not being checked, who is giving him time off to preach Marxist rubbish? If he is a public servant why are we tax payers paying for this agitator to pollute a World heritage site. Perhaps Iain Dale can use his political/press contacts to delve into this scandal

Anonymous said...

The first step was 'authorised protests' which brings them under government control.

The next logical step is taxing them.

The only real problem is a large proportion of protesters dont pay taxes anyway.

Anonymous said...

I have a solution to the problem.

We have an Olympic stadium which will stand empty and unused after 2012. Why not turn it into a national monument to civil liberty!

I even have a way of financing it.
Leave some of the TV cameras in place and turn it into a reality TV show. Channel 4 have a gap in the schedule after Big Brother ends. Surely Endemol would be up for that.

OK, I realise that doesnt help in the short term, but it would be a good policy for Cameron to take into the 2015 election to show that he is a compassionate Conservative who takes democracy seriously. Might help Boris to get re-elected too, if his legal plan fails.

Paddy Briggs said...

Don't see much sign of Boris moving - no suprise there then. You really have lost your marbles on this one Iain. Calm down dear it's only a few tents...

Wallenstein said...

"Mike" appears to work in the higher education sector in London, which might explain why he has so much free time ;-)

Libertarian said...

So Mike's specialist subject is economics... oh dear Mike, I suggest you either get yourself back to work or booked on a course in basic money systems.

Debt is caused by borrowing money, spending it and not being able to afford to repay it.

Simple solution that will crush all those nasty banks. Don't borrow the money in the first place.

Unknown said...

Rules-If I feel that any comment could be construed as libellous I will not allow it through comment moderation or retrospectively delete it.
Stuff like this is ok?-
I find it remarkable that Brian Haw - who is a mentally ill tramp - has been allowed to get away with this crap for so long.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that the police would have to have a warrant to search the tents. If they didn't (which appears to be the case) then the protesters would have been within their rights to obstruct the police from searching the tents.

Also, how do you define "within reason"? And WHO gets to define it?

Desperate Dan said...

"I find it remarkable that Brian Haw - who is a mentally ill tramp - has been allowed to get away with this crap for so long."
Brian Haw has been encouraged to get away with it for so long by Lord Hoffman who gave Haw permission to pollute Westminster and annoy civilised society for as long as he liked.
An other reason to despise the Law Lords.

Natacha said...

Why Iain Dale is Wrong about Parliament Square;

New blog Post;Uncommon Sense;


Vijay said...

Why exactly are you against protest in parliament square anyway? From all your posts on this subject it seems that it's just because you disagree with the aims of the people there and "it's an eyesore". These are not good reasons to stop freedom of assembly; we don't want to go down the road where only "authorised protests in acceptable forms are allowed. That's a dangerous path to start down.

FlipC said...

And so for the second time you parrot good old Boris in equating Parliament Square with a World Heritage Site. It takes less than five minutes to find whc.unesco.org, locate the site and find a map pointing out exactly what is and isn't part of the site.

Oh look Parliament Square isn't included. Perhaps you'd care to update both your entries to reflect this?