Monday, 22 March 2010

Taxi! Or, Why I Am in the Wrong Business

Last week I gave over a half-day to draft the press release and letters to party leaders for today's sheltered housing demo. Today, I gave up another day's work and travelled, at my own expense, to join the protest in Parliament Square.

Sheltered housing residents from Barnet and elsewhere - Portsmouth, Cambridge, Hackney, Camden, Kensington, Whitstable - many of them elderly and disabled, stood across the road from Parliament and shouted "Save our wardens!" at a motorcade of chauffeur-driven cars bearing dignitaries in wigs with their families out of the Palace of Westminster. No, I haven't a clue who they were, but this certainly wasn't access to ministers.

We stood there with Brian Haw, he of the seven-year-long anti-Iraq war protest, and his supporters. We were photographed by the local press and the Times (the press release had some effect, then).

On schedule, the less able pensioners climbed into the minibus they had hired for the day (sometimes Barnet trades unions have paid for transport for these protests), while the rest of us set off on foot. We headed up to 30 Millbank to hand one of the letters in to Tory Party HQ. Then we went around the corner to Liberal Democrat HQ in Cowley Street. Finally, we trundled up to 10 Downing Street, to hand in the third of our three letters to the PM, leader of the Labour Party. We didn't see a single politician all day.

Because - for once - we hadn't arranged permission from the police, our small protest over the road from Downing Street was, strictly speaking, illegal, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, but we held it anyway. At 2pm, tired but satisfied with our efforts, we broke up and went home.

I don't have to spend my days like this, but I do it because I take my politics seriously. Perhaps one day, when I'm old, someone younger will do something for me - God knows, the way things are going, by then we will need all the help we can get. (I fully expect to be working or starving till the end of my days.)

Today's escapade (not our first - we have been at this for a year now), where a group of old people put themselves out and have to co-opt the voluntary help of people like me, in order to try to get a hearing from the people who laughingly describe themselves as politicians, contrasts so starkly with the scenes exposed in tonight's "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4 that there is no point trying to say more on the matter!

One small crumb of comfort is the fact that it is some of the most Blairite soon-to-be ex-MPs - Patricia Hewitt, Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon - that were exposed tonight, preparing to cash in on their contacts and sell themselves to lobby on behalf of private business. (I do believe that there is still such a thing as an honest MP.)

Politicians like these look down their noses at politicos like me, but they are the ones looking sleazy now - and I think John Butterfill can kiss goodbye to his peerage!

You can see the programme here for the next 29 days.


Rog T said...


I just wish there were a few more Vicki Morris's out there and a few less Steven Byers. I've never bought into the idea of peerages, the only good thing about them is that it's really shameful for these idiots to be stripped of them. Do you remember an old 1960's western series called Branded. The soldier gets his medals and decorations ripped from him and then he is branded with a C. It would be good if disgraced peers had their gongs ceremonial taken back by the Queen and then get told to "Piss right oorf" by HM. Rant, gibber, foam. They really get my goat !

Don't Call Me Dave said...

There is a petition calling on the Queen to strip Stephen Byers of his Privy Council mebership:

I never liked Patricia Hewitt. As a Minister, she was patronising and condescending. Glad to see her get her comeuppance. I wonder how long the companies which currently employ her will continue to do so.