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The government is planning another act of parliament to deal solely with Parliament Square protestor Brian Haw. It should be warned, however: the first attempt to have him ejected by act of Parliament failed completely. However, it has clearly been emboldened by Westminster Council’s success with “Democracy Village”, the scruffy encampment that sprang up earlier this year in Parliament Square and gave space to any number of competing and often rather confused protest campaigns. On the spurious pretext that it was some kind of threat to passers-by (the only danger it posed to anyone was the occasional rogue flea) and the far more credible grounds that it was an “eyesore”, the council successfully applied to have its members evicted. Boris Johnson described the sight of the camp as “nauseating”, although there he may simply have misascribed the effects of being driven past it at speed after an enormous and overly rich lunch.

Brian Haw was untouched by the eviction order, since his nine-year protest predates both Democracy Village and indeed the legislation used to close it down. What’s more, he refused to have anything to do with it since he regarded its occupants as being agents of the state, sent there as agents provocateurs to discredit his protest and get him thrown out of the square as well. He will be more convinced of this than ever by the news that the government is preparing a fresh assault.

To be fair to the government, though, sure, to the layman it may seem “ludicrous” or “undemocratic” to set the machinery of legislation against individuals who want to sit outside the seat of power and shout at it, but if you’ve never worked in Parliament you can have no idea just how upsetting it can be to have someone sitting nearby and loudly complaining. You might sit there in your fancy living room or your hoity-toity pub and imagine it might be “baffling” or “mildly irritating” to be confronted every day with a wild profusion of banners and activists broadcasting complaints and often baseless accusations, but it can be truly nerve-wracking to know that the people over the road chanting into a megaphone might just be saying negative things about you, if you could only understand what they were saying.[1] It’s hell, do you understand? It’s literally like being down a mine with someone firing flaming excrement at you. It’s about time the government took a stand.[2]

There is an exciting prospect here: if this new legislation also fails to dislodge the bearded man and his tent, the government will have no choice but to proceed to the next Defcon level:

[1] If you turn up and protest at Parliament with a megaphone, no-one there can make out a syllable that you shout. You might as well chant the periodic table at them or read out some TS Eliot.

[2] In all seriousness, in summer it can be a pain in the arse if your job is to transcribe what MPs say in the Westminster Hall debating chamber and there’s someone outside garbling away into a megaphone. Fortunately, Westminster Hall, a small granny flat some distance from the main chamber, is usually where footling debates crawl off to die.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 21st, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
and if that fails:

Jul. 22nd, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
Someone should offer Brian Haw a peerage.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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