Now let me see if I’ve got this straight. The UK state, in the hands of its rightful proprietors, the Conservative and Unionist Party, is intent on overhauling planning laws so as to boost economic growth and facilitate housing development on non-urban land. As part of the government’s so-called ‘localism’ agenda, which is made possible through some typically Tory centralisation, housing development companies, among whom are some notable Conservative Party doners, will only be prevented from carrying out their plans if there is is an overwhelming case against (read: one that cannot be kept under the radar of community and media scrutiny). Government policy includes measures to fast-track the usual planning and consultation process, which is music to the ears of the ‘entrepreneurial’ class.
On the other hand, another group of entrepreneurs, this time in the form of a traveller community living in one of the grottier bits of Essex, is being met with all the obstructive powers that the state can muster. As I type, Dale Farm is being trashed by police and local government agents, and residents’ blood mopped up in advance of the arrival of the world’s television news crews and human rights inspectors. In addition to truncheons, fists and boots, police tasers were used at dawn against those defending the site. This is in contravention of Home Office guidelines which state that the ostensibly non-lethal firearms are not to be employed in crowd control situations.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not defending the Dale Farm community’s building of housing structures on land they own, but for which there is no legal planning consent. There is a good argument for granting consent, but there is also due process, and travellers are not known for respecting such niceties. I can admire and respect the travellers for their creative contempt for authority, but the consequences are clear enough. If you pick a fight with the state, then for goodness sake ensure that you possess superior firepower, both physical and rhetorical. Fail to do so, and you will at the very least get a severe kicking from the state’s uniformed enforcers.
The Dale Farm community may not have a legal leg to stand on, but their moral case, while a little frayed in places, is sound, even if they are taking liberties with it for PR effect. This case has even attracted the attention of a senior UN adviser who accused Basildon Council of having broken human rights laws, and drew parallels with China and Nigeria.
Basildon Council offered alternative, bricks-and-mortar accommodation to the travellers, displaying a typically bourgeois British racism against gypsies and travellers. “We will socially engineer you out of existence,” the ruling class are saying in effect.
After lengthy legal toing and froing, the travellers lost their final appeal against eviction, and were left to await the inevitable. They and their crusty supporters then hunkered down for a final battle, but the writing was on the wall, and more than figuratively speaking. Before dawn this morning, the Essex police tooled up, beat their chests and shields, and steamed in through a back gate while a few suits and senior plods distracted residents with discussions at the front. Further proof, if proof be needed, that the state has no sense of honour or decency.
Is hatred of gypsies the last form of acceptable racism in Britain?