Friday, 9 February 2018

Breaking the law

Dodging Police with Gaby Naptali at Kirby Misperton
I'm not going to Green Party Spring Conference in Bournemouth this year. The truth is I'm too busy really and I need to be concentrating on local things.  I could say however that I'm not going because I'm too embarassed at not having been arrested yet as there are so many Greens who have. Most famously our own Caroline Lucas MP was arrested at Balcombe on a Fracking protest or more recently Green Cllr Alison Teal was arrested and later acquitted for one of her tree protests in Sheffield or what about Green Baroness Jenny Jones who was identified as a 'domestic extremist' by the Metropolitan Police. All women as it happens.

The front line of  Non Violent Direct Action at the moment are the Fracking sites around the country. And today's Suffragettes are the Anti Fracking Nannas like Tina Rothery and some of us blokes who turn up as well. At Kirby Misperton Fracking Site I've been jostled and kettled by North Yorkshire Police but not actually arrested yet. Of course there are risks in getting arrested you could be found guilty and fined or even imprisoned but then that's all part of what you sign up for as a 'Protector'.  Protectors is a much more positive term  than 'Protestor'.  Protectors are seeking to protect our environment they are acting for a better world as well as protesting against the threat to it.

The last time I went to Kirby Misperton I was doing a speech to the assembled masses (about 20 folks to be honest) and we were surrounded by around 25 Police. In a homage to 'The Blues Brothers' I opened with the words  "I'd like to thank members of the North Yorkshire Law Enforcement Community for choosing to be with us here today" some of the Police got the reference and had a chuckle.

I continued talking over the megaphone as we were pushed away by the Police from the entrance to the Fracking Site to allow the HGVs carrying equipment to gain access. We slowed things up a bit, the Police and ourselves were engaged in the usual game of cat and mouse at the entrance. Chatting with the Police you can tell they don't really want to be there. They have had some Public Relations disasters at Kirby Misperton most famously in harrassing a the 'Tea lady' pensioner in a video that went viral  right round the world. Now we hear that some Fracking equipment is being removed from the site as costs for Policing continue to mount and the future of Fracking at the site is beginning to be in doubt. Victory may be in sight.

It is in this context that this week as a nation we have been noting the Centenary of the moment some women first got the vote in our country. We are celebrating the actions of law breakers, women who were persecuted, demonised by the press, imprisoned and force fed by the state. It is in that context that todays anti fracking protestors should be viewed.

So where is the new front line of Non Violent Direct Action? It could be back to the voting system. For years majority Governments have been elected by a minority of voters in the UK. Millions of peoples votes are effectively disregarded by the electoral system. It suits the larger parties but is archaic and most European countries have abandoned this bizarre unfair voting system in favour of some form of Proportional Representation. Arguments against it are often bogus and self serving and make our claim to be the mother of democracies very hollow indeed. It was in that context that 410 people around the country had a 24 hour fast this week (including yours truly) for fair votes to 'Make votes matter'. Some participants called it a 'hunger strike' which I felt was inappropriate given the real hunger strikes that suffragettes held at considerable risk. Given the way the campaign for fair votes has been ridiculed by the powerful people and parties who benefit from the status quo then I can't see the electoral system being changed anytime soon.

The 24 hour fast was a first step. We need to up the anti if we are to ensure that democracy means anything to the millions of voters it ignores. Anyone fancy handcuffing themselves to First Past the Post Fan Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn or  our own Barry Sheerman MP?

Here's 'Breaking the Law' by Judas Priest

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