The Dale Farm evictions are over. Millions of words have been piled up writing about this issue, and given that words are still largely free, even in this age of austerity, a few more words from me won’t make much difference.
In a previous post I expressed my sense of shock about some people’s racist reactions to the Dale Farm evictions on Twitter, and the lack of symmetry between people jailed for inciting a riot on Facebook (which did not happen), and those inciting direct hatred and murder (including that of children) towards travellers.
In the month that has passed, the Dale Farm issue has been to the high court, where legal experts have examined almost every inch of the plot and in the end decided that most of the tenants could be removed. The high court judge did say that all fences and wall should be left though, but there must have been a breakdown in communication between the goodly judge and the Essex Police as they set about their site clearance by not only knocking down fences but also walls on the legal part of the Dale Farm site.
The month since the aborted eviction on the 19th of September has been a jamboree for the racists, a kind of unofficial but vibrantly racist ‘Festival of Britain’ with a spectacular celebration of every type, manner and style of racist abuse as people queued up to add their tweets to the bonfire of abuse aimed at the residents of Dale Farm. Maybe you can’t begrudge the racists their month of fun, after all racism is not what it used to be.
Racism (before about 1960) used to be like wallpaper, all around us, part of our lives and probably hardly ever noticed, unless someone came up with a particular unusual style in which case they might attract a compliment on their creativity. Then laws were gradually passed and it became more of a life-style choice, you could still do it, but you needed to work at it. Put in some time, invest. Alf Garnett could therefore practice racism in the same way that others could fancy pigeons or bet on the horses, it needed some work, it did not always come easy. Extreme censure for Garnett’s views on Blacks and Jews was never going to happen. But the tide was gradually shifting, as imperceptibly the numbers of people laughing ‘at him’ increased and those laughing ‘with him’ decreased. Many people ceased to do racism realising that to attribute every evil in the world to a particular ethnic group was neither sensible or ‘de jure’. And then things got much much tighter for even the most determined, and laws made even the hobbyist racists retreat indoors, in a kind of mirror image of smokers (another group under attack) who all had to flee outdoors to practice their socially unacceptable habits.
So ironically the racists, much like the travellers they despise, have suffered from attacks on their way of life and state-sponsored initiatives to prevent them from doing what they want. Maybe this has caused some desperate, venom fuelled feedback loop; so much hatred but nowhere to vent it (until the Americans invited social media). So they all got twitter accounts and Dale Farm loomed into view. As I said, a racist festival of Britain, something we can look back on, much like the great events of 1851 and 1951 and feel truly proud. The year even ends in a 1, to keep mathematically OCD racists happy.
You know where you are with racists. It’s not pleasant, it’s sickening most of the time, but at least when you read a tweet from a racist you are clear where they stand. They have characterised all travellers as benefit cheating, tax dodging lowlifes who defecate in the hedges and steal with the same kind of regularity as normal people breath. You read the tweet, you get annoyed and then you move on…nothing more to see…
The problem I have is with a particular tribe, namely: ‘the law of the land should be upheld, the travellers have broken the law so they should leave the site’ brigade. Perhaps not the most terse way of describing them, but you get the picture. These people squat on the #dalefarm hashtag with as much, if not more fervour, than our old friends the racists above; but they are keen to point out, endlessly, that they are NOT racists. They simply want the laws of the land to apply to all. Of course Tony Ball the leader of Basildon Council is one of these people (although he does not tweet). He simply wants the law to be upheld, and for the same law to apply to the travellers as it does to everyone else.
Unless of course it’s Tesco.
Tesco built an unauthorised car park, in Basildon, of all places! (http://bit.ly/oc6yEe). The Tesco spokesman could not explain why planning permission had not been sought sooner, which suggests a kind of fecklessness and disrespect for planning law which is at least equal to the charges levelled at the travellers on Dale Farm. And when the Tesco spokesperson says ‘sought sooner’, let’s be sure about what that means. That means BEFORE they built the car park. In the same way as the residents of Dale Farm erected their meagre dwellings BEFORE seeking planning permission.
YouTube is a great resource and you can source many great clips of things on there including harrowing footage of previous gypsy evictions. I searched for the inevitable footage of riot police converging at dawn on the illegal Tesco structure, and the moving of heavy machinery (the muncher), to tear it down. I searched for Tony Ball or his colleagues giving speeches to the cameras explaining why the law needed to be upheld, as a massive camp of bailiffs stretched out in the bokeh of the camera. But for some inexplicable reason, the footage was not there. The internet must be broken. Or did the council simply turn a blind eye to Tesco’s transgressions?
And this was hardly a one-off incident; MPs were told in 2005 about how Tesco was riding roughshod over local planning laws. (http://ind.pn/odPr0x) including the building of a store in Stockport which was 20% larger than it should have been. So the law should be applied equally to all, unless of course you are a supermarket giant, in which case there is a little bit of ‘wriggle room’.
And what of the case of Lakeminster Park (http://bbc.in/nU8owO). Looking like a slightly neater version of a traveller camp but with the distinct whiff of ‘caravan’ about it, this development is home to 200 pensioners in Beverley. Turns out that the pensioners bought the houses thinking they could live in them all year round when the council maintains planning permission was only for holiday homes so they cannot be used as the sole or main residence (the oldies need to be gone to another place for at least 3 months a year). In another cruel twist of fate, the pensioners on Lakeminster need to be travellers. Why don’t they just travel you hear the baying crowd on twitter shout..after all, they are, um ‘pensioners’,
Should we feel sorry for these pensioners? Well the local Conservative MP does and he takes the residents case up immediately in that very same article. Rather a contrast to John Baron the local MP for Dale Farm who made sure he turned up to get his 5 minutes of fame spouting the same line as Tony Ball about the law being upheld as men, women and children were turfed off land they owned at Dale Farm by overwhelming state sponsored force.
The Lakeminster pensioners are living illegally in their houses, they failed to check the contracts when they signed or made sure they had good quality conveyancing in place to make sure this situation did not happen. They are living there illegally, and I hope they have some ex-scaffolders amongst their number as at the moment from what I can see on Google Street view their attempt at a gate to repel the bailiffs is piss poor.
So my ultimate point is this, and is directed to the good people of ‘the travellers have broken the law, nobody is above the law’ tribe on twitter; now that Dale Farm is cleansed and ‘justice’ is done, can we see #lakeminster lit up as a trending topic as you deride the tax-dodging pensioner scum who have infested a perfectly good town and chosen to deliberately ignore the law? Some of them even have their grandchildren to visit, using them as human shields to deflect the aggression of the state.
After all the law applies equally to all.
Or does it?
Image is creative commons, courtesy of InsideMyShell, sourced from Flickr, Available http://bit.ly/oJunJ9.
NB: The chances of getting a comment approved under this blog posting are slim if you are going to use the ‘but what about the travellers who ruined my village, destroyed my pub, kidnapped my children?’ line. Here is not the place for you….get annoyed and move on.
By all means write a 5 paragraph rant as some of you did under the previous Dale Farm post, I will read every single word. By my reckoning that is about 4500 key presses. My key presses to not approve the post, 1. My advice: get you own blog and write about the issues there. That way you can make the decisions about what gets posted or not.
If you want to write a comment supporting my point of view, then knock yourself out :-)