St Paul's Cathedral is London's newest campsite. It comes with its own "university", light musical entertainment, first aid tent (especially useful for those suffering from Attention Seeking Syndrome) and wonderful views of the next tent. Conveniently situated near St Paul's tube station, you are able to get there easily after a good night's sleep at home in a comfortable bed, and leave just as easily in the evening when you are cold, bored and need your Philipino maid to cook your dinner. The local corner shop is a Marks and Spencer store so stocking up on good food could never be easier. If you want a coffee however, do expect to experience queues at the local Costa Coffee.
Okay, so last week, whilst I was in London, I was in the vacinity of St Paul's because I was doing a walking tour of little known historic sites around the City. It was therefore difficult to avoid the protesters and their holiday camp, so I took some photos, which is what this post is all about.
I have argued all along that those engaging in this "occupy" protest activity are self-appointed, unrepresentative, overwhelmingly from prosperous backgrounds who come from families who generally speaking have done rather well over the past couple of decades. Now that the boom has gone from Britain (and the western world generally) suddenly they are against the system. Quite what they are for is much more difficult to work out.
As the above photo shows, this makeshift noticeboard (outside M&S) appealed for people to support just about every other protest and Parliamentary lobbying demonstration going. Whether this notice succeeded to creating a rent-a-demo worked or not, I don't know. I certainly didn't see any of the protests feature in the news.
So, this is what democracy looks like? I don't think so! A campsite of self-appointed, wealth-enjoying anti-capitalists does not speak for the vast majority of people. They speak for themelves. The campers have a very strange notion of democracy. Votes in the open air, in full view of others. So the secret ballot has gone. Anyone can turn up. Meetings can be packed out with your mates. I prefer the ballot box (and the secret ballot).
"Grow the real economy with love and empathy"! I prefer my own version - grow the economy by being realistic.
The above banner is, to me, confusing. It appears to be complaining that the government is borrowing money. Most of the other protesters seem to think the government should be borrowing more money.
An example of a tent that has done the rounds. This one was at the Climate Camp in Edinburgh 2010. Is the "Occupy" St Paul's movement adding global climate change to its catalogue of campaigns. Or is this just part of the problem the "Occupy London" movement has - that it has no coherent message.
Meanwhile, the message from this tent was all about saving the music department of the University of East Anglia. But the protestors weren't singing from the same hymn sheet.
Meanwhile, the Greens wanted to turn the camp into an anti-nuclear power protest.
So, lots of mixed messages, lots of issues people were campaigning against. But where were their solutions? There were very few.
Don't get me wrong. I fully support the right of people to protest though I think these camps go too far and cause needless disruption for others. There were even some points they raised I could support. Nor am I a supporter of big business capitalism. I want to see a system in which people have a direct stake in their work and their communities. I prefer small to big business. I want people freed to enjoy the benefits of their own work and productivity. If we were all put on a spectrum according to outlook and lifestyle, with hippy individualist at one end and capitalist big business people at the other, I would be much closer to the hippy end. After all, I gave up the job in London and the salaried job to grow my own food, live a sustainable lifestyle and create and run a small business. But I also believe that politics is about realism and the art of the possible. It's about putting forward solutions that work. And whilst I have some sympathy with some of the views expressed by some protesters that the system is not working, I differ very strongly from them in believing that it cannot be solved by simply pitching your tent in the grounds of a tourist attraction and making a nuisance of yourself.