Monday, 29 April 2019

"So the climate's killing us, but at least we got to work on time!"

This post first appeared on the Radix blog...

I have written elsewhere about the uplifting effect that the Metropolitan Police commissioner has had on UK public life. So I am sorry to see her criticised by the stodgiest corners of the UK chattering class for her peaceable approach to the Climate Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in Easter Week.

I felt very much the reverse. I am not sure of the effectiveness of demonstrations of any kind, having learned about campaigning at the feet of the great Des Wilson (“Yes, I know you are making them think,” he used to say to campaigners determined to stop the traffic, “and I can tell you exactly what they’re thinking”).

But equally, the Extinction demonstrators won me around with their good humour, their sense of theatre and their creativity – and by the lack of masks and angry shouting or brain-free socialist sloganising.

Most of all, I felt inspired by the films of the police dancing gently to the beat or testing out the skateboards.

How many other nations, I ask myself, would allow this kind of cameraderie? It is in fact part of the glory of the nation we belong to that we are blessed with this kind of policing. So thank you, Cressida Dick. Keep up the innovative work.

This is not of course the point of view peddled by a cowed BBC or the Murdoch press, who are clearly the kinds of people who may say, when the climate overwhelms us – ah well, at least I got to work on time. The Times in the first few days did not even bother to find a spokesperson to quote.

Some of the most pompous (I name no names) you can read about in more detail in Richard Black’s brilliant history of climate change contrarianism Denied – which might explain why they are now just confining themselves to being pompous about demonstrators.

So would I prefer to live in the kind of country where the police recognise that people need sometimes to express their ignored points of view – and will travel with toddlers half way across the nation to do so – or one, like France, so quick to wheel out the water cannon and pepper spray? I know which one I prefer.

Nor has it served us badly. Why was there no revolution in the UK during the General Strike in 1926, for example? Because the police and the pickets would insist on playing football together. No doubt the Sunday Times would have preferred to give them a few baton rounds for the inconvenience.

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