Civil Disobedience

17 November 2022

Civil Disobedience

Gets you interviewed

by Don Urquhart

Mug shot of Don Urquhart

Compare and contrast Indigo Rumbelow (Just Stop Oil campaigner) with the Suffragettes.  Trouble is it has been done to death.  The media went to town on her interview with Sky’s Mark Austin.  If you read the gutter press (Telegraph, Mail, Sun, Express) you would conclude that she is a misguided and entitled baby.  I watched the interview and thought she handled it pretty well.  Assertive rather than aggressive.  Mark was taken aback having told her somewhat patronisingly that she was on to justify her organisation’s annoying tactics.   She ignored this and told us all about the dangers of uncontrolled climate change, adding in a spirit of compromise that the demonstrations would stop when the government cancelled their plans for 130 fossil fuel drilling licences and for a new coal mine in Cumbria.  In recent months we have seen several people obsessed with idées fixes they are determined to inflict on others.  In my view Indigo comes out way ahead of Suella Braverman and Elizabeth Truss and not just because her scope for creating catastrophe is small compared with theirs.

Indigo Rumbelow

If you take the view that the laudable ends Indigo pursues do not justify the annoying means, are their other projects that would justify spraying paint around and stopping some traffic? What are the causes that people would perk up for?  Wouldn’t it make sense to stop the traffic to get our kids fed or protect vulnerable children?  How about getting the NHS staff a pay rise?  Stopping the outsourcing to prevent NHS staff disappearing into private companies?

In my neck of the woods there have been times when the locals could have easily have been stirred to riotous assembly by the questionable decisions of Howard Webb when refereeing for Manchester United against the Arsenal.

I fully understand those who condemn the tactics of JSO as self-defeating.  After all it is a poor show when you stop ambulances, people getting to hospital and similar destinations.   The suffragettes pursued quite violent tactics, although their most dramatic action seriously injured only the perpetrator. The jockey Herbert Jones was slightly hurt when Emily Davison ran in front of Anmer, the King’s horse.  He and Anmer were fit enough to win at Ascot together two weeks later but Davison died in hospital.

The contemporary news media were largely unsympathetic to Davison, The Pall Mall Gazette said it had pity for the dementia which led an unfortunate woman to seek a grotesque and meaningless kind of ‘martyrdom’ while The Daily Express described Davison as a well-known malignant suffragette … [who] has a long record of convictions for complicity in suffragette outrages. The journalist for The Daily Telegraph observed that deep in the hearts of every onlooker was a feeling of fierce resentment with the miserable woman, and The Daily Mirror opined that it was quite evident that her condition was serious; otherwise many of the crowd would have fulfilled their evident desire to lynch her.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.  At one point Margaret Thatcher had Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and Augusto Pinochet the Chilean fascist dictator as a stand-up guy.

We are a democracy but the Conservatives have such a big majority they can push through austerity measures with just a bit of mild buffeting from a soporific opposition.  So how do you get things done if you are a bit of a radical?  Certainly not through the House of Commons where there is virtually wall to wall support for the status quo.  At the Labour Party conference in September they voted for Proportional Representation by a big majority, but Sir Keir Starmer said no.  So the only tactic for activists is to get out on the streets.

This Saturday we might get a flavour.  There will be People’s Assembly demonstrations all round the country although at this stage they are unlikely to break any laws.

In April 2013 a plaque was unveiled at Epsom racecourse to mark the centenary of Emily Davison’s death.  Critics of Indigo Rumbelow take heed.

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