Lambeth town hall in Brixton was taken over and occupied by protestors as the council met to vote through budget cuts of tens of millions of pounds. Hundreds of people gathered outside the town hall (as they'd done previously two weeks ago) and at around 7pm took over the chamber chanting "This is what democracy looks like" and "No ifs, no buts, no public services cuts!", before holding a people's assembly.
After withdrawing the council members met under a police guard to vote through the cuts. The occupation ended at around 9pm as people marched out after 2 hours of discussions and speeches at the 'people's council'.
This sort of thing chills me to the bone. I always get very uneasy when activists and politicians talk about 'the people'. I'm afraid that in a population of 272,000, a group of hundreds does not represent democracy, it does not even represent double figures of the population in terms of percentage. To try and pass it off as democracy is misleading.
I'm not going to get into the whole Keynsian discussion again, but I will state that I do support public spending cuts, because there is so much that goverment is involved in. that it has no business doing. I do not trust the politicians and civil servants to cut where the fat is, though. They will always protect their own empires and pet projects.
A 'people's council' (sic) does not represent the people. It never can, even the most representative, even handed and well regarded assembly cannot represent the people, it can only represent the majority. I am not convinced that a hastily convened peoples' council in Lambeth is representative of the majority. This is a term used to marginalise and stigmatise people. What we saw last night was a trailer of things to come, or things that have happened elsewhere. A group of people, through force and violence, establish themselves and then claim to speak for 'the people' as if the population is one homogenous mass with identical wishes, desires and aspirations.
This is always a mistake made by authoritarian (mainly left-wing) regimes, people are individuals. What you are doing is trying to project your view of what you think the people should be onto that population. You believe that your ideas and policies are right. Well, I think the same of mine, of course I do, otherwise I wouldn't hold them, the same holds true for you. The difference between us, is that I do not seek to impose my vision on others. What happens when people do not share you views, do not want your vision? We've seen it time and time again, Stalin, Hoxha, Pot, Mao, all ruled in the name of 'the people'. How many of them were the wrong sort of people? How many of them were imprisoned, executed and subjected to horrific treatment as a result? Kim Jong-Il rules in the name of the people. I didn't see any election, he was annointed. What do the people think of him? I'm sure his approval rates are through the roof, his population wouldn't dare express anything but satisfaction. What about Gaddafi? Ask him this morning, he'll still tell you he's ruling in the name of the people, it is the enemies of the people who are stirring up trouble, the real people love him. So much do they love him, he would submit, that they are happy that 10,000 lie dead on the streets of Libya. This is what rule in the name of the people looks like.
Let us not kid ourselves here. When you claim you are acting for the people, you are using it as a crutch to prop up your own crumbling credibility. Oh, you know that the majority follow you. You know you have the support of tens of thousands in your borough. You know that everyone is up in arms at the cuts.
Everyone? He asks with eyebrow raised in a questioning fashion.
Well, everyone that counts.
Ah, there we go. No. Not everyone, otherwise in the recent general election your lot would have found themselves with an increased majority. That, no matter how flawed, how un-representative, is the closest we have to democracy in this country. And when people stop counting, that is where the trouble begins.
I'm not suggesting that we're about to see RAF air strikes on the population of Brixton, but unelected, unaccountable people make odd decisions and have, what appears to me, a skewed view of the world. I'll give you an example.
I was watching the first episode of Heston's Mission Impossible on C4 the other night. (The link is to the 4od player) I like Heston, he is imaginative, passionate and practical. His series on the overhaul of the Little Chef menu was very good. In this, the first episode of his new series where he does the same to different sectors of the catering industry, he was working his magic at Alder Hey hospital. No hectoring and lecturing in the style of Jamie Wotsisname here, just getting on with the job.
Notes from a hospital bed is an established critique of the terrible food on offer in our hospitals, so head over there, and you'll see the form guide. Needless to say, the food given to the kids in the hospital was terrible. Without wanting to come over all lisping and mockney, surely, kids in hospital need decent scran to aid their recovery? Yet they were served dross and plates were returned, untouched. Parents, who have paid for this food, without the option to opt-out, in the form of their taxes, were having to bring in grub for their kids. It is a story reproduced throughout the NHS.
In the first portion of the show, Heston went to the kitchens to investigate and was shown a menu, it looked alright, it transpired it was for the staff canteen, public restaurant and (I really couldn't believe this) outside functions. The head of catering stated that 90% of food prepared in the hozzie kitchens was fresh, from scratch. The 10% excluded? Yes, the children. The group that is the hospital's enitre reason for being. Out of a cooking staff of 14, only two were making the childrens' food. 'Welcome to the NHS' was the response from the head of catering.
He would maintain that he is absolutely acting in the best interest of the children. However, there was no communication between the kids and the kitchens.
Gaddafi, Kim and the Lambeth Peoples' Council would maintain that they are absolutely acting in the best interest of the people. However, there is no communication between the people and the government.
Of course, those occupying Lambeth council chamber last night would say they were different, just as every unelected, unaccountable, dictatorial regime that has gone before is different. This time it will be different, this time we're not the same as all the others, we care, we know what is wrong, we know the answers. Every time the end result is the same.
When you invoke the name of the people, you are hiding behind a legend, in the same way that Westboro Baptist Church invoke the name of God when they indulge in their revolting homophobic activities. When the Islamic fundamentalists bomb innocent people, or beat, maim and execute people, they do it whilst hiding behind the shield of an unspeaking God, you would no doubt condemn their actions, yet from where I'm sitting, you don't look so different when you hide behind the shield of a silent supposed majority.
No, you'll get no support from this quarter.