You're not bringing that in here...

A table cloth triggers a police crackdown at Climate Camp

Dear Marina,

It was lovely to meet you at Climate Camp last week. My Harold was quite taken with you. And you make such a wonderful pot of tea. Thank you for taking the time to help us and listen to our concerns. When we’re moved out of our home we will take with us a lifetime of memories including time spent with people like you at Climate Camp. I was very concerned at the heavy handedness of the police. Did you have any problems?
Hilda, Sipson Village

Thank you Hilda and up yours! Since I was doing no wrong – merely exercising my right to empower others to protest – I haven’t come away with any lasting problems, other than having my grandmother’s table cloth confiscated under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act. I might, apparently, have used it as a weapon.

It was in fact, required to keep up my own exacting standards while serving tea to protesters. The tea was still served – but it’s never the same without doilies and a cloth.

The police have since lost the cloth – claiming they returned it to camp. I have no recourse for complaint because under Section 60 the police can do anything. Their words.

I am left bereft of a family heirloom and scratching my head: you never notice the erosion of civil liberties until the rug of rights is gone from under your feet or more pertinently the cloth of democracy is gone from the table.

Male officers, despite declaring my wit as the only sharp thing about my person, also subjected me to some pretty full on body searches. Once again I cannot complain because under Section 60 the police have the powers "to do anything" as they repeatedly insisted.

During one search, to put this into context, with that many witnesses, had it been a member of the public rather than the long arm of the law touching me in that way, I’d be pressing charges for sexual assault and expect justice to be done.

Tell me Hilda, have you and Harold ever considered anarchy? I only ask because it seems to me that dismantling our current system of government is our only hope if we are seriously going to address systemic problems within planning law. Without changes any efforts to halt or curb the progression of climate chaos are futile.

But hey, given the current trajectory of state interference and the rise of police powers, I guess they’ll shoot us all long before progress is made.

Dear Marina,

I’m all for saving money. That’s why I’ve turned down the thermostat and installed energy efficient light bulbs. But I’d hardly claim I was playing my part to halt climate change given government plans for airport expansion and no plans for improving public transport. Should I give up or what?
Confused, Leith

Saving money is a good thing, especially when you spend your savings wisely. And of course every drop of greenhouse gas prevented from escaping into the atmosphere has to be a good thing. So obviously, don’t give up.

If anything, now is the time to increase activity that may help us stabilize the climate. Eating more vegan food and less meat and dairy products is good. As is super gluing yourself to the doors of the Department of Transport or DEFRA. Such actions won’t make much of a difference to your own personal carbon footprint, or indeed to that of the civil servants employed in such places. It will however highlight the scale of the problem to others and give you a day in court on charges of criminal damage. But since once the glue has been dissolved, it's hardly likely to be a scratch on any structure you might adhere yourself to, you’d have to come before a pretty grumpy judge not to have your case dismissed. Good luck!

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.