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2 February 2012

Finally, a coalition policy I can get behind

War on camping.

By Steven Baxter

The news that police will have special powers to eject anyone found to be committing the most grave offence of being in a tent near the Olympic venues, or planning to sleep under canvas in Trafalgar Square, is welcome indeed.

Benefit scroungers? Forget it. Immigrants? No chance. We need a new demon figure in this country, and here it is: people who camp. Who can’t get behind that? Camping is, when all’s said and done, silly. Why shiver on a rock-hard mattress and poo into a tupperware box when you can have a reasonable mid-priced hotel? Why indeed.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t the kind of aesthetic cleansing ahead of the Olympics that we made fun of China for doing back in 2008; nor is it the kind of denial of free protest that would worry the hand-wringing Guardianistas I love to read about in right-wing columns. It can’t be that; we’re a modern democracy, for heaven’s sake. No, this is war on camping, pure and simple.

And I know the rules will be applied to everyone equally – not just the undesirable smelly types who make places look untidy and who should be blasted away with high-pressure jets of steam (but we can’t, because of health and human rights and safety, or something). No, these rules will also be fairly applied across the board, to nice, acceptable, non-threatening, hardworking, taxpaying middle-class folk who dare commit the offence of camping out, too.

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If the authorities would like a hand in firing a water cannon to disperse these potential troublemakers, I’ll put myself forward to volunteer. Let’s rid our streets of this rabble once and for all. The so-called ‘tennis fans’ who ruin the leafy lanes of SW19 every June should be forced to disperse from our streets, where they make the place look untidy with their garish posters of Tim Henman and tennis-ball earrings. If they really cared about tennis they would have got proper tickets, or would watch the action on television and the interactive red button like the rest of us.

I daresay it’ll be the same when plastic union-jack-waving home counties homemakers turn up to litter our streets for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations this summer. Quite rightly, their tents should be confiscated or destroyed and these potential troublemakers should be moved along – or better still, given a short sharp shock from officers with batons, plastic bullets and riot shields.

In a way, that would be a fitting tribute to the nation these merrymakers love so much – a well-drilled show of strength from some highly organised men in uniform. What more could you ask? I do hope David Dimbleby gives a running commentary for the benefit of the viewing public. “Now a lovely scene,” Dimbers will say, “and this is just the kind of thing this country does so well. Look at the teargas canisters exploding and the red, white and blue potential troublemakers scattering into the nearest branch of Costa Coffee. Very moving pictures.”

Don’t like it? Don’t come crying to me – the tears will splash off your gore-tex outerwear, anyway. This is the future: a world without camping. And not an attempt to silence legitimate protest at all. No way.