The arrogance of Tom Harris MP

This post is my response to a rant by Tom Harris MP, Labour, calling for the ejection of the protesters at Democracy Village. He closes his impassioned cry for the forced removal of a legal protest by writing:

What arrogance must motivate you to believe that you have the right to monopolise an area to which other citizens should have free access; to protest, yes, but to enjoy also, to take a stroll in, to have a quiet sit down. And what arrogance must motivate someone to believe that their compulsion to shriek incomprehensibly (and to absolutely no effect whatsoever) through a megaphone is more important than the comfort of others who might prefer not to be harangued aggressively as they pass by.

Such encampments would be dealt with swiftly by the authorities – and with overwhelming support from the public – were they to be inflicted on any other part of the country. That this eyesore still afflicts Parliament Square, that it has been allowed to grow and spread like a malignant infection, is a testament to the failure of politicians who should have acted decisively long before now.

Of course we should – and do – respect the right to protest. But though it might sound bizarrely counter-intuitive to say so, the democratic credentials of elected representatives must be respected also. Just because you’re elected does not mean you represent no-one, and just because you’re unelected and self-appointed does not mean you’re representative of a wider community.

I say, to Mr. Tom Harris…

This is a bad argument. You object to “Democracy Village” for the same reasons as people like Iain Dale: because it is an “eyesore”, an “irritant”, and “pointless”. None of these are good reasons for forcibly removing protesters – regardless of the amount of passion you inject into your rant. You could make the same argument against fat people in leggings.

Your point about the “arrogance” of the protesters is again very weak and raises the question of which citizens have the greater rights. Is it those who are nicely behaved, sitting on the grass for a quick lunch break, or those ugly, noisy non-conformists? You seem to have decided the former, and I’m sure many people will agree. However, I’m sure many others would argue that it’s more arrogant to assert that the right for a quiet place to eat sandwiches overrules the right for someone to protest against the killing of lots of people.

What about the arrogance of elected officials who think they have a mandate to decide which protests to tolerate and which to shut down?

More importantly, how arrogant is it to base such a decision on purely aesthetic, superficial reasons?


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