Deaths, Dukes and doggedness

IssueSeptember 2005
Comment by The Mole

Robin Cook's death has brought forth many tales, and the peace movement has some to tell about him too. For instance, he first entered parliament at the time the Campaign Against Arms Trade was founded in 1974, and showed that he was clearly starting out with a properly disrespectful attitude to the place. When the then CAAT staffer tried to contact likely MPs to generate some interest in the new campaign, the first response was Robin Cook's - maybe the CAAT archives still have the supportive note he sent, which ended "...and do pop in and see me any time at the zoo".

Another, less remarked upon, recent death was that of campaigner Gary Batchelor - ten years younger even than Robin Cook when he died. Gary was into various issues including animal rights, and he was one of the people involved in the London Greenpeace group twenty years ago who was responsible for there being a campaign against MuckDonald's - and hence, indirectly, for the glorious McLibel struggle which followed. In a rather nice touch, some of his comrades marked his death by holding a memorial picket outside one of the main McDonald's branches in central London.

British shame

There's been a lot of talk of "Britishness" lately, and of people being proud - or ashamed - to be British. But logically, the concept of pride makes little sense in this context. Surely, the only circumstances where it would be logical to be proud - or ashamed - to be British would be if one had both chosen to be British, and also had some influence over what Britishness was. The one person the Mole can think of who fits both of these criteria is the Duke of Edinburgh.

Bother with Brian

There's a wonderful irony in the way that long-running Parliament Square peace vigiler Brian Haw, the person some of the new anti-demonstration laws were apparently invented to be used against, is now the one person who isn't covered by them. Because of bad drafting - which shows either unbelievable incompetence, or a secret sympathiser in the relevant bit of the government bureaucracy - the new rules against demonstrations near parliament don't apply to events that had already started.

Of course one has to be seen to rally round and support someone essentially harmless whom the authorities are trying to clobber.

But it does seem true that the failure to get rid of him easily using existing laws really was the inspiration and excuse behind a swathe of the new legislation - which, while they were at it, of course goes well beyond what was necessary to deal with him. And add to that the fact that the not-so-saintly Brian isn't a particularly good advert for the cause anyway - so much so that The Mole is not the only one surprised that he hasn't had a worse mauling in the gutter press - and you can see why some in the peace movement rather wish that the fellow hadn't stuck it out so stubbornly for years in the first place.

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