Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Haw-Haw Calling

Nick's Niggles

Nick Cohen has published an article which is highly critical of Brian Haw's anti-war protest in Parliament Square which has a continuous presence opposite one of the main entrances used by MPs to enter and leave the Commons.

In reviewing Nick's book "What's Left?" I attempted to explain in some detail exactly where I both agreed and disagreed with him on issues such as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Nevertheless (without my ever conceding that the invasion of Iraq has been anything less then a disaster), I agree with much of what Nick has to say on this occasion.

Harry's Hatreds

There are two other features about Brian Haw's protest which I have always criticised. They are drawn from the time when I was an MP and when I passed by his site at least twice daily on foot (for I don't have a car). So I can only report on these matters in the past tense. Perhaps things have picked up since then. I hope so.

First, the site was unkempt and grotty. No effort seemed to be made to spruce it up and to use a bit of aesthetic imagination with the posters in order to attract the attention of passers-by. It contrasted completely with a similar protest site in Berlin which was set up half way between the American and British Embassies. The Berlin version attracted people from different viewpoints to meet the organisers and join in meaningful debates.

Mark Wallinger has now won the Turner Prize for his recreation of Haw's original line of banners - I can only imagine that he used a great deal of artistic licence.

Secondly, Brian Haw and his comrades were normally given to haranguing people via loud speakers in a series of slogans or crude speeches. As most MPs normally rush in and out via the gates opposite in Ministerial or other forms of on-duty limousines, privates cars or taxis; they seldom had time to pick out a passing slogan. The people who suffered all this noise where tourists taking their photographs of Big Ben and some of the employees in the Commons. In particular, the police on the gates had to put up with shift after shift of this loud and tedious sloganising. Brian Haw and company obviously didn't give a thought to the well-being of the workers at the gates. Presumably cleaners, catering staff, attendants and police who are employed at the Palace of Westminster can just be dismissed as being lackeys of British Imperialism.

Some of us old-fashioned lefties are, however, still given to asking "what about the workers?" - whether they seek employment in Iraq, Afghanistan or Westminster.


Anand said...

HB, how optimistic are you about the ISF's capabilities, and how quickly MNF-I can be drawn down without a spike in Iraqi violence?

Thanks for your contributions at IM. Please join our discussion on global warming and clean technology.

Harry Barnes said...

Anand: I feel that the situation is highly complex. In areas the ISFs still suffers from terrorist-style infiltrations and corruptions (some via elements inside the Iraqi Administration). Britain's withdrawal from patrols may be creating more problems than it is solving. The Iraqi Government's decision to ask the UN to extend the MNF's mandate for another year (subject to rights to obtain their removal at any point) seems to me to sensible. It would help if Blackwater (especially) and other Private Armies were removed or placed under strict controls. We must always remain free to criticize any abuses by the ISF, the MNF and Terrorists. Criticisms which are well and fully pressed can improve practices.

Harry Barnes said...

Anand: plus, of course, no permanent US or MNF bases to remain in Iraq.