Friday, 4 February 2011

Muddled thinking

Unison wanted to hold a march to protest against County Council cuts on 24 February. The police require them to have a gathering point that doesn't cause too much disruption, so the union applied to Rushcliffe Borough Council for permission to use the field by Bridgford Road, near to West Bridgford library.

Rushcliffe BC refused permission, and are reported by the BBC as saying: "... we do not want to be drawn into a political dispute - and as this would be a political demonstration, it is not considered appropriate to allow the park to be used for that purpose."

Somebody - and the Post attributes the comment above to Colin Bullett, deputy chief exec at RBC - might usefully have thought this through a bit.

Firstly, the protest against the cuts might be viewed as political, but only in the sense that any view about how the country works and is run is a political view. Feelings about the scale and speed of the cuts do not fit neatly into tribal party political thinking.

Secondly, on what basis is it appropriate for a publicly-funded body to forbid the use of publicly-owned space for members of the public to gather before a demonstration? No argument has been made by RBC that the gathering would have been dangerous, or would have caused significant disruption. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the refusal to grant permission is itself a political one, not a practical one.

Thirdly, if RBC was serious about not wanting to be drawn into a political dispute... well, that didn't go too well, did it? If permission had quietly been granted to use the field and the demonstration had gone ahead, just how much press coverage would have pointed out that RBC owned a piece of open ground that the demonstrators met on before moving off? Even the most desperate journo or blogger, casting about for half a story, wouldn't have been able to make anything of it, for heaven's sake.

But now even this desperate blogger has something to go at. Excellent. One has to wonder whether someone at the Big House with the green roof across the road had a quiet word with the good people at RBC...


  1. Or perhaps the quiet word came from a certain corpulant Tory MP who is rumoured to have an interest in Rushcliffe and a big, Hush Puppy-clad foot in the coalition's mire of spending cuts.

  2. I don't know, Alan. I can't help thinking that KC - whatever you think about his political views - is too canny an operator, and too laid back at this late stage in his career - to have got involved with such a relatively minor affair as this. I think the local Tories managed it all on their own, with no Hush Puppies applied.

    They might be now, though.