I chance to be passing through London today. Picked the wrong afternoon for it. Every sleepy side-street in this normally agreeable corner of Mayfair is awash with union heavies and other unlovely types who’ve wandered loose from the supposedly half-million-strong protest march against alleged government “spending cuts” – of which, in fact, there are distressingly few.
As I write, I am approximately fifty feet from the scene of this balaclava-ed anarchist’s heroic stand. Looks rather less exciting in close-up, I have to report. The livelier lads have already rampaged through Fortnum & Mason, the upscale Piccadilly emporium, and attacked the Ritz. Obvious targets, you might say. But I found it more poignant earlier in the day when I went to a favorite coffee place hoping to enjoy a beverage outside on a pleasant spring day as the massed ranks of British layabouts marched by. Instead, the Polish and Balkan baristas were hurriedly dragging in all the sidewalk tables and chairs before the Socialist Workers’ Party chaps showed up in search of projectiles. Nobody in the Socialist Workers’ Party actually works, which is one reason why it’s Mitteleuropeans frothing your coffee rather than any of the natives.
Still, on balance I prefer the class-war thugs trashing the joint, who at least have the courage of their convictions. The “nice” people bussed in from the shires struck me as some of the most stupid people I’ve ever met anywhere on the planet. One elderly lady from Yorkshire told me she was there because her grandson’s university fees were likely to go up. I was in a cranky mood because I hadn’t had my coffee. “You can protest all you like,” I said. “But this country’s broke, so all you’re doing is postponing its reacquaintanceship with reality, and ensuring that your grandson and his contemporaries are going to be stuck with the tab because you guys spent their future.” I pointed out that in her part of the world – northern England – as in Wales and Northern Ireland, the state accounts for three-quarters of the economy. And it’s still not enough for the likes of her and her pals.
She stared at me blankly. “Well, I don’t want to argue,” she said politely. “I just think it’s a disgrace.” In a democracy, there are not many easy ways back from insane levels of “social” spending, and certainly not when the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition panders to the mob by comparing them to anti-apartheid activists. Judging from the many marchers partial to robotic, pseudo-ethnic West African drumming, the British left’s plan is presumably for the entire country to relaunch itself as the world’s least rhythmic percussion ensemble.
PS This was yesterday’s big march in Central London.