Colin Brazier: The wheels have fallen off Insulate Britain's campaign
'Even in war-zones the ambulances aren’t stopped'
Not every news story is a parable.
But there was something in the scenes on the streets of London this morning that seems to possess a meaning beyond what was happening in front of us.
If you missed it, environmentalists were at it again. But this time their contempt for the rule of law backfired. A classic case of over-reach by activists who feel the justness of THEIR cause gives THEM license to treat the rest of us as expendable extras in their publicity stunts.
Today was a public relations disaster for Insulate Britain. And it’s time fellow environmentalists called them out for what they are – a group that is setting back their cause by years.
What happened today? Insulate Britain gave their fellow subjects the means and the motive to take back control of the Queen’s Highway.
The motive? Well that was the sight of an ambulance, blocked by protestors.
At first motorists, many of them tradesmen, tried to reason with the blockaders. But when that didn’t work, and with no police in sight, they intervened. Direct action against direct action.
The protestors are well drilled. When dragged off they went limp. But they didn’t stay limp. When they got the chance, they tried to shuffle back onto the road and block the traffic again.
This went down very badly.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, subsequent attempts to remove them proved less gentle.
The optics of demonstrators persevering in their mission to stop an ambulance are deeply counter-productive. And as if to underline the point, at another junction blocked by Insulate Britain, a woman was filmed imploring protestors to let her through and follow an ambulance that was bearing her 81-year-old mother to hospital.
The sight of a distraught woman, tearfully begging for PERMISSION to be with her sick parent, is a reminder that Insulate Britain is drunk on power. It’s a power we’ve given them, by standing by and waiting for the police to intervene.
I’ve argued before that it’s right we do that. Right that we let the law take its course, for injunctions to bite. But today Insulate Britain got their tactics breathtakingly wrong. It’s one thing to block a motorway, where emergency vehicles can still manoeuvre. But to lie down at multiple junctions that are vehicular choke-points is folly.
And there’s something else.
By dragging out their protests, Insulate Britain have given people time to make a plan.
To think about what they’d do if caught up in one of their actions. Insulate Britain are media savvy, and use smartphone footage to amplify their protests.
But that cuts both ways.
The images today, widely circulated, are the means that will inspire others. And that should worry police. It’s why there WAS something of the parable about today’s drama. If the police are seen to be tolerating the intolerable then people will take the law, or at least a protestor, into their own hands.Nobody should encourage this.
There’s a way to remove a protestor and, though doubtless satisfying, it’s not by the scruff of the neck. Police check to see if someone’s glued their hands to the tarmac. Not everyone will. But this is where we find ourselves. With law-abiding people who subscribe to the idea of being policed by consent, effectively withdrawing that consent.
Today the wheels fell off Insulate Britain’s campaigning charabanc. They behaved immorally. They behaved repugnantly. Even in in war-zones the ambulances aren’t stopped.
Insulate Britain now face a choice. The way things are going it will be one of their protestors who needs taking to hospital in a hurry soon. What will they do then, when an ambulance wants to get through?