Dale Farm: Racists and the ‘law must be upheld’ brigade

Apply the law equally to all?

The Dale Farm evictions are over. Millions of words have been piled up writing about this issue, and given that words are still largely free, even in this age of austerity, a few more words from me won’t make much difference.

In a previous post I expressed my sense of shock about some people’s racist reactions to the Dale Farm evictions on Twitter, and the lack of symmetry between people jailed for inciting a riot on Facebook (which did not happen), and those inciting direct hatred and murder (including that of children) towards travellers.

In the month that has passed, the Dale Farm issue has been to the high court, where legal experts have examined almost every inch of the plot and in the end decided that most of the tenants could be removed.  The high court judge did say that all fences and wall should be left though, but there must have been a breakdown in communication between the goodly judge and the Essex Police as they set about their site clearance by not only knocking down fences but also walls on the legal part of the Dale Farm site.

The month since the aborted eviction on the 19th of September has been a jamboree for the racists, a kind of unofficial but vibrantly racist ‘Festival of Britain’ with a spectacular celebration of every type, manner and style of racist abuse as people queued up to add their tweets to the bonfire of abuse aimed at the residents of Dale Farm.  Maybe you can’t begrudge the racists their month of fun, after all racism is not what it used to be.

Racism (before about 1960) used to be like wallpaper, all around us, part of our lives and probably hardly ever noticed, unless someone came up with a particular unusual style in which case they might attract a compliment on their creativity.  Then laws were gradually passed and it became more of a life-style choice, you could still do it, but you needed to work at it. Put in some time, invest.  Alf Garnett could therefore practice racism in the same way that others could fancy pigeons or bet on the horses, it needed some work, it did not always come easy. Extreme censure for Garnett’s views on Blacks and Jews was never going to happen.  But the tide was gradually shifting, as imperceptibly the numbers of people laughing ‘at him’ increased and those laughing ‘with him’ decreased.  Many people ceased to do racism realising that to attribute every evil in the world to a particular ethnic group was neither sensible or ‘de jure’.   And then things got much much tighter for even the most determined, and laws made even the hobbyist racists retreat indoors, in a kind of mirror image of smokers (another group under attack) who all had to flee outdoors to practice their socially unacceptable habits.

So ironically the racists,  much like the travellers they despise, have suffered from attacks on their way of life and state-sponsored initiatives to prevent them from doing what they want.  Maybe this has caused some desperate, venom fuelled feedback loop; so much hatred but nowhere to vent it (until the Americans invited social media). So they all got twitter accounts and Dale Farm loomed into view.  As I said, a racist festival of Britain, something we can look back on, much like the great events of 1851 and 1951 and feel truly proud. The year even ends in a 1, to keep mathematically OCD racists happy.

You know where you are with racists. It’s not pleasant, it’s sickening most of the time, but at least when you read a tweet from a racist you are clear where they stand. They have characterised all travellers as benefit cheating, tax dodging lowlifes who defecate in the hedges and steal with the same kind of regularity as normal people breath. You read the tweet, you get annoyed and then you move on…nothing more to see…

The problem I have is with a particular tribe, namely: ‘the law of the land should be upheld, the travellers have broken the law so they should leave the site’ brigade. Perhaps not the most terse way of describing them, but you get the picture.  These people squat on the #dalefarm hashtag with as much, if not more fervour, than our old friends the racists above; but they are keen to point out, endlessly, that they are NOT racists. They simply want the laws of the land to apply to all.  Of course Tony Ball the leader of Basildon Council is one of these people (although he does not tweet).  He simply wants the law to be upheld, and for the same law to apply to the travellers as it does to everyone else.

Unless of course it’s Tesco.

Tesco built an unauthorised car park, in Basildon, of all places! (http://bit.ly/oc6yEe).  The Tesco spokesman could not explain why planning permission had not been sought sooner, which suggests a kind of fecklessness and disrespect for planning law which is at least equal to the charges levelled at the travellers on Dale Farm. And when the Tesco spokesperson says ‘sought sooner’, let’s be sure about what that means. That means BEFORE they built the car park. In the same way as the residents of Dale Farm erected their meagre dwellings BEFORE seeking planning permission.

YouTube is a great resource and you can source many great clips of things on there including harrowing footage of previous gypsy evictions. I searched for the inevitable footage of riot police converging at dawn on the illegal Tesco structure, and the moving of heavy machinery (the muncher), to tear it down. I searched for Tony Ball or his colleagues giving speeches to the cameras explaining why the law needed to be upheld, as a massive camp of bailiffs stretched out in the bokeh of the camera.  But for some inexplicable reason, the footage was not there. The internet must be broken.  Or did the council simply turn a blind eye to Tesco’s transgressions?

And this was hardly a one-off incident; MPs were told in 2005 about how Tesco was riding roughshod over local planning laws. (http://ind.pn/odPr0x) including the building of a store in Stockport which was 20% larger than it should have been.  So the law should be applied equally to all, unless of course you are a supermarket giant, in which case there is a little bit of ‘wriggle room’.

And what of the case of Lakeminster Park (http://bbc.in/nU8owO). Looking like a slightly neater version of a traveller camp but with the distinct whiff of ‘caravan’ about it, this development is home to 200 pensioners in  Beverley. Turns out that the pensioners bought the houses thinking they could live in them all year round when the council maintains planning permission was only for holiday homes so they cannot be used as the sole or main residence (the oldies need to be gone to another place for at least 3 months a year). In another cruel twist of fate, the pensioners on Lakeminster need to be travellers.  Why don’t they just travel you hear the baying crowd on twitter shout..after all, they are, um ‘pensioners’,

Should we feel sorry for these pensioners? Well the local Conservative MP does and he  takes the residents case up immediately in that very same article. Rather a contrast to John Baron the local MP for Dale Farm who made sure he turned up to get his 5 minutes of fame spouting the same line as Tony Ball about the law being upheld as men, women and children were turfed off land they owned at Dale Farm by overwhelming state sponsored force.

The Lakeminster pensioners are living illegally in their houses, they failed to check the contracts when they signed or made sure they had good quality conveyancing in place to make sure this situation did not happen. They are living there illegally, and I hope they have some ex-scaffolders amongst their number as at the moment from what I can see on Google Street view their attempt at a gate to repel the bailiffs is piss poor.

So my ultimate point is this, and is directed to the good people of ‘the travellers have broken the law, nobody is above the law’ tribe on twitter; now that Dale Farm is cleansed and ‘justice’ is done, can we see #lakeminster lit up as a trending topic as you deride the tax-dodging pensioner scum who have infested a perfectly good town and chosen to deliberately ignore the law? Some of them even have their grandchildren to visit, using them as human shields to deflect the aggression of the state.

After all the law applies equally to all.

Or does it?

Image is creative commons, courtesy of InsideMyShell, sourced from Flickr, Available http://bit.ly/oJunJ9.

NB: The chances of getting a comment approved under this blog posting are slim if you are going to use the ‘but what about the travellers who ruined my village, destroyed my pub, kidnapped my children?’ line.  Here is not the place for you….get annoyed and move on.

By all means write a 5 paragraph rant as some of you did under the previous Dale Farm post, I will read every single word. By my reckoning that is about 4500 key presses.  My key presses to not approve the post, 1.  My advice: get you own blog and write about the issues there. That way you can make the decisions about what gets posted or not.

If you want to write a comment supporting my point of view, then knock yourself out 🙂

Author: mjp6034

Education consultant specialising in educational technology and change management.

31 thoughts on “Dale Farm: Racists and the ‘law must be upheld’ brigade”

  1. Agree with you about racism on the hashtag.
    Tesco has a strong brand, based around some fundamental truths about delivering good service and value over a long period of time. The brand has both rational and emotional components, but at heart can’t be sustained if the image is too far from the truth. The brand influences political and planning decisions in Tesco’s favour.
    The “travellor” brand has negative equity, based around social problems, crime and flytipping. Again this is part rational and part emotional – for example there probably aren’t more social problems than another equivalent socio-economic group. However, there are some genuine problems at the heart of the negative image. Travellor culture also defines itself by its separation from mainstream society, which raises suspicion and is a difficult position to build bridges from.
    The long-term solution is clearly education, and here the eviction hasn’t improved the Dalefarm children’s educational chances. As travellors become more static perhaps their children will become better integrated into the education system and eventually society as a whole.

    1. Darren, thanks for commenting and you raise some important issues here.

      I shop at Tesco on occasion, they get some of my dollars so I can only be critical of them up to a certain point.

      But the point about education is crucial here, travellers at Dale Farm were sending their children to the local school, so education was taking place. Tonight and for the unforeseeable future that positive step is negated, the travellers are homeless. Tony Ball may be excited about his power as a ‘gypsy hammer’ tonight (and he’s probably toasting this with Tesco’s Cava) but his stance ignores the plight of children who by his actions (putting them onto the road) will ensure that their education is compromised. To be honest on the issue of integration with mainstream society, I will declare the limits of my expertise here, having never really worked first hand with travellers. But the first step should surely be that a ridiculously (despite the recession) affluent society can afford some kind of space for these people to live in. One square mile, apparently, would be enough land to provide legal pitches for all travellers in the UK. Is that too much to ask?

      1. I don’t think cost or land availability are the issues for traveller sites – it’s overcoming the vociferous local opposition. There are no brownie points for politicians here.

      2. I agree completely. Local politicians are hamstrung by their electorate who they know will turn upon them if they are seen to give any quarter to travellers. Which is why the matter needs to escalate up to Westminster and the chinless wonders who have no thought for giving billions of pounds to banks. These same people should realise the small, but ultimately solvable issue of travellers and it could be sorted at a stroke. How many MoD installations lay fallow at the moment (the answer is lots). Designate just one or two of these as traveller sites (well part of them) and the issue is probably solved. Politicians won’t put their hands on the traveller issue because they are scared, but it needs leadership; leadership beyond the narrow confines of party politics.

  2. All very well put and difficult to say more than ‘agree to agree’. Delicious, not, irony about the Basildon car park. The whole Dale Farm saga exposes much of what is sick with society and the current economic mess will produce more opportunities for attacks on the the under-classes (people not like us, wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one &c) to divert attention from the actual issues. What hope? Labour has already spoken of the ‘deserving poor’ and provides little more than titular Opposition.At the moment all seem to have been seduced into the pursuit of the chimera of relentless growth. Unfortunately growth seems to be measured in terms of retail sales. How will that work as real incomes shrink and the cost of life’s basics continues to inflate? It is very sad that companies like Tesco have their way not through corruption but the mere fear of litigation. Is the US model appropriate for the UK? No way to substantiate but I have been told that Tesco’s profitability comes from FX rather than the mundane business of selling stuff…

  3. i cant really tell but you seem to be hinting that the law ought only to apply to Tesco as they are evil and money making and that we should think of the dale farm residents as the pensioners. the law is supposed to be blind and frankly i believe planning law is very much set up with the notion its better to ask forgiveness than ask permission and i believe it ought to be vigorously enforced in all cases.

    if we did rip down half a tesco and house extensions, order the restoration of listed buildings ravaged because somewhat felt like it, then people might not think they can just do as they please.

  4. Wonderful post! And very refreshing after reading the horrendous diatribe about Dale Farm and the Travellers. I thought I might go and put my head through a brick wall if I read or heard the sentence, ‘They are Travellers, so why don’t they travel?’ one more bloody time (excuse my language).

    The law, with regards to the Traveller and Gypsy community does not apply equally at all. As you quite rightly pointed out, Tesco being an example. A place I will not shop in on principle. That they only get 20% of planning applications approved (if they are lucky) compared to 90% from ‘the right sort’ of people. They have very restrictive laws which don’t really enable them the ability to travel very easily at all. They do not enjoy the ‘freedoms’ they once had a long time ago. And as they have said themselves, the world is changing and they want a place to stay where they can educate their children and look after the sick and infirm (providing we have an NHS left at all of course – but that’s another topic). And why not? Surely that is a basic human right. And yes, they do pay tax! No they don’t steal your children and there is absolutely no evidence, non, to say that crime rises when the Travellers and Gypsies settle. In fact quite the opposite can occur in a well maintained, well run local authority site, where there is open and honest communication and discussion between the Travelling community and the local residents. In fact it can enrich a place if everyone makes an effort.

    Apologies for going on a bit. But we have an example in my part of the world that is happening as I type. In Wyre Forest there is a huge outcry against newly proposed sites for Travellers, Gypsies and Showmen.

    One of the proposed sites is an old disused school at the end of my road, which has to be demolished anyway. We went along to the meeting, my husband and I, where ITV were duly filming the reactions.They are apparently going up and down the UK to gauge people’s feelings on this matter and will be on the Tonight programme next Thursday if anyone is interested, but as it’s the media, I don’t expect it to be particularly fair or unbiased. Roughly 250 people there, when asked who opposed it every hand shot up. When asked who would support it, there was just us two, as far as I could see. My husband bravely got a chance to speak, while sensitively accepting the neighbours concerns he went about dispelling (as best as he could) the myths and fears surrounding these communities, citing facts and figures etc and was so ‘booed and rubbished’ that the chairman had to remind people that this was a democracy. He carried on and mentioned Tesco (which everyone had to grudgingly agree with) and asked them all to go and look at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who did an in-depth study about this. There is now another meeting a mile up the road tonight about another site, and there is again one woman and her husband much like ourselves preparing to stand up to the NIMBYs and racists. I wish them good luck. That makes 4 of us anyway, oh and 3 Vicars who have spoken openly about this in the local paper. The stupid thing is, Wyre Forest and Stourport nearby, have had Traveller and Gypsy families living amongst us since year dot. They work here, go to school here, we probably bump into a member of their community on a regular basis without even realising it. And as my husband pointed out, has anyone bothered to ask them what they would like to do?

    I can’t decide personally which is worse, there’s not a lot between them I suppose. Racism is abhorrent, vile and totally uncalled for and downright dangerous. Nimbyism is based on fear, bullshit and a holier than thou attitude, also abhorrent and completely unnecessary.

    Anyway, the events of the past week have been shaming for Britain. I don’t know what the rest of the world must think. Dale Farm is just symptomatic of something that happens to those types of communities on a regular basis. I just wish people could see it. Then may be the discrimination could stop. I hope people from Dale Farm and other Traveller and Gypsy communities get to read your blog and at least feel there are some of us at least, that don’t hate them and don’t want to ridicule them and are doing our best to change public opinion.

    Best wishes, Liz.

  5. Agree with you about the racism & prejudice. I condone it of course, but i don’t assume every negative comment about travellers is born of prejudice. Though in the same way as i understand why in frustration travellers setup unauthorised camps, i can also understand why people vent their frustration by having a go at the travellers.

    It seems this article, and the vast majority of the pro #dalefarm supporters ironically like to prejudge anyone who supported the #dalefarm site clerance as a racist who would sooner drive travellers out of the country than see more pitches provided.

    Apparently we MUST first understand why unauthorised camps are not only setup, but vigorously defended, despite lawful attempts to remove them, but we should not extend the same courtesy to understanding why somebody might agree with the clearance, instead labelling them a traveller hating racist automatically.

    What needs to happen is a full & frank realistic assessment of the issues surround the GRT culture & people. They exist, they are here to stay, and they damn well have a right to. So does everyone else. All deserve respect, and all shoul be able to live alongside each other with dignity & respect.

    1. Thanks for the comment, but you have not really read the article properly or deliberately misunderstood it. I identified two groups of people using social media in that article. The first ones were the racists, using explicitly racist terms and abuse. The second group were the people who simply wanted the law upheld and who by and large were not racially abusive in their comments.

      I did not prejudge the second group as racist in fact, which you will see if you go back and read more carefully. To the second group I was merely saying that if the law on planning is so important, so sacrosanct that it has to be upheld, and additionally race is not a dimension in calling for the Dale Farm eviction, then why not expend the same energy when companies like Tesco break planning law and where there are other large scale breaches such as that at Lakeminster near Beverley? I don’t see the second group doing that. If you do want me to judge the second group, then I’ll call them hypocrites. Has that simpler synopsis of the article helped in anyway?

      1. Thanks but i did read your post thoroughly and understood it. I also read between the lines of your closing comments;

        “So my ultimate point is this, and is directed to the good people of ‘the travellers have broken the law, nobody is above the law’ tribe on twitter; now that Dale Farm is cleansed and ‘justice’ is done, can we see #lakeminster lit up as a trending topic as you deride the tax-dodging pensioner scum who have infested a perfectly good town and chosen to deliberately ignore the law? Some of them even have their grandchildren to visit, using them as human shields to deflect the aggression of the state”

        What you seem to be doing is equating awareness of a topic and objection to it with a snide suspicion about hypocracy from the ‘nobody is above the law tribe’. #dalefarm has made significant impact in the news, bringing it to very wide attention. Now it may be that the media if fervently prejudice in deciding which stories to bring to the publics attention. As for ‘human shields’ i haven’t been made aware of this being the case at #lakeminster.

        It’s hugely important to consider the whole gamut of facts in these situations, as is done so through the planning process & appeals, and in court. #dalefarm has been through the process and lost, and if #lakeminster does and lose then they too should abide by the outcome.

        You certainly seem to imply that the second group is racist in your suspicion that they won’t take the same view of a similar, but importantly a different situation such as #lakeminster. Many people who object to #dalefarm in fact would support traveller sites on suitable land. They would dismiss the NIMBY attitudes of locals objecting without reason, as in fact many local planning councils do when actually considering the facts in an application.

        So perhaps i am judging too harshly – but you can no doubt clear up if my conclusions were right or wrong. If wrong of course i apologise for coming to the wrong conclusion. (let’s see this sort of openness of possible mistakes come from the pro #dalefarm supporters ?)

        Much better all round to ask neutral questions if possible, and not to prejudge the situation if avoidable. For travellers at #dalefarm or anywhere else, developers around the country, or in fact the residents at #lakeminster. The latter certainly do appear to have fallen foul of underhand tactics by the developers who on first read of the apparent facts i tend to think are the blame, whereas looking at #dalefarm can many residents really argue that they were misled and honestly believed they should have been able to stay?

  6. Alf Garnett’s a fictional TV character. He’s not real. It’s a parody of the stereotypical white working class *racist* bigot who slowly learns to lose his prejudice, brilliantly played by Warren Mitchell an *actor* of the stage and screen I might add.

    1. Yes thanks for pointing that out. Alf Garnett is not a parody though in the strictest sense of the word as a parody always takes an original work and seeks to mock, comment or trivialise it. There is no original work here. I do concede your wider point about him being a fictional character, but I took the line that he was representative of slow but sure change towards overt expressions of racism which took part during the social period when the programme was screened. You admit that too in your comment. I was explaining that racism used to be commonplace but now it is rare to see public expressions of it, unless it is directed towards travellers, in which case people (well certainly those on twitter), appear perfectly happy to write abusive comments in public forums.

      So I’m struggling to see if there is any merit to your comment whatsoever in terms of the wider aims of the blog post.

      If you simply wanted to show people that you knew that Alf Garnett was a fictional character, then well done, you can give yourself a big pat on back.

      Maybe you could start your own blog, you could call it ‘These are characters that I know are fictional’. You could start with Santa Claus.

  7. Not only do you leave petulant reply’s to comments that you don’t agree with you, you also censure any negative criticism by deleting their posts. Like I said amateur.

    1. Warren,,, please go away….find another blog to squat on. I did trash one of your comments, but this is my blog, I reserve the right to delete any comments I don’t like the look of. This is not democracy.

      So now, please leave, as in don’t post any more comments, as in, well just go away..

  8. Reading this was like music to my ears. I’m soo sick of hearing the disgusting comments people make on travellers. One group even went as far as to say they were rapists and that they didn’t wash 😮 I’ve never seen ignorance like it in my life. I was the only person trying to correct them and yet when he posted a horrific paedophile and racist joke there was over six hundred unhappy (understatement ) comments. The argument on the travellers comments were quite calm until I mentioned my mothers family were travellers soo I should know that they were telling lies. I felt like I was a child being bullied in the play ground with comments like. gypsy dirty gypsy. She’s one of them the dirty gypsy. How can they seriously go from trying to give a intellectual argument to disgusting comments like that? Why is there not a law against this type of prejudice ? We live in a very cruel world. I have never lived the traveller life style but a lot of my family do and yet at school the teachers would treat me different when they found out what back ground my family was. I felt I could never tell my friends as I was afraid that they would be the same as everyone else. But now my true friends know everything and say they probably would have treat me different if they had not got to know me before hand. I think its a culture shock for most people and they don’t understand so I suppose its not there fault. I feel sorry for narrow minded people that never want to experience or understand other cultures and way of living. But it doesn’t mean that they should be soo hateful because its not the life they want to live. Live and let live I say. Life’s too short to hate

  9. It’s a shame that overtly racist comments and threats on social media aren’t acted upon in the same way as, say, harrasment on Twitter against celebrities, or comments on Facebook about riots. Not so much ‘if the shoe fits’ rather than ‘if the shoe pleases the masses’.

    1. That Tesco example got brought up on Twitter regularly over the last 4-6 weeks. Like you say it was always intended to be a temporary structure to make up for parking spaces lost during work on the A13 which kept being extended.
      Also if you even glance at an aerial shot of the site in Pitsea and see the context of a temporary structure in the centre of a heavily built up area under a major road you’d see just how different it is to Dale Farm being physically double in size and more than double in number of plots in the midst of green fields north of the A127 in Essex.

      It’s a silly comparison – and you won’t see protesters onsite to support Tesco if they tried to keep it as a permanent structure; Even the other example of a site in Wickford which i thikn was actually turned down in the end – clearly a planned addition to an existing estate not just a self imposed site in the midst of nowhere.

      Dale Farm – http://i.imgur.com/e8D0G.jpg
      Tesco Pitsea – http://i.imgur.com/51obI.jpg
      Wickford site – http://i.imgur.com/ZmVHw.jpg

      Comparing applies with oranges in most cases. Total hypocrisy from most Dale Farm supporters and a refusal to actually discuss the details.

      1. Thanks for adding your comment. On the issue of Tesco which you appear a little fixated on, I mentioned two sites in the blog, the car park in Basildon and a store in Stockport. I have no knowledge of the others which is why I didn’t write about them in the blog posting.

        The car park in Basildon was of course temporary and I believe that Tesco knew that by the time any serious action was taken against them they would have taken the car park down. But they still failed to apply for planning permission for it, even they admit that. The store in Stockport, despite being 20% larger than planning permission, was never modified or demolished. Planning permission was applied retrospectively http://bit.ly/vmVjZr. As for these being like comparing apples and oranges that was the whole point of the blog, so well done for cottoning onto that.

        There is one set of planning laws for the country, there are then multiple interpretations of these planning laws by local authorities and there seems to be clearly different treatment if the contravention is by Tesco, or pensioners, or travellers. I will change my opinion on that when the pensioners are removed from their illegal camp in Beverley having gone all the way to the high court to try and fight for the right to stay.

        As for the Dale Farm site being green fields, I suggest you read the proceedings of the high court appeals where it was proved (in a court of law) that the council had already put hardstanding down on part of the site for which planning permission was not granted, and used it for storing cars (there are aerial photos of this online too). There was an already approved traveller site adjacent to this (to the left of the red rectangle on the map you linked to). I cannot therefore, follow the fantasy you have of Dale Farm being a site in the middle of nowhere, as if some virgin green fields were torn up for the site. Dale Farm was a council scrapyard and storage facility. Is that detailed enough for you?

  10. I thank you for your level headedness in your comments. Its refreshing to read a blog which doesn’t have putrid comment made about Travellers. I am One of the Travellers so despised by society or allowed to be. I was at Dale Farm and was fully of aware of what we were facing by the police and the authorities but also by those on forums all around the nation. Their hatred of the Traveller is shocking and seems to suggest something missing in their lives. I wish them luck and hope they find whatever it is that causes them to hate so much.

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