Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Flashmob works fast and no messing
Apologies to those of you who don't remember the Flash adverts from the olden days, but it did seem like an appropriate title. Today in front of Manchester Town Hall, about 100 people revealed themselves in bright red T-shirts bearing the slogan 'Stop Airport Expansion'. Timed to coincide with the Labour Party conference, this marked the official launch of the Stop Expansion of Manchester Airport campaign (SEMA). The Town Hall venue is appropriate; Manchester City Council own 55% of Manchester Airport. After a few minutes, and in the absence of any high-powered Labour Party representatives (no doubt kept well away from us), we got more adventurous and lay on the ground to spell out words across Albert Square.
A nice change from the usual type of demonstration - participants get to keep a nice T-shirt and there are no mountains of placards to deal with afterwards.
For me this made 2 aviation-related events in 2 days; the other being a Friends of the Earth action to demand the inclusion of aviation in the climate change bill. This time a minister was sighted - indeed it was the second time this year I have come within a few feet of Ruth Kelly. Given that in addition to that I have taken part in a demonstration outside her constituency office, I'm worried people will think it's an obsession.
Anyway the flashmob was followed by more on transport, a meeting at the Convention of the Left. This meeting pitched the Scottish Socialist Party's Ken Ferguson with prospective Green Euro-MP Peter Cranie, and their speeches and the lively debate which followed highlighted a division over the issue of free public transport.
The SSP made this a big campaign in the recent Glasgow East bye-election and a similar campaign is being launched in Manchester this week. From an out and out socialist perspective this makes sense, as well as having popular appeal; why not when we support a public health service free at the point of use. However, bringing a green perspective shows drawbacks. All forms of transport have an environmental impact, and our priority should be to reduce the need to travel, focusing on accessibility rather than mobility. Completely free public transport would run counter to that and help to perpetuate the model of long-distance commuting.
More on transport to follow soon no doubt.