Sunday, 20 February 2011

Links to the Past

They say nostalgia isn't what it used to be; that may be true but it still exists, as brought home by two events which I attended in the last few days.

Site Battles

Firstly – 'Site Battles' on Thursday was a commemoration of the protests against Manchester's second runway in the 1990s, (Campaign against Runway 2 or CAR2) and was timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the opening of said runway. Veterans of the trees and tunnels were there, some reunited for the first time since the protests, to tell of their experiences. It generated a really good atmosphere in the room – these were people who had been though a life-changing experience together, on the front line in a battle for a sustainable future.
My involvement in the campaign was somewhat fringe – I remember visiting the camps on the site, taking food down and being part of demonstrations in the area. I have the utmost respect for those who lived there for months, buried in tunnels and sitting precariously in the trees for the cause. Here's an account from the time Schnews and here's the MEN account on the 'reunion' Reunion

It was good to see many links to the Green Party; among those speaking about their experiences were long time Green activist Lance Crookes (seen on video here and former Manchester Green Councillor Vanessa Hall. A 'World in Action' documentary of the time was shown, which included lengthy interviews with a 'youthful-looking!' Professor John Whitelegg and Gaynor Trafford, one of the 'Mobberley Mums' supporting the protesters who went on to be a Green parish councillor.

On paper you can argue that the protesters failed – the second runway went ahead. But together with the earlier protests at Newbury and other famous road battles of the 1990s, they helped to change opinion. Since those days it has become more difficult for both road schemes and airport expansions to get off the ground.

Expansion is still on the cards at Manchester Airport however – homes and environment are threatened by freight expansion – for recent news see Non-violent direct action is also still on the cards – this Monday sees the start of the second trial of protesters from an action at the airport last year. For details see manchesterairportontrial

George Osborne isn't Working

Given the apparent hostility of our new Government to the north – see here – it comes as a surprise to realise that the constituency of one of its principal actors is just down the road. Chancellor George Osborne is MP for Tatton which includes places like Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Knutsford.. Famous previous Tatton MPs include Neil Hamilton and Martin Bell, indeed two of the biggest news stories of spring 1997 were the battle between those two, and the CAR2 campaign mentioned above, and both of them affected the same constituency!

Those with long memories will recall a poster advert from the seventies showing a long queue of people at a dole office and the slogan 'Labour isn't Working'. This event was a recreation of that queue at Osborne's constituency office in Knutsford, with the title 'George Osborne isn't Working'.
The idea was the brainchild of Respect member Richard Searle and provided an opportunity to dig out an old coat and flat cap for the occasion. As well as the photo shoot, it was a chance for people to deliver a message to Osborne, which could be anything from a lengthy critique of his economic policies to a simple request to take the advice of the initials of his name and just GO.

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