Two protests, one headline

I am against a third runway for Heathrow and for a referendum on the EU consti-treaty.

I’d be happy if both of yesterday’s protests were at the top of the news agenda, but it seems that only if you do something shocking (like, get on top of the House of Commons) does your cause get mentioned.

You can understand, given the slight attention paid to the “I Want A Referendum” demo, why people think marching has no effect…

From the Star:

Pro-referendum Parliament lobby
(Wednesday 27 February 2008)

DEMOCRACY campaigners held a mass lobby of Parliament on Wednesday urging MPs to back the call for a referendum on the neoliberal EU treaty.

The I Want a Referendum group’s action took place a week before MPs vote on a Tory amendment to the Treaty Bill, which calls for a referendum.Ministers claim that their 2005 “promise” of a vote on the EU constitution does not apply now as the treaty is different. But I Want a Referendum campaigners have pointed out that it is the original constitution in all but name.

Spokesman Neil O’Brien said that he wanted a vote for the good of democracy, adding: “I want to stop the government from wriggling out of the promise to hold a referendum.”

The cross-party campaign has also gained support from Labour veteran Tony Benn, who has written to all 646 MPs urging them to defy pressure to ratify the treaty in a Commons vote.

“The treaty transfers important powers to others in Europe. This decision must be made by the British people,” Mr Benn insisted.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was cautioned by Speaker Michael Martin on Wednesday after attacking “clapped-out, 19th century procedures” in the Commons, which he said were preventing a vote on a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

His foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey was ordered from the chamber on Tuesday after repeatedly protesting that his party’s bid for a referendum on EU membership was not selected for debate and vote.

At Prime Minister’s question time, Gordon Brown taunted: “Welcome back. I hope this time you can stay long enough to hear the answers.”

Heathrow activists reach for the skies
(Wednesday 27 February 2008)


ANTI-HEATHROW expansion activists confounded Westminster security on Wednesday with a dramatic rooftop protest at the Houses of Parliament.

Five members of campaign group Plane Stupid unfurled two huge banners, one reading “No Third Runway” and the other – in a reference to the cosy relationship between airport operator BAA and new Labour – “BAA HQ.”

Plane Stupid said that they gained access to Parliament as visitors, walked through the building, got into a lift and then simply climbed onto the roof.

The daring demo took place on the final day of the Brown government’s “sham consultation” on expanding Heathrow airport.

Protesters charged that “the democratic process has been corrupted” and that the aviation industry “has taken full advantage of a weak Prime Minister to get the Heathrow consultation fixed.”

They made paper aeroplanes out of confidential Whitehall documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which they glided into the MPs’ car park below.

Speaking from the rooftop, activist Richard George said: “We’ve come to this symbolic home of democracy to make clear that the consultation process of the third runway at Heathrow has, from the beginning, been a sham.

“These Department for Transport documents prove that the British Airports Authority wrote sections of the consultation and that there has been a BAA official within the consultation committee pushing forward their agenda at the expense of the 70 per cent of Londoners who don’t want the runaway.”

He stressed: “We’re taking direct action as a last resort because we don’t believe that the consultation has been a democratic process.

“This is the beginning of a campaign of direct action that will not cease until we feel we’re being listened to and until we’re satisfied that it’s Londoners’ views, rather than BAA, that the government is paying attention to.”

Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell – who has led local protests against the runway plans and whose constituency contains Heathrow – warned that “direct action is an inevitable consequence of government refusing to listen to communities under threat and to the threat to our planet from climate change.”

He revealed that “no minister has visited my constituency to meet the people who will lose their homes and communities as a result of the proposed third runway – although Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly visited Heathrow to meet aviation businesses.”

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