Mean fields: Jonathan Miller: A better class of bumpkin
I perform a somewhat abbreviated and politically incorrect version of the country bumpkins’ demo. The uncharitable would call it protesting club class.
I come up to London on Saturday evening and meet my children at the Groucho club, where we drink merlot with Rod Thompson, former member of the Buggles, and my French neighbour Rupert, who is passing through London for sushi on his way to play golf in Portugal.
Sunday morning dawns. It is a short walk from the Miller billet in Soho to the posh Institute of Directors on Pall Mall, where I breakfast in company with Vinnie Jones, shooter; Clarissa Dickson Wright, maker of game pie; Kate Hoey, renegade politician; and Charlie Wilson, horseman and editor, a former boss, presently a Countryside Alliance director.
I tell Richard Burge, the alliance supremo, that this is his chance. If there are a quarter-million of us in Whitehall we should seize power and declare an anarcho-syndicalist commune. But Richard is not a revolutionary. There’s no place at the IoD for street-fighting man.
After croissants and coffee the celebs (but not me!) are offered buses to the start points in Hyde Park and Blackfriars. I wander down Whitehall. The normal native fauna — vindictive, stupid politicians and their inept official helpers — are not to be seen. Mr Blair is at his official country house. But the Horse Guards have sent out their equine sentinels as normal, which I think is a subliminal message of support. If we seize power I reckon they will help.
I wander back to the IoD for another coffee and to await the tjte de la manifestation as it proceeds down St James’s Street. I have a chat with Sir Ranulph Fiennes and a man from Farmers Weekly. Ranulph says if this demo doesn’t work it will be time to get more militant.
Finally I join the column. We shuffle good-naturedly around Trafalgar Square. There are some very colourful people near me including a Rastafarian.
At the Cenotaph we fall silent and remove our hats; I pass through the counting station as number 15,704.
Around Parliament Square the protesters seeking to attract the attention of the buffoons within the Palace of Westminster are often eccentric. But today the corner outside the Foreign Office is given over to a festival of the deranged. The contrast between the public behaviour of the country bumpkins and the hunt saboteurs is telling.
Watched by the police, a hysterical man repeatedly screams “fascists” at us at the top of his lungs. A woman holds a sign demanding “Hunt Scum Go Home”. A voice comes back from our crowd: “Take a bath!” I hop over Waterloo Bridge, am back in the country for tea and watch the remains of the day on my unlicensed television.
The government’s designated spokesman is Alun Michael, a Defra minister. Michael has not spoken to anyone at the march as he did not go. He instead spends the day touring television studios where he declares: “I don’t know why they are marching.”
The BBC’s News 24 insists that the march is “hijacked” by hunters — a lie intended to suggest that the 400,000 demonstrators are dupes.
Reality check: it is the government that has hijacked fox-hunting and made it the focus of its rural legislation.
Why this demented legislation? Is it to distract us from the crisis in the countryside to which the government has contributed through its corruption, incompetence and mendacity? Is it because new Labour has taken more than £1m from various animal rights lunatics? Perhaps it is because Cherie doesn’t like us, or maybe our nation has gone mad. Probably, it is all of the above.
I know it is boring to go on about the French doing things better than us, but they do. In France there is more respect for culture. The advance of conformity and political correctness is under control. Traditions are respected. Bullfighting is banned “except where traditional”. No politician would dream of stopping peasants from setting out with the dogs after the sanglier. There is too much respect for wild boar sausage.
In Britain, meanwhile, the madmen are not just spitting abuse but are actually in charge.