What’s this about common land? Jane Merrick in the Indy this morning tells us that there are 3,870 registered ‘village greens’ in England and Wales, covering 8,770 acres. Apparently that's less than half the size of the family estate of Richard Benyon MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs. Merrick writes:
‘We don't take up that much land, we commoners. Our families don't need 20,000 acres to take the dog for a walk, or let the kids kick a football.’
And without a hint of irony, it seems – these rich posh people tend to have a substantial intelligence gap in that department - Mr Benyon has said: ‘Towns across the country have been held back from getting the developments they want through misuse of the village green system.’ (Nothing then about damage to the country from misuse of the hereditary and political systems?) The Open Spaces Society response is here and the straightforward dishonesty of the department’s line is exposed here.
File under Tory Arrogance. But take it more seriously. This is about their systematic attack on what is public and on the rights we have in common. It goes alongside the wanton, evidence-free and often costly decimation of the community sector, social support, public libraries and the postal service – things we own. Further down in her column, Merrick notes the irony in the fact that:
‘a new 10ft-high iron perimeter fence has been erected along the main public access area of the House of Commons. From the pavement, you can no longer see the statue of Oliver Cromwell which stands near St Stephen's Entrance.’
It’s a brazen stroke of sinister symbolism. Parliamentary democracy is bankrupt and the statue has been sequestered - by parliament! Perhaps the fence should be stormed for that reason - which in some eyes, in an added irony, would justify its installation.
This is all part of the determined re-feudalisation of the country, although of course as the increasingly perverse climate-change-deniers with ministerial responsibility for Mr Benyon’s department are trying to make sure, before long there may not be much environment left for the peasants to work on. And there will be fences around the whole of Westminster, like a vast medieval castle.