I remember walking down the street with three lads on their Ford-sponsored gap years when I was 17. We had only just met and were chatting about school and the future. They all had a really clear idea of what they were about. After ascertaining I was studying French, German and history, one commented: “You’ll study Arts at university then”.
My response is indelibly printed on which ever lobe memories are kept and always makes me cringe, “No. I can’t draw. If I am allowed to go I’ll do French”. It was then that Arts and Science were explained to me – admittedly in a very non-judgemental kind of way but I was still left feeling a completely inadequate working-class idiot. And, if I am being honest, very jealous of their paid-for education. (The bonus to this conversation is that they told me I could go to uni; you don’t have to be posh and rich).
I have carried a chip on my shoulder ever since. Which is why I am finding it so hard to be objective about the Westminster Eight. Conditional discharge? They should be banged up for a pre-planned crime involving the heart of our democracy. Absolutely makes my blood boil. What if it had been eight of the hooded kids I teach protesting about the Asbo dispersal order operating where they live? Eight British-born Muslims from the same area protesting about the deprivation and poverty in which they live? Eight anti-hunt supporters? Eight Fathers for Justice? The result would have been very different.
The Westminster Eight have “good characters” and mix in all the right rich polo / hunting circles. The fact they have committed a crime is irrelevant.
I then stop and think. Had it been eight anti-globalisation protesters, for example, I would have thought what a wonderful stunt and supported them all the way, laughing very loudly.
I suppose that when it comes down to it you identify with some causes and not others – it depends on what is important to you. I have an inbuilt antipathy towards anyone with too much money and a predilection for hunting foxes whereas I see it as quite wrong that teenagers cannot stand still in the street in groups of two or more because a minority intimidate the local residents (with the help of the scaremongering local press).
Unlike me the law should not be prejudiced and The Cause should not be taken into account. Is it against the law to enter the House in the way the Westminster Eight did? Yes or no? Punish/acquit accordingly.
Unfortunately, there is a part of me that doesn’t have faith in the legal system and thinks that it is still prejudiced and biased towards the wealthy.