As the Gypsy Travellers barricade themselves in at Dale farm in Basildon; waiting for the bailiffs and the police as well as private security men to come for them, (my guess is they will come for them at the traditional time of 03:00 AM) we discover in today's press that a £97M grant made in 2008 by the then Labour Government has had only £17M spent on what it was for which was to provide new and upgrade present traveller's sites millions has been spent on housing projects which exclude travellers, this is a scandalous theft of money which needs to be pursued. A nasty but typical campaign is now being run by reactionary newspapers and commentators against the travellers with the Nazi/Hitler loving Daily Mail leading the charge they perhaps remember what the Nazis did to Gypsies and Travellers and they pine for more of the same.
This fascist rag is running pictures of caravans surrounded by rubbish and scrap and claiming that it is the Dale Farm Travellers site with no proof whatsoever while sympathetic supporters who visit the site from artists like Vanessa Redgrave to Bishops of different local denominations describe a clean tidy orderly place where doors are not locked because there is no crime and children play happily as the whole community looks out for each other, questions, questions as they say so; who do you believe is it the Nazi newspaper or the local bishops! It's a tough one right? Travelling people have had to live with this prejudice since time began the reason? Because they are different, they can be identified as such and blamed for every evil just like the Jews in 30's Germany is that really us? Is this really Britain today? It's shameful.
Gypsies have been around for as long as there have been people and they are recognised as a race like everyone else and they are entitled to proper treatment as outlined by the European Union. That means a place to stay and education and health care for their families. Some people do not agree: well tough, this is the law and it is being broken by lots of councils, Renfrewshire was meant to provide a place for them to stop years ago and has not yet done so, that is another disgrace. A couple of years ago there were complaints about Gypsy Travellers in my ward and I went to see for myself what the site was like, as I drove by preparing to turn in to the site I saw women gossiping and lots of kids playing in the sunshine. When I had negotiated my way past their makeshift barriers to access the site I found myself alone except for an old man sat in a chair outside a caravan he smoked a pipe and had a mug of tea by his arm as he watched me get out of the car and approach him. I realized that my presence had had the effect of clearing all the women and children away and I could feel their eyes on me from behind the curtains of their caravans, this sent a feeling of shame over me I know some people who would have revelled in a feeling of power, some are Renfrewshire Councillors but I felt shame.
After 10 minutes chat or craic as he would call it the children and women reappeared when he beckoned them out meaning I was harmless, a mug of tea appeared and I was made welcome. I decided to go and see them because there were so many vicious lies flying around the area at the time being told by some scurrilous people who were chasing votes, it was ever thus. My purpose was to let them know that as the local councillor I supported their right to live their own way without harassment and I took steps to make sure that we in Renfrewshire Council provided them with details of medical help if required, education where suitable and necessities like bin bags and babies nappies, I hope the guy upstairs was watching me as well as watching those who persecute others for racist reasons.
Perhaps if all local authorities were to provide what the law says they must provide things would improve for everyone: I have no fear of Gypsies or Travellers because they are simply people just like the rest of us to paraphrase William thingmy in "The Merchant of Venice when Shylock says "what is a Jew, if you prick me do I not bleed, if you tickle me do I not laugh"? Those hordes of upright Basildon house owning Christians in the Dale farm area should take a good look at themselves, if they do they might conclude that its time they joined the human race and learned to live and let live.