Once again, travellers have invaded Findon, forcing the parish council to go to court to secure their removal. Villagers are rightly dismayed. The claim that travellers have some kind of human right to pitch where they wish is entirely spurious. I immediately contacted the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner to ask that all possible steps are taken to remove these invaders as soon as possible, and well ahead of next month’s Sheep Fair.
I appreciate that Sussex Police are heavily engaged dealing with an invasion of another kind, the fracking protestors at Balcombe.Local people have legitimate concerns about drilling activity, and the environmental issues must be addressed. We all understand the arguments about cheap gas, but it’s not enough to assert this benefit alone. We need to be confident that there will be proper regulation of fracking to protect the environment. As I said in the House of Commons, conserving the countryside is in the national interest, too. But I doubt that local people welcome the hijacking of the Balcombe issue by agitators with wider agendas.
Of course, the State itself must uphold the law. There should be a place in a democracy for whistleblowers to reveal the abuse of State power. I am, however, unpersuaded that Edward Snowden who stole data from the US National Security Agency is so heroic. It remains to be seen whether the detention last weekend of a Guardian journalist’s partner who may have been carrying this data was legitimate. But I am discomforted by the idea that decisions about what to reveal in the interests of national security now appear to rest with a newspaper with its own agenda. Invading land, disrupting lawful activity, or for that matter stealing State secrets - it’s all too easy to assert some higher purpose to justify cutting a great road through the law.
In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons”, Sir Thomas More beautifully warns against such reasoning. “This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast”, he says. “If you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”
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