Warning: this post contains images of confrontation and challenges by door-staff
By this morning it was confirmed: the weird UK Independence Party (UKIP) made many gains in the local council elections in England. What does this unfortunate party stand for? They stand for repealing the climate change act (because climate change is a myth peddled by pigmented European intellectuals); they stand for repealing the ban on smoking in public places (because cancer from second-hand smoke is a myth spun by public sector types who like libraries, tax and falafel); they stand for ‘freedom’ to allow our protean, base animal psychology to do whatever it feels like within the private and public sphere and hang the sensitivities of people for whom the market is torture-by-barter; they stand, in other words, for science, for knowledge, for learning to have no part in how policy is confected, preferring the sort of prejudice and gut-instinct you find at the bottom of a racist toby-jug.
With this in mind, last week we hopped over to Cardiff to lend support to Welsh Labour’s fight against UKIP in the concurrent European elections in Wales. As Welsh Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services, Labour’s Mark Drakeford has made a lot of positive noises regarding the malignant influence of bad lifestyle choices on the health of his nation. It was also a chance, courtesy of Gerskzer, to raise some awareness about making people who ‘vape’ look like they’ve got Parkinsons disease (to put children off). At least, that was the plan.
Sadly, what should’ve been a productive day out turned bubonically sour when heavy-handed forces – at a guess ultimately deriving from Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, Big Sugar, Big Sodium, Big Carbon and Big Silicate – put pressure on the door-staff of the Welsh Assembly – beyond the purview of Mr Drakeford – to shunt us away from effective areas of action and deny us our right to free assembly in the heart of a nation which sings ‘hymns and arias’ whenever such gathering happens above five or six figures.
But then, the bullies didn’t have the last word. Fortunately, the trip was saved by Len Jones, leader of Caerphilly Council. Unbidden, Len came down to Cardiff to make up our figures and after the rude shunt upstreet by security goons was determined to show us the real and positive side of Welsh health policy. With his invitation, we headed up to Tredomen in the Valleys, home to the HQ of Caerphilly Borough Council, for a chat about the truly brilliant forward-stance Caerphilly are taking on health as it applies to its own staff inside council spaces. Other councils would do extremely well to take note. Click on the first pic to begin a photostream of our journey to the Welsh Assembly. An audio report of the extraordinary efforts at Caerphilly Council will become available in the next day or two.
UPDATE: Our audio report, embargoed since we made this post, is now finally available here.
15.05.14 Members of LFG gather at Euston’s Eurostar station, complete with rubber oldie masks, ready for a day of solidarity and protest at the headquarters of the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff. The aim was to show support for the assembly’s health plans, specifically e-cigarette regulation and make as many assembly members as possible aware of our ‘Shakin Vapin’ campaign to add small jumping bean motors to the devices to make users look like they’re decrepit. E-cigarettes are renormalising smoking in a way that has worrying consequences for children and police officers/bar staff.
Part of our plan was to street-survey young people on the relative attractiveness of older, shakier people and younger, more bodily disciplined people. Jane, an older (and shakier) lady on our team, was ready to ‘shake her thang’ (neck) for us as our older model.
Notice anything? As the Gloucestershire countryside careens past, our view is compromised by a greasy residue on the windows. What could it be? The answer comes from our ticket inspector who tells us our carriage is often conjoined with the disco-carriage chartered by Welsh MEPs on the last leg of their Euro journey home from Euston to Cardiff. The residue builds up from the glycerine smoke machine, exactly the same residue that goes into the lungs of vapers. If you were to hold up x-rays of vapers’ lungs against the window its likely you wouldn’t get to see Swindon at all.
Wales is a foreign country. They do things differently there. Like use two languages on the signs of their metro system. 11.1% of the population speak Cymraeg. Rydw i’n hoffi coffi!
One direction: our aim – the Welsh Assembly; our purpose – assembly.
Heading down the boulevard: note the preponderance of street furniture in our way (see the next photo but 3).
Testing, testing: testing our cardboard cutout protest boards.
The neoclassical, Palladian splendour of Cardiff’s legislative district is a huge draw to all manner of protest groups…
…these guys were protesting about the increase in black balloons.
…while these guys were protesting about the increase in street furniture on these very streets (see the last photo but 3).
A bit of good luck: head of Caerphilly Council Len Jones, wearing the ceremonial Caerphilly Council hat, makes a welcome addition to our number. He invites us back to Tredomen later and reveals a spectacular scheme.
Setting up the cardboard protest outside the grand entrance of the Assembly.
Young Welsh love: “We’ve ornly got an hour for lunch, get a bloody shift on Gwenllian.”
Gathering for the main event: before powerful forces decided to wield their unaccountable influence the plan was to shake one each of the flagpoles as a symbolic representation of Parkinsonised vapourisers. But then the brutal, powerful forces turned up.
Brutally shown the door: a security detail does the violent bidding of market bullies. (Also, note the street furniture.)
Luckily, the next day, a trip to Caerphilly Council restored our faith in government. We report soon.