Why can’t the WI protest against these bullies that run our airports?

by Jasper Gerard

Sunday July 29, 2007

The Observer


Twitchers, Women’s Institute stalwarts, even the Prince of Wales could face arrest
due to an extraordinary court case. BAA, which owns Heathrow, has brought in legal
heavies to stop a group called Airport Watch from protesting against a third runway.
Now this group is not exactly Baader-Meinhof: its members are typically the kind
of National Trust tweedies who own gazebos and find Sudoku mentally stimulating.
Some 5 million members of its affiliated organisations – the WI, say, that notorious
hotbed of shoe-bombers – will be liable for arrest. Oh, and not merely if they
place a sensibly shod foot near Heathrow. Nope, merely pootling round the M25
or M4 in their Rover 45s, or boarding a train at Paddington or on the Piccadilly
Line, or visiting local villages will be crime enough to have velvet collars felt.

‘We are throwing the net very wide,’ says BAA, proudly. I gather it is invoking
a law called the protection from harassment act, which was intended for stalkers.
It’s true that Prince Charles enjoys a spot of stalking, but that involves deer.
Not since miners were arrested in case they might picket has liberty been so mistreated.
Even Gordon Brown has graciously allowed protesters to return to Westminster,
so why does an airport warrant the largest variable exclusion zone since the sinking
of the Belgrano?

If BAA wins it will confirm the aviation industry’s uniquely privileged status.
If a factory pours toxins into a stream, green groups can protest. Meanwhile,
aviators appeal to law while quietly flouting the law. An example from my patch
near Hever Castle in Kent: planes flying to Gatwick should be above 3,000 feet
but routinely swoop so low you can make out the carrier name on the side. Any
lower and we could enjoy the in-flight movie.

BAA is subject to no environmental levy for damage caused by planes leaving airports.
Whenever I visit really remote airports in the developing world I reflect how
much more civilised they are than BAA’s tawdry shopping arcades masquerading as
airports; it deserves no sympathy.

But you know what?  I hope BAA wins.   For just as a heavy-handed reaction to
Swampy and his Newbury bypass muckers turned us against road building, so a disproportionate
attack on plane protesters will achieve the exact opposite of BAA’s intention:
exposing what a racket the aviation industry is, and making martyrs of the rebels.

Jasper Gerard

Sunday July 29, 2007

The Observer

(This is the second part of a longer piece entitled:    

“Jail the jihadists together and we’ll have Abu Maze”