Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 26 September 2011

Protest or provocation?

The deed is done; the youngest scion of Clan Macheath has been cast forth to seek his fortune in the world - or at least in a northern university town.

The last affectionate goodbyes said ("Will you two just stop fussing and go!"), we set off yesterday with heavy hearts and lightened suspension in the newly-emptied family pantechnicon, hoping to be home in time for a late lunch.

No such luck, however; we had scarcely got up to cruising speed on the motorway when a car in the next lane suddenly lurched sideways. It was only after taking rapid evasive action that we had leisure to see what had distracted the driver - a column of motorcyclists several hundred-strong pouring out of the services onto on the opposite carriageway.

For the next hour or so, we had to contend not only with delays caused by similar processions of bikers on our own carriageway but also the erratic driving of motorists ahead of us watching the oncoming convoys or swerving to avoid slow-moving bikes.

The radio traffic news mentioned in passing a 'biker protest' but gave no details; it was only after getting home that we were able to piece together the fact that this was part of a nationwide go-slow, with thousands of motorcylists travelling at 45mph on sections of Britain's motorways in protest at EU legislation.

If this was meant to hit the national press, it has drastically failed; although there are some news reports out there, almost all - deliberately or otherwise - focus on one particular region, mentioning in passing that there were other groups out too. For those travelling through several of these regions in succession, however, the disruption was significant.

While I respect anyone's right to stage a protest against legislation they feel to be unjust - I've even done a bit of it myself in the past* - I have to admit to being a bit baffled by this one, which seems to have achieved nothing but considerable inconvenience - and possibly risk - to a large number of increasingly tired, stressed and hungry motorists, most of whom had no idea what the protest was about.

Even when I do not agree with what you say, I will stand by your right to say it - but really, there are limits!


*See 'Confessions of a former Labour acolyte'

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