“St Paul’s is a very important site. What we’re looking at is an image of the UK.”
– Theresa May, BBC Question Time 3/11/2011

This is a true statement, though taken out of context I don’t think I mean it the way Theresa May meant it. You see, when she said it the quotation was joined by these words:

“Personally, yes, I would like to see them go.”
– Theresa May, BBC Question Time 3/11/2011

The message I got from watching Mrs May’s appearance was that she was concerned that by occupying land outside a tourist landmark in our capital the protestors were giving the ‘wrong’ impression to visitors to our country. Tarnishing the ‘image of the UK’ she referred to in their eyes. I can certainly understand why the government wouldn’t want tourists to see a large number of people so disaffected with their country and their government that they have literally taken to abandoning their homes to live in public, that way able to express their disappointment and desire for a change 24/7 to anyone who might pass them by. I can’t see how this, in any way, would give tourists the wrong impression.

It seems to me that Theresa May was more on the money than even she meant to be when she said this was an ‘image of the UK’. Indeed it is. What tourists see outside St Paul’s Cathedral is the evidence that Britain is not working. Not for everyone. That people are disaffected and marginalised to such an extent by the current economic systems in place that they are left with camping in public as their best of all possible options. Maybe if they pick up a paper they’ll read about St Pauls’ Cathedral itself suspending legal action against them. Then they might get the impression there is broad and growing support for these protests.

So yes, Theresa, what we’re looking at IS an image of the UK. It’s the UK that successive governments, I won’t go so far as to lay the blame on any particular party, has worked for and got and whilst I’m sure you and your colleagues would like to see them go I’m glad they’re there. I’m glad they’re camping outside the council offices here in Bristol as well. I’m glad it’s happening in cities all over this and other countries. I am glad that when people visit London they won’t just see a Cathedral but an ‘image of the UK’, something notable, something reflective of our country and our society. Let them see it, let them reflect on it and let the message and the debate rise up in all those who see it.

As a politician these people are the ones to whom you should be answering. Happy people who aren’t protesting don’t necessarily need special consideration from their governments. The Occupy LSX camp provides a concentration of those members of society who clearly most want and need engagement with and representation from their politicians. Go there. Talk to them. Become part of the discussion rather than wishing their voices would be silenced.

As Ed Balls said on the same show:

“Politics has got to rise to a better level and say ‘we’re going to make this system work’.”
– Ed Balls, BBC Question Time, 03/11/2011