The Crumbling of the St Paul’s Chapter

Some interesting thoughts from Campbell Campbell-Jack on the ongoing St Pauls / #occupylsx debacle.

Even bampots should feel free to protest. The Occupy London protesters may be self-regarding and sanctimonious, faulty in their analysis and confused in their solutions, nevertheless, if they feel strongly enough they should camp out in St Paul’s and shout to their heart’s content.

And They Want To Set The World To Rights

What is much less acceptable is the behaviour of the Chapter of St Paul’s. Initially the protesters were welcomed, they enabled the church to demonstrate its ‘right on’ credentials.

However, the protesters stayed. Visitor revenues fell. Lo and behold along came a health and safety inspector who decreed that it was too dangerous to allow services to continue whilst the protesters were encamped. As a result the services at St Paul’s today were held behind closed doors.

I would urge the protesters not to give in to the moral blackmail of the Chapter.

The protesters argue, quite plausibly, that there is no danger posed by their encampment. Their presence is peaceable and they have no intention of blocking the exits in the case of a catastrophic fire. This is a something the possibility of which clearly keeps the Chapter awake at nights, St Paul’s having a long history of catastrophic fires. After all you never know when the Luftwaffe might return.

In ancient Rome Christians met in secret because they faced the very real prospect of being a lion’s lunch. In England Anglicans such as Latimer and Ridley braved the fire for their faith. In Scotland the Covenanters met in the hills because of the all too real prospect of imprisonment, torture and death at the hands of Episcopalians. The Christians of China met in secret because they faced concentration camps. The Christians of the Confessing Church faced the might and hatred of the Nazi state and risked everything, and sometimes paid with their lives, for the necessity to preach and live the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Chapter of St Paul’s crumble before a health and safety man armed with a clipboard.

The protesters may well be bampots, but at least they have convictions.

It’s hard now to work out who are coming off worse in all this – the protesters who seem to have no real point to their camps apart from complaining about something in a place with no power to change the thing they are complaining about and with no concrete suggestions what they want to see instead, or a Cathedral chapter with a Canon Chancellor who missed the opportunity to move the protesters on and a Dean now caught between a rock and a hard place.

If St Paul’s re-opens then the Chapter will look naive in shutting it in the first place, if it stays closed then they will come across as either being cowed into submission by some health and safety nonsense (and let’s remember that the *actual* health and safety document on which the Chapter acted hasn’t been publicised) or unable to accept that their decision to close was wrong. Worst of all, if they attempt an enforced removal of the camp then you know the kind of headlines that will follow.

Who’d be a Cathedral Dean eh?

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  • Mike Claridge

    In all likelihood it wasn’t a “man with a clipboard” but the fact that the Cathedral’s insurers indicated they wouldn’t be able to honour it’s Public Liability Insurance in the current situation. No matter how principled a person, or group of people such as the Dean and Chapter, may be about the aims of OccupyLSX, if Public Liability Insurance is invalidated the building would have to close. There would be no option legally, in terms of common sense or simple responsibility.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Makes sense, but then surely the next obvious step is to evict the protesters who are, let’s not forget, on private property.

  • Philip Cole

    I don’t agree that the protestors ‘have no concrete suggestions about what they want to see instead’. From Polly Toynbee’s Guardian article on the Occupy London protest at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/17/city-protest-occupied-mainstream?newsfeed=true

    “We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis. We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people. We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate. We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing. We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.” This is a preliminary “work in progress” they all agreed, waving their hands in assent.

    As Polly Toynbee said, ‘these are good broad proposals’. Clearly it is not a detailed plan but then demands coming from protest rarely are. Certainly if world leaders started seriously negotiating over these principles rather than hiding their heads in the sand we would not be at risk of sliding into the greatest depression in history.

    I think that the fact that the site is not actually a major bank is largely irrelevant. Firstly, if they attempted to occupy the LSX then they would be evicted fast and probably with much brutality. Secondly, St Paul’s is virtually within the City of London financial district and so their presence makes a powerful symbolic point! Thirdly, in this day and age of instant access media they get their message across based on the type of protest rather than the site – and the image of a ‘tent city’ is very powerful!

    More power to them! Policy failures of the last 30 years have shifted power away from democratically elected governments and towards global corporations, with a consequent shift in wealth and power away from ordinary people and towards the already rich and powerful who, as always throughout history, tend to look primarily to themselves. If this protest helps our cowardly politicians to start to face the crisis and the necessary business of re-regulating finance capital then it will have done its job!

    Mind you, I agree with the article’s thoughts on St Paul’s and their pusillanimous behaviour. Either they support the protest and they house them and take the knock. Or they should come out and just say they want them out, rather than hiding behind health and safety regulations. The CofE can always sell some of its vast equity and property holdings if St Pauls runs short of a few bob while the protests are on! Typical liberal CofE hand-wringing wetness!

  • Richard Ashby

    You should also look at this. Seems to me that they have very coherent demands.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/28/occupy-london-city-st-pauls

    Interesting too that a report authored/facilitated by Giles Fraser on th abuse/scandal of the current version of capitalism due for publication now has been surpressed.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Interesting last sentence. Got more info?

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