Don’t legislate. Pedestrianise.

Lord Tyler

Yesterday, Lord (Patrick) Cormack – one of those people here who has been one of my political foes so long that he has become a friend – asked the Government to enact emergency legislation to stop people camping out in protest, whether at capitalism or anything else.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells ex-communicated him neatly, saying, “The Church of England maintains a presence in every community in the land. It is a broad church-it is perhaps the original big tent. Is the Minister aware that St Paul was a tent-maker and that St John records that Jesus pitched his tent among us, in a non-designated public space, to rescue us?

That set the tone for our very short mini-debate on his question (8 minutes).  In truth, Patrick and I simply look at this issue from opposite ends of the telescope.  If the present protests are disruptive, and disorderly, that is surely a product of the inadequate arrangements we have in this country for people to make their views known.

I have long favoured a sort of Speaker’s Corner arrangement in Parliament Square, right outside the seat of our democracy.  It should be an active, moving space, which therefore deters permanent encampments of tents and encourages ongoing dialogue between the elected and the electors.

Yet for the Square to become a successful public space, for protest or anything else, it must be a place that the public can access without risking life and limb to cross the road.

A few months ago, I put forward a special Private Members Bill designed to remove the ridiculous regulations put in place to restrict protest around Parliament.  See Parliament Square squared and All square?.  I did so partly to provoke debate about how to develop and pedestrianise the square into a more welcoming, democratic space.

Not for the first time, the Hansard Society has done us a great service by producing a booklet illustrating just how this could be done.  Entitled A Place for People:  Proposals for Enhancing Visitor Engagement with Parliament’s Environs it does an admirable job of bringing together the various suggestions that have been made over the years into a coherent plan.  You can read it yourself at

Its objective is simple.  In the words of Peter Bradley, a former MP, and now Chairman of the Speaker’s Corner Trust, we want to reconceptualise Parliament Square as a place where the public ‘stake their claim as citizens in, rather than visitors to, Westminster’.

As the Bishop might say:  Amen to that.  If we could achieve it, perhaps there would be less need for people to plonk themselves outside St Paul’s, and less need to legislate to prevent them doing so.

15 comments for “Don’t legislate. Pedestrianise.

  1. 04/11/2011 at 10:50 am

    I’ll read it in depth later, but I noticed that the preliminary proposal for Parliament Square is to level it into a large plaza.

    I wrote a half-serious proposal on my blog a few months ago to do the exact opposite.

    I suggested that the best thing would be to elevate the square up by maybe a metre or so, with stone steps around the edges leading up to a large flat grass square.

    The advantage being that you elevate visitors to the area to a height that is generally above that of most of the road traffic so that they can use the square as a vantage point to enjoy the views and take photographs.

    With suitable pedestrian crossings, we could turn the current hurried crowds on the pavements stopping to take photos into a more relaxed environment where tourists/visitors are on the square and workers reclaim the pavements.

    Everyone is better off.

  2. Lord Blagger
    04/11/2011 at 10:54 am

    And what’s going to change? Nothing.

    eg. European referenda? Out with the whips, and the public get no choice.

    Greece referenda? Democracy? The EU doesn’t do democracy. We will dictate what you can and can’t do. What you have to pay, …

    Lords? Democracy? Pah, we don’t do democracy when we can have patronage, expenses … Why we don’t even need to go to the voter every 5 years to see if they like what we dictate others to do and pay.

    I know, lets throw the public another little sham. We set up a corner where they can have a winge …


  3. Croft
    04/11/2011 at 11:41 am

    “If the present protests are disruptive, and disorderly, that is surely a product of the inadequate arrangements we have in this country for people to make their views known.”

    How exactly has the presence or absence of a tent got anything to do with making your views known?

    • Gareth Howell
      04/11/2011 at 1:13 pm

      <pHow exactly has the presence or absence of a tent got anything to do with making your views known?,

      Now Croft is on the Marxist learning curve!

      Being a “situationist” is understanding that everything in this life is commoditized, rather like over the counter voting at the coop.

      In the case of tents the TVs and radios create the commodity from what is in fact only a load of tents. The more the reactionary clergy (they all are) get involved, the more like a commodity does their product seem as well… have some money!

      The quote used does mention the “Product”.
      The product is commoditised, something the city of London knows a little about.

      Good heavens!!!!!!!!!!!


  4. Gareth Howell
    04/11/2011 at 11:58 am

    It is one of the four busiest A roads in the country going past outside, isn’t it, but they have succeeded very well in creating Blue onroad cycle paths further west upriver, for which I am grateful.

    Sometimes cycle routes are the beginning of something better still.

    Widening the pavements can be beneficial.
    creating dual purpose cobbled road pavements can also be useful,as can traffic calming, the latter possibly the best first option of all.

  5. Lord Blagger
    04/11/2011 at 1:21 pm

    I’ll read it in depth later, but I noticed that the preliminary proposal for Parliament Square is to level it into a large plaza.


    The could extend the levelling bit to the west down to the river’s edge.

  6. 04/11/2011 at 2:04 pm

    I would certainly support the pedestrianisation of Parliament Square. I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents there already, with the way the pavements are bustling with tourists, and people continually dashing across the roads.

    As for protests, I think, sadly, legislation against pitching a tent in a public thoroughfare is necessary in modern society. In the past, it was unnecessary not because anyone was more sympathetic to protesters, free speech, etc., but because people understood that it is unacceptable and wouldn’t think of doing it. These days people will say it’s their “right” to do something unless the law specifically says otherwise, as they have no concept of responsibility or consideration of others. (The law against letting off fireworks late at night is a fine example of this.)

  7. maude elwes
    04/11/2011 at 4:20 pm

    @Lord Tyer:

    This is a really wonderful idea.

    I don’t like the notion of pavement rather than a beautiful square, with sweet smelling flowers. In fact a really exceptional square garden would be the best of all ideas. Plenty of seating or convenient places to sit and devour the architecture. No traffic at all is a must.

    And a big container of some kind, for people who want to give ideas to their government, or, to plead, as they used to of Kings, for special favour they feel they deserve.

    But, whatever you decide, this will be the best move you could ever have imagined. As long as you don’t get sucked in by the ridiculous designers of the Diana memorial ilk. No horses heads standing on their noses either, ala Marble Arch, or, that awful affront to the spirit that looks like a gents loo at the bottom of Park Lane surrounding the memorial.

    No, think pretty. For a change.

  8. baronessmurphy
    04/11/2011 at 4:51 pm

    During the Lords working week I.m a resident of the City of London. At the risk of being called trivial, I can’t stand the UNTIDINESS outside St Paul’s nor the residual nasty mess in Parliament Square. Like Croft I can understand the right to gather and protest, but why do they need tents to do it? Sorry Lord Tyler I’d bulldoze the lot, invite the protesters to submit a petition to Number 10 and have a nice march with placards in the usual fashion. They may have a good deal of interest to say, who knows? But sitting about outside St Paul’s isn’t the obvious place to influence any but the already converted.

    • MilesJSD
      04/11/2011 at 8:15 pm

      Beware insidiuos corruptions to your own mind-functionings and life-appreciations.

      Baroness Murphy procrusteanly appears to deliberfately omit more than one good-intention, contained in others’ submissions:

      “If the present protests are disruptive, and disorderly, that is surely a product of the inadequate arrangements we have in this country for people to make their views known”.

      (“)Britain as an improving-democracy needs to open-up many more ‘upwards’ channels from The People (LotB being the only professing democratic-outreach e-site available and then to only a very very few of Britain’s 62 million needy peoples)(“)
      (paraphrased from a previous blog’s submissions); and

      Baroness Murphy’s own admission stands out, that neither her governance-colleagues, nor indeed any-one (in Britain), really knows what needs & hows the protesters are asking to be most seriously scrutinised, at legislative levels
      The baroness says “They may have a good deal of interest to say, WHO KNOWS ?”.
      Realise please, that Britain does not even have demo-participativity and demo-response-ability, much less demo-governance;

      and that that in turn shows-up Britain’s constitutionally prevailing top-down governance-privilegeocrats, to be malfeasantly wasteful and suppressive of The Would-Be-Responseably-Democratic-People and of Our Common & Finite Lifesupports;

      and that, in plain English idiomatic language is
      “putting the cart (parliament) before the horse (the people)”,
      and is more anti-social and unfit-for-purpose than
      “pot calling the kettle black”,
      “biting the hand that feeds you” …

      (somebody take-over this greater-embracing- pro-testation baton, quickly please)

    • Twm O'r Nant
      05/11/2011 at 7:32 am

      The Marxist analytical “situationists” are creating a “spectacle” and the spectacle itself is instantly commoditized. That is capitalism.

      All things are commoditized as consumer items, tents outside St Paul’s, as digital bytes for the media.

      The same applies to money capital, and currencies.

  9. Gareth Howell
    04/11/2011 at 5:23 pm

    The could extend the levelling bit to the west down to the river’s edge.

    So that tourists could go for a swim you mean?
    It’s a good idea except that the Serpentine does good business which it might lose.Yuk!
    and what about the Oasis!? Nah! Nah! More research needed. Blagger is on the back foot!

  10. Gareth Howell
    06/11/2011 at 10:59 am

    Off topic or trying to be so:

    The questioner in the front row at the Hansard soc. peers’discussion who politely and intelligently enquired about the future of “Digital democracy” and who was rebuffed with “it will be a long time before it happens” and by only one of the panel of speakers, was actually the only person to ask a sensible question about expenses, democracy, and a host of other things too.

    People….. peers and MPs…. want big money for their words,in parliament…. and yet these words may be delivered electronically from their own residences or places of work, day by day.

    Only occasional real time presence is required, rathe like those safe seat members of olde who appeared once or twice a year, and claimed £25,000 per visit(ie by today’s money).

    far from needing a speakers’corner presence in parliament square the whole caboodle should be swept away, to be replaced by INTERNET SECURE DIGITAL PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY, but so deeply entrenched is the idea of expenses that no reply from the panel of peers was forthcoming.

    The interlocutor may have been familiar to
    Hansard society. He was certainly familiar to me.

  11. Gareth Howell
    06/11/2011 at 11:05 am

    If I may be so bold the one thing that would REQUIRE it, would be a nuclear disaster which would positively prevent anything but essential travel, but require essential law.

    It would be a pity to wait so long, and wiser
    to purify mwen’s corruption sooner in favour of a globalist/globalised democracy based upon DIGITAL DEMOCRACY, discussion, argument, resolution,voting ALL ONLINE and secured with modern internet security methods.

    The banks are 100% secure, with online banking. Digital democracy is potentially so, as well.

    That is my answer to Lord Paul Tyler.

    Backwards to the ark with speaker’s corner.
    Onwards with electronic speakers’ democracies!

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