Stay Put, Now Go

Today, Spiked Online features two worthwhile pieces on two different ways in which environmental correctness can be deployed to disguise class snobbery — against two different segments of the great unwashed.

Brendan O’Neill on how green elitists want the traveling masses to stay put:

Under the heading ‘Chav-Free Activity Holidays’, AA [travel agency Activities Abroad] said: ‘…Children with middle-class names such as Duncan and Catherine are eight times more likely to pass their GCSEs than children with names such as Wayne and Dwayne. This got us thinking. Are there names you are likely to encounter and not encounter on an Activities Abroad holiday?’ (1) It did some quickfire research and discovered that on an AA trip you are unlikely to encounter people called ‘Britney, Kylie-Lianne, Dazza, Chardonnay, Chantelle and Candice’ (in short, thugs and slags), and are far more likely to run in to people called ‘Sarah, Alice, Lucy, Charlotte, James and Joseph’ (in short, middle class and mild)….

AA’s anti-chav advertising tactics are disturbing, and more than a little dumb, but are they really so shocking? Poisonous snobbery towards ‘chavvy’ and working-class holidaymakers is rife today – only it tends to be expressed in code, in underhand concerns about CO2 emissions, trails of noxious gases in the blue sky, the dangers of cheap flights, and the denigration of foreign cultures by unthinking Brits. AA’s mistake was to forget the coded lingo and state out loud the prejudices that underpin new forms of oh-so-superior eco-travel. Perhaps it has done us a crude service, then, by revealing for all to see the naked loathing of the young and horizon-exploring working classes that motivates much of the contemporary debate on tourism.

And James Heartfield on how they want to make those who want to stay put move:

Last week, the travellers living at Dale Farm in Basildon, England, lost their appeal against the eviction that the Tory Basildon Council is demanding. Gypsies have lived at Dale Farm by Crays Hill in Essex for many years, building homes and forging a community, and over the past decade their numbers have swelled to 300. The evictions seem like one more episode in the unlovely fight between councils and travellers, over the number of sites travellers can occupy, when they should be moved on, and so on.

However, there is one big difference in the Dale Farm evictions. The gypsies at Dale Farm are not squatting land. They own it. In 2002, Ray Bocking sold the land that the council now wants to recover to John Sheridan for £120,000.

The law that the Basildon Council is upholding is the law that protects the so-called ‘Green Belt’, which is supposed to stop our towns and cities from sprawling over the unspoilt countryside. Sheridan and his fellow travellers have not taken anyone else’s land; they have built their own homes on their own land. But they are being punished because they have sinned against the sacred cow that is the English Countryside.

Britain’s Green Belt dates back to the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. Many homes were destroyed in the Second World War and there was a lot of pressure for new building. But Tory MPs made sure that development plans would keep their rural shires free from too many lower-class oiks, by creating a new ‘planning’ regime that meant that even if you owned the land, you could not build on it without planning permission. They earmarked land around towns as ‘Green Belt’ with the express purpose of stopping the sprawling masses from spoiling their precious countryside.

Of course, such anti-sprawl elitism is terribly common in America, as well. For more on the elitist nature of anti-sprawl measures, see here.