Stricken by a pre-emptive anxiety that I’ll miss the Occupy movement after its eviction, I spent a couple of hours at St Paul’s today. It was rather pleasant. Although critics often accuse the protesters of incoherence or obsessiveness, the complaint seems either disingenuous or dull. It applies potentially to all collective action – because groups of activists invariably attract some nutters and back goals which conflict in part – but political demonstrations have a value over and above the discord. Occupy has done a great job keeping questions about regulation and market corruption on the agenda – and the fact that it doesn’t make unrealistic promises or demands does nothing to damage that achievement.
What’s more, although the site was home to a few ranters and at least one dancing leprechaun, critical faculties and intelligence weren’t lacking. While I was there, the crowd was addressed by a guy called Nicholas Shaxson, author of a book called Treasure Islands, who delivered a lucid introduction to the history and contemporary significance of offshore tax havens, explaining how they were fuelling a competition to deregulate among states that was driving down tax bases and welfare provision everywhere. That’s probably obvious to some people, but I hadn’t previously thought about the subject of tax havens at all, beyond my vague and lazy sense that they help very rich people get richer.
Then, in the evening, I went to a party where someone who’s making it her business to find out about such things told me that the United Kingdom is about to take over aspects of the drone campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That came as news to me, but it turns out that it’s been relatively public knowledge since at least May 2011, when the BBC reported here that a squadron of ‘Reapers’ were soon going to be flying out of Lincolnshire’s RAF Waddington. Given that British citizens are now being targeted as alleged insurgents on a fairly regular basis – e.g. these two men – that raises some intriguing issues. Insofar as the government has previously felt the need to comment on such operations at all, it’s suggested that America’s in charge, but if it now turns out that British officials on British soil are identifying British citizens for assassination, that won’t wash as easily. Whatever expediency might support, homicides require justification as a matter of law in this country. More to come.