Paul Stainton: Commitment cannot be questioned

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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When those that have their hand on the tiller refuse to listen to the genuine concerns of those that are rowing the boat, mutiny is sometimes the only option.

If you feel that your opinion has no worth and your words are wasted, then eventually you will find another way to make your point.

In the end direct action was the only way that Martin Luther King could get his civil rights message across to 1960’s America and it was the same for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, when it came to forcing the establishment to sit up and take notice of the dreadful suffering caused by Apartheid.

I grew up in South Yorkshire, during the miners’ strike, where a whole section of the community was convinced that their way of life was being attacked by a thoughtless and cruel government.

As a child it was a scary but exciting time, where villages and towns came together, to rally against, what they saw, as an unjust and unsympathetic ruling elite - People who refused to compromise the values that they held dear, whatever the consequences.

A similar feeling is afoot in Scotland today, how else do you explain the beating that Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems took at the last election? The Scots were tired of their concerns being ignored in Westminster and they did something about it at the ballot box.

There is a huge section of society in this country too who claim they are marginalised and unrepresented and who are unsurprisingly less than excited about the forthcoming Labour leadership election.

Thirty four per cent of those who could have voted in May’s general election didn’t and if they had all put their “X” in the same “Apathy” party’s box, then that party would have had a majority in the House of Commons today.

The Peterborough Squatters Autonomy claim to represent a portion of that dis-engaged slice of the populous, those, they say, that have been let down by people in power, both nationally and locally – Individuals with mental health issues, the homeless, those on zero hours contracts and people who are struggling just to survive, in this era of austerity and cutbacks.

Their campaign to occupy various empty buildings across Peterborough and highlight their concerns is, they say, born out of frustration with a system that is inherently unfair.

They have been vilified by some in this city, like Councillor Fitzgerald, who labelled them as lazy layabouts and criminals, but it is all too easy to dismiss their banners and their messages, with cheap rhetoric and indifference, especially when you are sleeping in a warm bed at night.

I prefer instead to open a dialogue with those that think differently to me and to try and understand why they feel that way.

Despite their deep seated mistrust of the BBC, I managed to convince three of the protesters to talk to the Big Conversation on Radio Cambridgeshire and I found them to be eloquent, well argued and passionate in their ideology.

Whether or not you agree with their cause or the way they conduct themselves, their commitment cannot be questioned.

In a world where principles and ethics are in short supply and where greed and deceit have prospered, is it not refreshing to find somebody prepared to stand up for what they believe in, whatever the cost?

Where else would you find that in Britain today?