Tomorrow is the day that we have all worked so hard to avoid: the start of the Dale Farm clearance. After ten years of legal battles and pleas that the Irish Traveller occupiers of the illegal pitches there should leave of their own accord, Basildon Council is having to forcibly clear the site.
I suppose the question is how has it come to this? How can it be that an ordinary English local Council is having to spend a fortune on evicting a community numbering in the hundreds and which includes young children and the elderly? There are a whole range of reasons, but if I had to pick just one then I think it would be the non-Travellers that have attached themselves to the Dale Farm saga down the years. We have had the whole spectrum, from lawyers paid from legal aid who were determined to push a weak legal case as far as it would go in the various courts, to 'activists' deliberately sabotaging confidential negotiations. Various academics and UN 'advisors' have dipped in and out claiming spurious and often simply bogus legal points and most have questioned Basildon Council's motives in the most abusive terms, as if that helps when any deal to help the Traveller community would ultimately have to be done with the Council. Our local Labour Councillors did not help, deciding that the moral high ground demanded that they not support any direct action against Dale Farm. God knows what they were saying to the former Labour government, who were in power for most of the dispute. We certainly had no help from them.
Now as we reach the end-game the cavalcade has continued. Vanessa Redgrave, more UN 'advisors' and a range of protesters at the site itself. Against that background and the time all of these interventions have taken we have now come to a forced clearance. I believe that if it had just been between Basildon Council and the Travellers then we would have sorted things out by now. With all of the various do-gooders and hangers-on then we had no chance.
I hope that it all goes peacefully tomorrow, but I worry that the malign influence of outsiders on the Dale Farm situation has not yet finished.