Saturday, September 10, 2011


First Reaction: tabloids fear worst after High Court eviction ruling – but broadsheets sympathise

FROM THE FIRST POST,news,dale-farm-to-be-war-zone-when-council-evicts-gypsies


Despite years of legal wrangling and a protest movement that has been backed by Hollywood actress Vanessa Redgrave, the 80 gypsy families that live on Basildon's Dale Farm will be evicted.
Yesterday's High Court ruling, which rejected a proposed delay, means that around 400 gypsies will soon be cleared from UK's largest unauthorised site at a cost to the state of approximately £18 million. The news has bought Britain's relationship with its travelling community into the spotlight and has polarized opinion.

Wider issues at play
For the Independent, "the dilemma is not simply about planning. It is about how modern Britain accommodates unconventional lifestyles." According to the paper's editorial today: "The traditional itinerant gypsy life is already all but impossible. Now, after decades of half-measures by successive governments, there are simply not enough places for travellers to live – hence situations such as Dale Farm."

They're criminals, not victims
David McGrath thinks gypsies are finally getting their comeuppance. "Accusations of racism have become a shield to protect travellers from criticism about their behaviour," he writes in the Daily Mail. Decrying the "fashionable narrative of victimhood", he adds: "The real bullies are not fictional extremists but some of the travellers themselves, who seek to achieve their goals by brute force and fear."

Prepare for battle
The criminality of travellers also gets top billing in the Sun. Under the headline "BIG FAT GYPSY WAR ZONE" the paper warns that "left-wing groups, including suspected anarchists, are flocking to the camp to help the gypsies turn the area into a fortress," preparing for what is dubbed The Battle Of Basildon.

Gypsies and Hollywood don't mix
For the Telegraph's Judith Woods, Vanessa Redgrave lipsticked-posturing is getting too much. "Camera, lights, action, this is Vanessa's moment," Woods writes. "She has nobly volunteered to live with her new traveller friends, to fight for them, to speak up for them, expansively, at every opportunity. But has she invited them over to camp on her own land? Strangely enough, on that very subject she has remained uncharacteristically silent."

Don't cry for the locals
John Walsh of the Independent, meanwhile, has sympathy with the gypsies. "You just have to listen to the bellyaching of local property developers about the awfulness of having (my dear) travellers on one's doorstep," he writes, "to feel the nomads have perhaps earned a home at last in the Essex suburbs, if that's really where you want to end up."

This is only the beginning
Ultimately, argues the Guardian, we're stuck in a cycle. "Travellers are portrayed as a problem out of all proportion to the numbers involved," they note in a recent editorial. "That makes it all the harder for local councils to sell the idea of creating legal, safe places for travellers to live. The consequences are predictable. More illegal camps, and more local tension."

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