The Great Satan
Back to Somersetian small-town David vs Goliath politics now, and plucky community campaign group Forehead’s ponderous, circling duel to the death with the Great Satan of retail-driven consumer-capitalism
Tesco, feckless retail juggernaut, has finally submitted an application to parachute a grimly enormous 60,000 square foot megamarket into our ailing town centre. Public opposition to the proposed development is near-universal, but in another spectacular triumph for local democracy, our corporate-pandering Tory-dominated District Council is doing everything in its power to drive the deal through. Continue reading
A protestor unfurls an anti-Tesco banner in Bristol
And what better way to hail the New Year’s bounteous arrival than with the tale of another doomed-heroic charge against corporate unaccountability by small-town Somerset’s very own community Light Brigade, Forehead.
Another rain-lashed winter’s evening on the Somerset Levels, another town hall meeting about Tesco. For once, it wasn’t left to a rag-tag bunch of community activists to drag council apparatchiks and supermarket big-wigs into the same capacious room as a crowd of fiery locals. This time the gathering was council-organised, designed, apparently, to help the councillors who would eventually approve or deny Tesco’s superstore bid come to an educated decision. Continue reading
The Bemolution missed the Malteaser’s Easter egg by a whisker at the Forehead! AGM raffle, and walked away with an Ordnance Survey map of Britain before the Norman Conquest instead.
A period of mourning was cut short by the neighbouring rock-and-roll guitarist turned hard-left Labour councillor, who leant in conspiratorially to tell me he thinks we’re being infiltrated.
A middle-aged couple have started turning up to Forehead! meetings, and the word on the street is that they’re members of the Socialist Workers Party.
For the uninitiated, the SWP is a revolutionary anti-capitalist organisation, the largest far-left group in the country, with a reputation for being domineering, ultra-sectarian and very, very awkward. Several initiatives that have attempted to bring together Britain’s fractious left-wingers have ended shambolically in recent years, with various parties claiming they fell apart because the SWP were trying to take over. Forehead!’s veteran politicos warily bristled at the sudden appearance of our two new comrades. Aware of the baffling array of long-standing left-wing prejudices that have prevented people from getting things done for decades, the Bemolution was less concerned. Continue reading
Occasionally, Forehead! brushes up against the local big-wigs of representative democracy. Faced with an immovable District Council that’s openly disdainful towards a large swathe of its electorate, we’re left wearily appealing to a higher political power for help.
To recap: not only does the prospect of a 60,000 sq ft Tescos loom grimly on the horizon, but the Council now wants to sell one of our few remaining scraps of public green space to accommodate it. It’s a field with a play area in it, conveniently situated at the centre of town next to the waste ground where the swimming pool used to be. Tescos want the pool site, and the green.
And it’s from this situation that we turned to our MP for back up. The gentleman in question is a bluff shire Tory, a former army officer and a member of the socially conservative Cornerstone Group. He likes to present himself as an irrepressible backbench maverick often found engaged in blazing rows with David Cameron. In actual fact, he’s among the staunchest of Party loyalists. Among the townsfolk, he’s seen as a bit of a joke. Continue reading
Furthering the Bemolution in a portakabin, with raffle-breaks
When The Bemolution is back in the West Country, we’re involved in a local campaign group. It originally came together in late 2009 – council proposals to shut and demolish a popular town-centre swimming pool rallied a wide array of fitness fanatics, disabled swimmers, political activists, trade unionists, and previously apolitical concerned citizens, all angry at the nonchalance with which our elected officials were willing to close a much-loved, much-used public amenity.
Out of this angry mulch, something more permanent coalesced. The result was a multi-purpose campaigning pressure group that convenes fortnightly in a glorified portakabin in the train station car park, holding meetings that are a bizarre fusion of feisty politics and village-fete gentility, kind of like a Socialist Workers branch meeting attended by the cast of Last Of The Summer Wine. Continue reading