“It’s really weird, the whole posh thing. Yes I have a baronet grandfather, but I was surprised by the focus that got. But I suppose it’s easy for me to say that. Of course people do care. Still, the price of privilege, someone once said, is absolute integrity.” — Tamsin Omond
“It was because of Pankhurst that we decided to storm the Houses of Parliament last year, in honour of what thousands of the suffragettes did a hundred years previously. I thought it would be great to do something sassy and stylish, so we dressed ourselves up in Edwardian costume and demanded an end to airport expansion.” — Tamsin Omond
“The second you say you are fighting for something you believe in you open yourself up to having the rug pulled from underneath your feet. But it was horrible reading some of the comments that people have posted to stories in the newspaper this week. So many were celebrating the idea of this little posh girl falling flat on her face. It was the first time I was made aware of the fact that my lineage and background is a problem to some people.” — Tamsin Omond
Why is Tamsin Omond, founder of Climate Rush, getting so much stick?
I thought Climate Rush on the Run, travelling across southern England by horse and cart dressed as modern day suffragettes, from Sipson near Heathrow Airport to Totnes in Devon, raising awareness of climate change on the way, with the occasional direct action, was a brilliant idea, I only wish I had been on the trip.
Dumping horse manure on Jeremy Clarkson’s front lawn was a brilliant stunt.
And look at all the media coverage. Climate Rush proved to be particular adept at not only getting press coverage, but very favourable press coverage. Not something to be sniffed at.
Tamsin also has a good track record in terms of activist credentials. London coordinator for Plane Stupid, last year she scaled the House of Commons, this year chained herself to the railings of Lord Mandelson’s house to highlight the plight of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the else of Wight, blasted aircraft noise through the letterbox of a Secretary of State.
So why such a negative reaction on Indymedia UK? It was not just negative, vicious personal attacks on Tamsin herself.
Was it because she is posh? Was it because she got a first at Cambridge? Was it because she is stunningly good looking, sexually attractive with a nice body? Being called an eco-starlet by the mainstream media, obviously did not help. Nor being sought after by Vogue and Tatler. Was it because she is rich, or if she is not rich, that she comes from a wealthy family, her grandfather owning a landed estate in Dorset. Was she too posh, her grandfather being a baronet? But then she did not decide who her parents were or what her background was.
I personally have a problem with Plane Stupid. They are targetting the wrong people. Hitting travel agents, delaying package holiday flights, merely serves to antagonise the very people whose support we need. The targets should be business aviation, airports like Farnborough Airport which has recently applied to double its flights, Farnborough International Airshow 2010.
I agree though with their overall aim of limiting aviation, we cannot have a third runway at Heathrow, unlimited growth in aviation. Something the government has yet to get its head around, preferring instead to fiddle whilst the planet burns.
Tamsin was accused of promoting her book. And yet I saw no evidence of this. The book was not being plugged on the Climate Rush on the Run tour. No mention of the book on the blog or twitter. Yes, Tamsin does mention the book on her own personal twitter account, but only to the extent that she is writing it, no crude plugs for the book.
I for one am looking forward to reading her book. If it is a load of tosh, self-serving, egotistical crap, I will say so, but I reserve judgment until such time as I have read it.
But even if the tour had been a promotion of the book, would that have been such a bad thing? It is not uncommon for writers, or even activists, to go on tour to promote a new book.. If the publisher wished to promote a book tour with a bit of awareness raising and direct action en-route, I for one have no problem with that.
Last year at the Guildford Book Festival, Mark Thomas was brilliant. His appearance was part of a tour to promote his latest book, Belching Out the Devil (a damning indictment of the activities of Coca-Cola). I did not see anyone complaining and the Electric Theatre was full. I know because I had the last ticket. I recall the Amnesty International event with Tariq Ali, again to promote a new book, was packed.
Why then these vicious personal attacks on Tamsin Omond? If nothing else an abuse of Indymedia UK, which is not a forum for abusing people. If nothing else all very childish. Maybe those launching the attacks should get back into their playpens.
There are are those for whom protest and criminal acts have become synonymous, where criminal damage has become an adrenalin-fueled ego trip, and end in itself. That is not to say protest, direct action may involve challenging, if not breaking the law, as for example the Drax 29 or the action at Hazelwood., but it should never become an end in itself, and for many it has. Social change rarely happens without direct action as those with power will cling onto that power unless dislodged. The focus on the ultimate aim has too often been lost.
Climate Camp at Blackheath Common was a success because it found the right balance on direct action, activism and awareness raising. By doing so, it brought a whole load new people on board.
What Tamsin Omond, Climate Rush and other have managed to do is make protest a class act, not class in terms of social divide but class in terms of style. As with Climate Camp, they have wrong-footed the authorities and remained ahead of the game. They have taken protest to a whole new level, and they are being listened to. For this they should be applauded, not condemned. Whether this will result in needed change, changes in the group mindset remains to be seen. But at least they have tried, which is more than their critics have done.
When democracy has stopped working, as it has in the UK and elsewhere, where corruption of the body politic is rife, there is no alternative to direct action, civil disobedience.
Our prisons are already full to overflowing, the courts have shown a reluctance to convict.
An educated elite able to organise has tasted the protest game and they like it. Government and big business pay heed, your days are numbered.
Is government worried? The simple answer is yes, as we can see from the mouth of Gordon Brown:
“The message should go out today, very clearly, that decisions in this country should be made in the chamber of this House and not on the roof of this House. It’s a very important message that should be sent out to those people who are protesting.”
In other words, Brown was rattled.
Tamsin Omond is the granddaughter of Sir Thomas Lees, a fourth-generation baronet and owner of the Holton Lee estate at Lytchett Minster in Dorset. Sir Thomas has publicly supported his granddaughters’ activism, calling it part of a long family tradition of philanthropy and politics. Her great-great-grandfather Elliot Lees was a Member of Parliament for Oldham in the late 19th century whilst Sir Thomas himself spends most of his time running a charity for disabled people on 350 acres of woodland in the Purbeck Hills. Her mother Sarah is Sir Thomas’ eldest daughter and her father John fled Soviet Czechoslovakia in the 1970s. They live in north London.