BY JAMIE FOSTER
Hard left students planning protests should bear in mind the law of unintended consequences. That group of nine students who demonstrated at the Churchill themed Blighty UK cafe in Finsbury Park, North London appear to have brought a great deal of useful publicity to the cafe. It has shot up the Trip Advisor rankings and is now number 17 out of 1,180 cafes in the capital.
A similar stunt by activists who invaded Jacob Rees-Mogg’s talk at the University of the West of England on Friday put Mr Rees-Mogg in a very positive light. Maybe the time has come where thee backlash against far left protests is more powerful than the protests themselves?
The reviews left on Trip Advisor for the Blighty UK cafe were glowing. It is unknown how many of the good reviews came from people who had actually visited the cafe as opposed to people who were simply reacting against the protest. According to the owner business has been booming since the protest took place. The fact that takings are up should come as no surprise.
People are sick to death of the actions of a small group of balaclava wearing students who use violence to get their message across. No one is taken in by the claims that Churchill was a racist who should not be celebrated. Churchill remains one of Britain’s most popular personalities. The students’ view of history will not prevail, requiring, as it does, historical figures to be seen through a lens of modern behavioural mores.
As far as Jacob Rees-Mogg is concerned, students attacking him in a university setting can only do his image as a polite, principled politician good. The fact that a university is a place where all views should be openly expressed and debated shows how self-defeating the activists actions were. Mr Rees-Mogg is tipped by many to be a future PM, and the fact that left wing activists don’t like him can only strengthen his hand.
In the past left wing student protests have had a large deal of success in achieving their ends. Persuading universities to remove statues of people they object to, such as Cecil Rhodes, or persuading them not to allow speakers they object to to be given a platform were achievements that left wing students could claim. It would appear, however, that protestors have overstepped the mark and are now as likely to help the causes they are protesting against. Diners don’t want their breakfasts spoiled by a group of chanting activists and are as likely to decide they are in favour of Churchill as a result. The general public is put off by attacks on people like Jacob Rees-Mogg, seeing him as a softly spoken, well-mannered chap who deserves a respectful hearing. We may have reached a point where the natural reaction to protests is a resurgence of quiet conservatism from a public that has had enough of the antics of protest.
Part of the problem for the protestors may be their choice of targets. When it appears that the target of their protest is strong enough to take being picked on then it may be understandable that a protest takes place. When the target is a small, embattled cafe that is simply trying to celebrate a popular historical figure, or a polite politician trying to speak to an audience, things appear very different. The British have always taken the side of an underdog, and in both the cases of the cafe and the solitary politician it would appear that the mob have created underdogs.
It is an open question how much thought the far left puts in before staging their protests. If there is any thought at all going into it they should ask themselves the question as to how useful their actions are. It is unlikely that I would ever have heard of Blighty UK had it not been for the protestors. Now I know if I am ever in North London I will make it my business to try a full English breakfast there. Similarly, when it comes to the Conservative Party voting for a new leader, ordinary party members are likely to think of Jacob Rees-Mogg being attacked by far left students as a reason to like him rather than reject him. Maybe it is time for the far left to put the balaclavas down and find a new way to get their message across – John McDonnell should have another word in their ears.