Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

The End of the Road for the Protest March

So. Another march, another riot, and the usual arguments about who was responsible for it all kicking off.

There are two things that can be guaranteed these days following a march. One, if it’s a left-wing cause, is that we right-wingers will be treated to the ever entertaining spectacle of the comrades at each others’ throats. The other outcome of a protest march is … nothing.

Photograph of a the protest against the war in...

The Anti-War March, 2003 - Remind me how that turned out again?

Sure, it feels to those taking part that they’ve actually done something – a caller to LBC radio this week was asked why he thought Saturday’s march had been a success; “there were lots of people there” was a summary of his reply. So what?

Consider the recent big protests. The Countryside Alliance didn’t stop the hunting bill, the anti-Iraq march made not a jot of difference, and neither will the “March for the Credible Alternative”.

In a few days the new fiscal year begins. The budgets are set, redundancy notices have been issued, the better run councils and departments will be deleting the posts that were held vacant for a year in anticipation of the cuts.

The one so-called “u-turn” carried out by the Coalition so far – the aborting of the Forestry Commission sell-off – was not prompted by any mass march. It was a more sophisticated combination of media management, recruitment of the right people to the cause and the right words in the right ears.

The time it takes to organise a big march inevitably means that time is wasted. Then the reality of modern media – from the mainstream to internet social networks – means that nowadays where there is violent trouble and criminal damage it will be reported, regardless of how unrepresentative it may be of the majority of the protesters.

The tactic of moving thousands of chanting activists through city streets carries too great a downside for virtually no prospect of real success. It is an incredibly inefficient use of resources. The days of the protest march are over.

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