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Protesting and freedom of speech are not rights under Westminster law, and if you’re a foreigner, shut up!

June 22, 2009

As French nationals, we always welcome the opportunity to exercise and develop our best skill, which is to protest. Wherever we are in the world, we always find something that is not right and deserves a campaign, so that if we ever decide to move back to our native land, we have had a few opportunities to practice our favourite pass time without losing track too much. After all, protesting is a legal right within the European Union, so we might as well take advantage of this well thought policy by expressing our opposition to a few politicians, who are taking the piss in our neighbouring countries. The European Union encourages citizens of any member state to freely visit, live and work in any other member state and stay there for how long as they wish. That is why the United Kingdom is constantly full of some lovely 300,000+ French people who are primarily here to work and develop long-term friendships with the Brits, but also willing to help them out to exercise their legal right to protest at UK politicians who try to quietly impose stealth taxes, which also affect the Frogs resident in the UK. Before someone rightly instructs us to shut up and tell us to go back to Frog land if we are not happy with life in Britain, we would like to point out that French people in the UK, being citizens of the European Union, have exactly the same rights as UK citizens (except the right to vote at UK parliamentary elections). These rights include the one to vote at local council elections and choose the councillors who we believe best serve their local community. Before a few Brits (particularly politicians) reading this post think how arrogant we are, we would like to remind them that UK nationals who live in France have exactly the same rights there as the French nationals living in the UK. After all, this is more than fair enough considering the number of Brits who bought properties in France in the past few years, taking advantage of the strong pound against the euro and the nice and sunny warm weather.

Anyway, when it comes to protesting, French people are always on the move. We love protesting as much as we love wine and cheese. And because of this passion that we have for protesting, we don’t like politicians who try to impose on us dirty tricks to stop our legal right to protest. We are not used to dirty tricks from politicians as, in our home country, they had better do what we want them to do, not what they want to do, otherwise they get voted out or forced to resign. It’s as simple as that. Any French citizen who embarks on to a political career gets to learn this basic rule very early in their political life.

While we do accept that in the UK the legal right to protest may be viewed slightly differently from the one on the other side of the Channel, we were nevertheless horrified (to say the least) to find out how Councillor Danny Chalkley of Westminster City Council tried (with no success) to employ dirty tricks to put an end to a legal campaign against his motorcycle parking tax. From a French perspective, he should really shut up when he sees thousands upon thousands of protestors causing chaos in Central London every month. What’s wrong with this man? Can’t he understand that the community made up of all sorts of nationalities is not impressed with his motorcycle parking policy? Perhaps he needs to spend some time in Paris with his fellow French colleagues to learn how to shut up and run away when thousands of people protest on the streets at his bike parking policy? Oh yes, he needs to pay a visit there, and we reckon the only tax that might go down very well among the public is one to fund the cost of sending this man to Paris for some nice training. Oh, and perhaps also fund a little trip out there for Councillor Burbridge to enable her to see how many motorcycles there are in Paris, which don’t look like hummers and are allowed to park for free on the pavement.

So what (unsuccessful) dirty tricks has Chalkley come up with so far? First, he forced the closure of a public forum where people who didn’t agree with his bike parking policy could express their views and opinions freely. We would love Mr Chalkley to explain to us the difference between forcing the closure of a forum that represents freedom of speech (which is perfectly legal in the European Union, hence in the UK) and instructing someone to shut up? Is it not the same thing? To us, it is. Now, what Chalkley has forced campaigners to do is open an independent private forum that is not accessible by Westminster City Council Councillors and employees. At least we can now have a home for a nice and peaceful conversation without having him around imposing on us his legal threats. Second, and this is absolutely chocking, Chalkley arranged for a template letter to be sent to some beverage companies based in Westminster for them to fill out and send back to the campaign’s chairman. The letter was urging the chairman to call off the next demonstration at the time, on the grounds that it was causing disruption to so many Londoners on their way home. Ah, so can we assume that Mr Chalkley’s pay-by-phone system is not hassling the same Londoners on a daily basis, especially when they have to phone up an unfriendly operator, who tells them off or even hangs up on them when their English is not good enough, to pay the parking tax because they are concerned about giving out their CVV number by text message for security reasons? How can Chalkley ask the campaign’s chairman to call off a 2 hour demonstration designed to cause a little bit of disruption on the roads (as mentioned by the ITV news presenter) when he himself causes massive disruption all day long to millions of Londoners with his pay by phone system?

In the meantime, with next week’s demonstration fast approaching, we look forward to being kept entertained by Chalkley’s next batch of dirty tricks.


1st July 2009 – Please join the demonstration and say NO to the bike parking tax in Westminster! For further details, visit

1er Juillet 2009 – Assistez a la manifestation pour protester contre le stationnement payant des deux-roues a Westminster! Pour de plus amples informations, consultez


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One Comment
  1. Bob permalink

    Well done mate.Your English expression is excellent so don’t apologise !

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