I have seen the future, as they say – and so, I believe, did everyone else visiting Westminster over the past week. It was more than refreshing walking through St James’ Park in silence, without the smell, sound and sight of traffic.
It wasn’t just the fault of Extinction Rebellion, it was also the police cordons which made this vision possible. And I am a convert as a result: any group which can attract every generation, find themselves arrested more than a thousand times, and still attract demonstrators against them from the left – who don’t like their determinedly non-violent stance – deserves support from an unco-operative crusty like me.
I use the phrase advisedly because those were the unprime-ministerial words used to describe the Extinction Rebellion people. The real tension is beginning to emerge between Boris Johnson and the van drivers who seem to me to be the only victims of these events, and the police.
In fact, the humane and dignified behaviour of the Met under Cressida Dick is one of the most hopeful and impressive elements of the Extinction Rebellion.
It is the prime minister who appears to have left reality behind. And if the police do cave into pressure from the more authoritarian elements in parliament and the press, and find themselves treating grandparents and nursing mothers with less than the dignity they deserve – then I suspect it is the grandparents and nursing mothers who will win.
There is something a little magical happening there, and I don’t just mean the celebration of mass on a roundabout at Trafalgar Square. One frustrated civil servant told me she whispers “thank you” as she passes the Extinction Rebels on her way to work.
So why has the civil service not been at work on emergency climate plans for when our politicians are finally able to put brexit on one side? Perhaps they are…