In 2003, me and two angry friends went to London to protest at George Bush’s state visit to the UK. With 100,000 others we marched through the capital- the atmosphere was sensational, and the queue of protesters took almost two hours to leave Malet Street. Bush had been in power two years and we didn’t want him wellcomed on our soil. We hadn’t been able to get to the anti war protests, so watching the giant effigy of him being toppled, just like the one of Saddam Hussein had been months earlier, was magical.
Contrast this with last week, as Bush made his farewell stop-off at number ten. The crowd was diminished to two thousand. I wasn’t there, but the anger still was. Why so few, after he’d had another five years to accumulate crimes? I suppose before it was a protest not just against what he had done, but what he might still go on to do. This time round, he was on the way out- there is little left for him to taint, his work is almost done. A protest against what has already happened, long after the event and without hope of changing it, is a lot less passionate than one about what might be. Guantanamo is still full. Iraq is still a mess. Aid agencies still suffer from the funds he cut them; Americans still go without health care and gay and lesbian couples still face a president who doesn’t want them to have equal rights.
But his presidency has dragged on and on. The shock of the new is gone, the contrast between him and his predecessor fading into memory. And hence, gone is the passion of those people who waved placards and shouted, took days off work, school and college to take to the streets. He is old news, and it’s too late to change anything. People are looking forward now, to his successor. He is old news.
Still, I would have liked to be in the crowd…