When I tell people I don’t know that I live in a Suffolk village, they invariably sigh and say “How idyllic.” And that’s how I, too, thought it would be when I first moved into Stradbroke in 2006. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way it is. In fact, idyllic is the last word I’d use to describe the poisonouos atmosphere pervading in this once-friendly village.
There are many people in this village I would gladly put my hand in the fire for, but they aren’t the people seeking to dominate this place of 1,200 souls; they’re not the people seeking to become latter-day squires because they have nothing better to do. Actually, come to think of it, my friends are those who work hard from dawn to dusk, and then spend an awful lot of their time volunteering for the causes in the village they hold dear. And democracy is one of those things my friends hold dear.
There have been wider and more earth-shattering protests against the 1% than this village could muster. However, when the village was in danger of losing its library some years ago, 250 people lined the streets, asked serious questions of politicians, signed petitions, and fought tooth and nail to save the library, which, thanks to their efforts, is, at the moment safe.
But now, in this village, today, there are direct threats to democracy, citizens’ rights, and freedom of information. The Parish Council is a deeply divided and divisive body, certain members of which believe it is acceptable to make personal attacks on people who don’t share their opinion, personal attacks not limited to fellow councillors, but members of the general public, too. There are parish councillors who believe that their word carries more weight than anyone else’s, including the word of the law. And when anyone disagrees with them, they intimidate and bully. I have heard it said that they even boast that justice will not be able to touch them because the person they are attacking hasn’t got enough money to take them to court. This is obviously a village where time has stood still – for some people at least – those who wouldn’t know the meaning of pro bono if they were educated, those who wouldn’t know the meaning of democracy if they had to vote for it.
Take note, you nameless bullies, oafs and law breakers. Justice will have the last word. And it won’t be on your side.