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Tony Parsons Column: Charles right to do the hippie shake.

IN THE war between Prince Charles and the hippies who are squatting on his land, I find myself firmly on the side of our future king.

Since last October, a travellers' caravan consisting of 50 decrepit buses, vans and lorries has taken up residence on some of his land at Shores Hill, near Yeovil. Now Charles wants them out. Who could blame him?

There are few things more unpleasant than people who want to change the world but not their underpants. And our Chucky currently has a lot of people with filthy drawers camping right on his door step.

Yes, Prince Charles has a very large door step. He is one of the country's biggest land owners and the 130,000 acres of the Duchy of Cornwall, where the travellers are squatting, extends over 11 counties. But it doesn't matter if you are a prince or a pauper. Nobody should have to put up with hippie neighbours from hell.

Charles is a man who wears his social conscience on his tiara. He is going to get a lot of stick for turfing out the travellers, who have children as young as two running around in their shanty town.

Prince Charles has been photographed in the offices of the Big Issue, the magazine that helps homeless people to help themselves. He even went to school with a man who now sells the Big Issue. If any member of the establishment has stood up as a champion for the homeless, it is surely Prince Charles.

So is he a toff hypocrite who wants to help the homeless just as long as he doesn't have to do it in his own back yard? I don't think so.

Charlie has bent over backwards to reach some compromise with his hairy interlopers. For months his lawyers have allowed the travellers to stay on his land, accepting their promises that they would eventually move on after Christmas and the New Year.

But the hippies spoke with forked tongue. All of their promises have been broken.

The holidays are long gone and the travellers are still sitting around their camp fire, scratching their filthy armpits and singing a selection of Pink Floyd songs.

Charles was faced with two options. He either had to introduce the travellers to Camilla or take the matter to court. He has made his choice. A writ has been issued and there will be a private High Court hearing on Thursday.

"We would have preferred that they left of their own accord," says a spokesman for Charles. "Regrettably, we and other landowners now need to go through the legal process."

It might not come to that. There is nothing more cynical than an old hippie and previous experience suggests that the travellers will move on before they are kicked out. And then slouch back when the heat is off.

BUT Charles is right to make a stand. There is all the difference in the world between the genuinely homeless and travellers who spend their lives shuttling between DSS offices and Stonehenge.

In the Sixties, the hippies were a noble breed who genuinely dreamed of making the world a better place.

They might have had a soft spot for lousy music and even lousier drugs, but they were dissenting voices with a core of idealism in their souls.

When they weren't sitting around getting rat-faced while they watched The Muppets, the hippies of the Sixties fought against war, injustice and complacency. The hippies of the Nineties just get rat- faced.

Traditional hippies wanted to change society. Nouveaux Hippies just want to ponce off it.

I know you get a few followers of Nouveau Hippie up trees and down tunnels whenever a new road or airport is being built.

But these sad buggers with their dreadlocks, tents and dogs on bits of string don't seem to realise that they are a bigger blight on the landscape than the things they are protesting against.

If I was forced to make the choice between having a shiny new motorway or a bunch of filthy travellers at the bottom of my garden, then give me the motorway every time.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Parsons, Tony
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 25, 1999
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