St Paul's protesters can stay until the New Year after humiliating climbdown by authorities

  • PM backs Dr Rowan Williams' call for greater responsibility by high earners
  • Cameron stops short of supporting Archbishop's call for 'Robin Hood tax'
  • St Paul's abandons legal action against protesters
  • Occupy London group now vows to stay until at least Christmas

St Paul's protesters were handed a two-month reprieve yesterday after the authorities offered to allow them to stay until the New Year.

In a humiliating climbdown, the City of London Corporation said it would abandon legal action against the campers if they leave peacefully in early 2012.

But protesters are already aiming to stay through the Olympic Games next summer – which would guarantee international attention for their cause and embarrassment for the Government.

Hard at work: A protester with a mask of David Cameron on his head cleans the Occupy London camp area outside St Paul's Cathedral.

And a clash between campsite and authorities is likely before next weekend, when Saturday’s Lord Mayor’s Show will bring tens of thousands of spectators to the City, and Remembrance Sunday, as both feature services at St Paul’s.

As late as Tuesday morning the Corporation was preparing to hand the camp a 48-hour eviction notice, but was forced to change its policy after the Cathedral publicly backed the protesters.

Four of the protesters then met representatives from the local authority in an attempt to resolve issues in a non-violent and non-confrontational manner.

Reprieve: Protesters were due to be served with legal notices, but that action has been called off

Archbishop: Dr Rowan Williams (left) has kept his counsel since the protest began but, after the resignation of Dean of St Paul's Cathedral Graeme Knowles (right), he has spoken and backed the demonstrators


Chancellor George Osborne was last night on collision course with Church leaders after it emerged he has serious doubts about moves to bring in a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on bankers.

The European Union tax will hit shares, bonds and currency deals – but bankers fears it will harm London’s position as a financial centre.

As one of the central planks of the protests at St Paul’s Cathedral, the tax is also backed by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. He said: ‘There’s an impatience with a return to “business as usual” – represented by still soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices.’

But a private letter by Mr Osborne to bank chiefs claims the ‘necessary international consensus does not exist’ to impose the tax.

As part of last night’s deal, the City of London Corporation asked protesters to reduce the number of tents to enable access to St Paul’s churchyard and abide by health and safety legislation.

Tina Rothery, 49, who attended the meeting, said: ‘They want a slight but visible reduction of tents, but otherwise we can stay until the New Year.

‘I think this is a huge climbdown for the City of London. At the start of this week it was taking legal action to evict us and about to hand us our notice. Now it is allowing us to stay until the New Year.’

The offer will now be discussed at the camp’s general assembly, which is held twice a day, and with a vote on the proposal expected today.

But many protesters have already expressed a desire to stay long-term under the cathedral. Camp spokesman Ronan McNern said: ‘Some of our camp say it should be a permanent back-drop and we should be here for the Olympics and beyond.

‘But things are changing so fast that we can’t really say anything for certain. Guessing at any sort of timeframe is something we can’t really do. We’ve had offers of  better tents so we can upgrade the camp which would enable us to stay for longer.’

The looming difficulty for City authorities now is the annual Lord Mayor’s Show next Saturday, when a parade of 6,000 people, including a large military presence, attracts thousands of spectators.

Mr McNern said: ‘We won’t take the tents down for either Remembrance Sunday or the Lord Mayor’s Show but we will work with St Paul’s.

‘We’ll be provocative but peaceful. We want to get people involved but not anything disruptive. We want this to be a safe space for campers and visitors, and it’s not about interrupting the cathedral’s work.’

Protest leaders have met with St Paul's officials to discuss were health and safety and to ensure that upcoming events at the cathedral run smoothly

'Untenable': Rt Rev Knowles became the second of the cathedral's senior clergy to resign in less than a week

An unlikely crowd: A demonstrator directs questions to Rt Rev Knowles (second from right), and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres (right) at the weekend

There are now around 24 Occupy tent protests around Britain.

One such rally is taking place in Bristol, where tents have been pitched on the cathedral-owned College Green for the past three weeks.

Bristol City Council has declared the protest illegal but those on the Green are understood to be ready with a legal challenge if an attempt is made to move them.

Occupy Bristol: People walk past tents belonging to anti-capitalist protesters

Resolute: Protesters in Bristol say they have no intention of leaving yet

Anti-capitalist: A protester smokes a cigarette as he sits beside a fire at the Bristol camp