Home Articles About Chartist Subscribe Links Search
This month
Archive of past articles
Labour movement
British politics
International politics
Economy and society
Science and culture

Politics is getting nastier

Jenny Bowie on a bad month for democratic politics

Is the police force now an institution that has as a core function the suppression of the historic right of the British citizen to peaceful protest? Ever since 7/7 and the rolling out of anti-terror laws the right to protest has ebbed away. The police, increasingly operating under the influence of government, are appearing to treat protesters as though they are terrorists - in a way which would have previously been unacceptable to the general British public. The single video footage of police battering Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller, which no doubt contributed to his heart attack a few minutes later, suggested an isolated incident. However as a second, and now a third, video plus photos and reports have been released the police are coming under serious scrutiny.

Also worrying is that police involved seemed to have removed their numbers and/ or covered their faces. This seems to be a new development. This does suggest that some police officers had the intention of using violence, irrespective of the type of altercations involved. Just like the few 'anarchists' who smashed in the windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland, within any group there will always be a few who are only out for a fight. A violent policeman is no better than a violent ‘anarchist' – breaking a law we pay them to enforce. Without the video footage taken by protesters and passers by, and in one case a banker, none of these cases would have been investigated. Normally the left are quite critical of the media, but I think this is one case where I am thankful for the media's coverage. Incidents such as these and worse are common in protests all around the world, and if it wasn't for our relatively unrestricted media, the police may not have been called to account. Ironically all this occurred after it was made illegal to take a photograph of a police officer.

Moving on, pathetic and childish behaviour in British politics has been highlighted in the case of Damian McBride. You only have to look at prime ministers questions or the contents of Harriet Harman's TV package to wonder if we can trust them to take their job seriously. As a ‘special advisor' I can only imagine McBride has more time on his hands that most MPs and this is probably why he got caught. Many Chartist readers will be familiar with the blogs that seem to excite some middle age Labour cognoscenti, and the habit – increasingly an addiction of slagging off each other, the Tories, and anyone up to and including Peaches Geldof. I'm sure the Tories have their own version of Red Rag. Of course everyone likes a bitch or two now and then, but politics is a serious business. You wouldn't walk up to a colleague and tell him that his girlfriend smells, so why put it on the internet? As a teacher once told me, don't put anything on the internet you wouldn't want your mother to see.

To all the MPs, political advisers and labour bloggers out there - Grow Up! Mr ‘Guido Fawkes' himself argues on Newsnight that it is only independent journalists such as him who can subject the government to scrutiny , as the main broadcasters have to keep up a cosy working relationship with those in politics. To an extent I support this argument. Blogs are a form of unregulated free expression, and can contribute to transparency. However the deliberate creation of slander by a government employed special advisor funded by the taxpayer is beyond free expression, and this story should hopefully bring the role of special advisors, and the use of blogs under public scrutiny. Who guards the guards?

Meanwhile, it seems the government are ploughing ahead with their nuclear power expansion policy. Is it sensible, or even practical in the current economic climate, to commit to such a high cost and high risk programme? The list of problems with nuclear power from the security threat to the environmental damage seems to be discounted by government authorities, but the cost cannot be ignored. I can understand the fear felt by those who live near the proposed sites. Will the government provide new jobs and regeneration in the effected areas to placate opponents ? Remember Chernobyl. The risk is not worth taking.