Editor-At-Large: Creating fear is this brutal government's idea of a policy

 

Share
Related Topics

Around 9pm on Wednesday, a police helicopter hovered a few hundred feet over my home (next to sheltered housing for the elderly) in central London. The noise was deafening, the feeling of utter helplessness unnerving. Why were the residents of Islington, Holborn, Finsbury and Clerkenwell being subjected to unpleasant harassment in the name of maintaining law and order? It was clearly pointless calling the police, so I just seethed.

This noise pollution had lasted for hours – helicopters circling the skies over the City from early afternoon, monitoring the march organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. What were they doing now? Filming us eating our supper with their heat-seeking cameras? Everyone had departed hours earlier and the streets were completely empty. Castigated for not deploying enough officers to prevent the violence and destruction of the student fees demo a year ago, and then roundly criticised over the summer riots, the police have decided the best way to control future demonstrations is by using scare tactics and bullyboy behaviour.

In advance of last week's protests, the Met leaked a widely reported story that, if provoked, they would be using rubber bullets to contain any serious trouble. Although the Home Secretary, Theresa May, later said that there were no plans to do so, the damage had been done – it seemed that everyone involved had decided this demonstration would almost certainly end in disorder. Not surprisingly, many people were scared and decided not to exercise their right to come to protest in London. Mothers would have asked their children not to attend in case they were injured, and anyone with young children would have stayed away.

The police also claimed they'd been monitoring anarchist websites which were promising to hijack the event and turn it into a "sea of rage". This ludicrous threat was used as the justification for 4,000 police officers (including 500 drafted in from outside London at considerable expense) surrounding a peaceful march of just 2,500 people. St Paul's Cathedral was surrounded by officers in riot gear keeping the anti-capitalism campers well away from the protesters.

When a small group of marchers tried to set up a camp in Trafalgar Square, 25 tents were removed within an hour. Only 20 people were arrested throughout the afternoon, and there was no damage to property so I suppose the police could claim that their tactics were justified. Nevertheless, the whole episode raises serious questions about media manipulation. Protesting is a basic right in a democracy. Policing any public march requires tact, diplomacy and a firm hand, not rumours and innuendo. Last week, a large area of the city was closed quite unnecessarily, causing major disruption. It was clear by 3pm that few people were participating and the helicopters were not necessary, and yet they still created an impression that we were living in a combat zone. The riot shields and talk of rubber bullets reinforced this concept of an impending war.

An increasingly large section of the population is disenchanted with the gap between rich and poor, who see bankers and businessmen over-rewarding themselves while college fees are raised and social services are radically pruned. It's been noticeable over the past couple of weeks how many ordinary workers sympathise with the St Paul's campers. This rising resentment means there will probably be more protests in the coming months, not fewer. It seems that the Metropolitan Police, under their new tough-talking Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, have now decided to treat public gatherings as potentially dangerous, hence the use of scare tactics.

Creating fear as a means of control is becoming a central part of government policy. It started with Labour's health initiatives, such as guidelines for "safe" levels of drinking. We were told how much to exercise, what to weigh, how many fruit and veg to eat every day. Constant messages about obesity, alcoholism and heart disease emanate from the heath service – not that they seem to change our behaviour. Then the Prime Minister said that people who are unemployed for more than two years should be forced to do compulsory community work or lose benefits. In other words, they'll be scared back to work. The need to save money is the perfect excuse for threats which are doomed to fail.

These new bullyboys don't impress me.

Three loud cheers for the pick-me-up you can wear

My all-time favourite footwear is a pair of knee-high black Versace biker boots bought 10 years ago. They've never dated – and, worn constantly from December to March, surely represent value for money. Ditto a silk jersey zebra-striped shirt-dress which I've worn on telly numerous times over the past nine years.

Versace is the home of brazen bling – sexy tailoring, acid colours, glittering embellishment, power dressing – the look that The Only Way Is Essex women aspire to but rarely achieve. But Gianni Versace and his sister also produced modern classics that empower the wearer. For her upcoming collaboration with the budget clothing retailer H&M, Donatella Versace has cleverly exploited their fantastic archive to reinterpret past hits for the high street. It goes on sale online on Thursday.

What better way to dress for Christmas in a recession?

Pheasant and chips, no vinegar

There's a glut of pheasants patrolling the fields around my vegetable garden in Yorkshire. But, although most face certain death through the increasing number of shooting parties, where will they actually end up?

The meat may be delicious, fat-free and free-range, but few locals are interested in eating it and prices plummet at the local butcher during this time of surplus. Often, dead birds get chucked away in bin bags because no one can even be bothered to pluck them. In London, pheasant is on sale at Waitrose, but maybe it needs a bit of rebranding.

A fishmonger at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk might have the answer – he's flash-frying "goujons" of pheasant breast for two minutes and serving them with chips for a fiver. It all sounds good to me.

Darling, we need to talk...

Vicky Pryce is starting to annoy me. Initially I sympathised with the former Mrs Chris Huhne, publicly dumped by her charmless husband for his press secretary, Carina Trimingham.

But Ms Pryce seems to have no intention of moving on with her life, despite her high- powered finance job. She's been bleating on World at One about the moment the Energy Secretary asked her for a divorce – which was on 19 June 2010, while they were watching the television coverage of the World Cup. Apparently he asked for the divorce at half time, and then went off to the gym. "And that was that."

Brutal, yes. But, then, is there ever a good time to ask for a divorce? Not really.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it