Tag Archives: Battle of the Beanfield

Boris please note: We don’t need violence to demonstrate against Thatcherism

It seems police confiscated an effigy of the Blue Baroness after protesters set fire to it in Glasgow. It is doubtful that the scene looked anything like the above image. Without an effigy to burn the protesters did NOT become violent. They DID do a conga, while chanting, "Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead".

It seems police confiscated an effigy of the Blue Baroness after protesters set fire to it in Glasgow. It is doubtful that the scene looked anything like the above image. Without an effigy to burn, the protesters did NOT become violent. No – they did a conga, while chanting, “Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead”.

Why on earth does Boris Johnson think it’s necessary to put the fear of violence into our heads, just because people are coming to London to demonstrate in favour of common sense?

The London Mayor said hundreds of Metropolitan police officers would be “kitted up” and ready to be deployed rapidly, in case of outbreaks of disorder.

The trouble with that, of course, is that he has made everybody involved – protesters and police – paranoid that unpleasantness of some kind will happen, and that it will be the other side that starts it!

How utterly ridiculous. By all means, keep your political tools (the police) ready, Boris, but keep them in the background. Otherwise, you’re the one inciting trouble.

If only he was able to step back and look at the situation dispassionately. Consider what the protests are about:

The main event is a demonstration against the current lionisation of Margaret Thatcher that has already cost the taxpayer nearly £2 million in expenses payments for MPs who were recalled to Parliament during their Easter recess for no good reason, when tributes could have been paid to the Blue Baroness upon MPs’ scheduled return, on Monday. Add to that a further £10 million for a state-funded funeral with military honours that a huge proportion of the population believes is undeserved – especially when the late champion of privatisation had more than enough cash in her estate to pay for as much pomp and ceremony as she could ever have wanted – and anyone can see there is a valid justification for the event.

Attendees will include former miners, and members of mining communities that were devastated by the Thatcher government’s decision to force a confrontation with the unions – the real reason the pits were closed in the mid-1980s. They will be joined by travellers – whose kind were attacked by police, in their role as a political tool of the Thatcher government rather than as guardians of lawful behaviour, most notably in the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’. Students whose grants were transformed into loans during her period of office will also be represented, along with those who are politically opposed to her policies and their legacy.

History tells us that violence involving those groups has always been instigated by those arrayed against them – the forces of the government; remember, the BBC was forced into a (grudging) apology after it was proved that footage of a police charge had been doctored to make it seem the miners had attacked first, when in fact the police provoked the unpleasantness.

So let’s hope that nothing of the kind happens today – either at the main event, the UKUncut demo against the Bedroom Tax and benefit cap, or the Taxpayers Against Poverty march.

But if it does, let’s all take a good hard look at whoever kicks it off – particularly their voting history. I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone causing trouble today will have a prediliction for supporting the Conservative Party.

Thatcher’s police state – the culture that led to Hillsborough

It seems amazing that Jack Straw, a former Home Secretary, can be described as “very silly” for saying what we have all known for nearly 30 years.

Responding to the announcement of the Hillsborough cover-up by South Yorkshire Police, he said Margaret – now Baroness – Thatcher, the Prime Minister at the time, had created a “culture of impunity” in the police that made such corruption possible.

Anyone who lived through the 1980s should be well aware of this. Mrs Thatcher used the police as a political weapon throughout her period in office.

Look at the way she used police – and in fact transported officers from forces across the country – to intimidate miners during the strike of 1984-5; look at the way she used them to stop people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge.

The Levellers even wrote a song about it.

According to the BBC website, Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Thatcher government, because they needed the police to be a partisan force, particularly for the miners strike and other industrial troubles, created a culture of impunity in the police service.

“They really were immune from outside influences and they thought they could rule the roost – and that is what we absolutely saw in south Yorkshire.”

In a time when most workers’ pay was being severely restricted by her government, Mrs Thatcher boosted police pay – by up to 45 per cent in some cases. I seem to recall she built up their pensions as well, and her government broke the link between a local beat policeman and his community, so that police were put on patrol in places away from their own homes.

These moves created forces that were loyal to the Conservative government, and who believed they could act without fear of reprisals; they had the government backing them up.

Many of those who took part in the Hillsborough cover-up – and other abuses of power across the country – will never be brought to justice. I mention this because I was in a hospital outpatients’ waiting room today, watching Loose Women (of all things). Before I was distracted by a young girl wearing a wrist brace, who wanted to tell me about her dead gerbil, I heard Janet Street-Porter announce to the viewing world that the police who were involved in the cover-up should be suspended.

It was 23 years ago; many of them will have retired by now, and former police officers are never questioned on their activities when they were on duty.

How do I know this?

Let’s just say I know a few ladies who were subjected to serious physical, mental and sexual abuse (over a 28-year period, in one case), at the hands of one man. These ladies appealed to the police for help on several occasions, documented by doctors – but not by the officers who dealt with them. Instead, they were told to go home. The ladies concerned escaped after years of abuse, but when they tried to seek justice against those in the police force who collaborated with their abuser, they were told there was no record of their allegations and the police officers concerned had retired. The police service refused to track down these former officers and so the crimes have gone unpunished.

This is what I think will happen with the police who were at Hillsborough.

A “culture of impunity”? Yes, I think so.