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Monday 15th July was a big day of party games for Cameron and it all started with a fun trip to an airshow. Perhaps mindful of the long night of musical chairs that lay ahead of him, Dave limbered up by telling a few fairy tales.
The general theme of these was that it’s not the woods you want to watch out for but the failed states. The wolves, or bears, or bogey men are, however, real and because of the National Health Service (or because they want to kill us – I’m not sure which) they’re all sprinting towards Britain as fast as possible. So we must fight them. On the beaches. No, not on the beaches, on the cliffs. No, not on the cliffs. Definitely not the cliffs. Everyone knows that if you’re going to hunt bears you either go somewhere that has bears or you do the more obvious thing of taking a family outing from your front door, crossing an improbable assortment of terrain before freaking out, running home and hiding under the duvet.
None of this comes cheap. Which is why, over the last few years our benevolent leaders have been carefully closing libraries, sacking lollipop ladies and getting cancer-ridden shirkers back to work. Because bears, heffalumps etc. are pretty much impossible to see without really expensive American paranoia devices, Dave is tooling up. Once there’s a US style defence budget to justify, we’ll be seeing Gruffalos round every corner.
What Dave makes abundantly clear is that we’re not going to find any bears on the White Cliffs of Dover, or even in the Channel. But he won’t rest until he does find a bear (or other fictional archetype). And he’s not going to miss out on finding bears by being thrifty. Oh no.
This is cut & pasted from Schnews because certain networks won’t access Schnews. Their loss. Anyway, this is darn serious so get reading.
SEEING INFRA RED
New Tory Bill threatens sell off of all public land
They’ve stolen our postal service, and are currently giving away the health service, education and prisons to their mates, what’s next for this Government? Perhaps the most audacious theft yet – potentially all of our public land.
Surreptitiously, with zero media coverage, the Government has introduced a Bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday June 18th, with a clause that bypasses the role of councils in granting or denying planning consent, cancels any rights of way or any need to ask the people of England and Wales if they mind losing their parks, playing fields, allotments, woodlands, public facilities or village greens to housing developers, fracking companies, road- or railway-builders. It’s the land grab to end all land grabs. But not everyone’s on the receiving end, luckily all land belonging to the Royal Family is excluded.
Handily, privatisation of the Land Registry is also happening, and the proposed law, known as the Infrastructure Bill, will give this newly private company free rein on deciding who land belongs to. The Government, conveniently forgetting that the land is ours, plans to order local authorities to make 90 per cent of its brownfield sites (a designation that apparently includes parks, allotments, gardens as well as former industrial sites) available to be transferred to the Government quango the Homes and Communities Agency, which was established in 2008. The HCA can then pass it on to developers without any of tiresome planning restrictions. The job of deciding on planning applications will no longer be done by councillors – Eric Pickles (or his successors) and a panel of two Government inspectors will instead get out their rubber stamp for whoever wants the land.
George Osborne (in a recent after-dinner speech) said houses are needed so badly that anyone who objects must be a nimby. In the same breath, he said the Government would protect “green spaces” – by that, of course he means the private estates. As 69 per cent of Britain’s acreage is owned by 0.6 per cent of the population , and quite a lot of that by the Queen and Prince Charles, it means his friends’ rural idylls will be untarnished. Another sweetener for the developers – if their estates contain less than 50 houses, they won’t need to bother making them zero carbon, which is currently required. While many will agree new houses need to be built (whereas only 20 per cent agree fracking should be allowed), why must it all be on public land?
At the time of writing, no newspaper or broadcaster has covered the story – maybe they think their readers won’t want to know that they could lose their recreational spaces? It was only discovered by campaigners from the Forest of Dean nosing around the Government’s website. Campaigners from Hands Off Our Forest were wondering, despite many promises from Defra for many months, why no draft forestry legislation was announced in the Queen’s Speech, the last-chance saloon for this government to pass new laws. HOOF and other members of the Forest Campaigns Network had been told the legislation was ready to go, and they’d been involved with discussions on it ever since they started meeting with civil servants in 2011. They and 3,000 banner-waving protestors – many of them pillars of the community, some even Tory voters – freaked the Government out by burning an effigy of Big Ben in the middle of the Forest and getting it on the news. That, combined with a national petition of 500,000 names and an opposition flank that included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Daily Telegraph and Boris Johnson’s sister, had forced the Government to concede wrongdoing, and to scrap their attempt to pass the noxious Public Bodies Bill, which would have allowed all the public woodlands in England to have been sold off or otherwise disposed of. At the start of the campaign, one member of HOOF received an anonymous phone call from someone who said he worked in “policy”. “The Forests are just the start,” he warned. “They are absolutely determined to sell every scrap of public land – beaches, parks, the lot.”
Within a few months, however, the Government retreated in the face of mass protest, (see SchNEWS 754 Fight them on the Beeches) which included some top Establishment figures. Three years on, it seems the Government are trying it all on in one go, and something is stirring again in the forest… and ought to be throughout England and Wales. The Infrastructure Bill contains a clause which will allow ALL public land to be privatised. There’s no need to reference the Forestry Act 1967, the Countryside Rights of Way Act or any other protective law, because Schedule 3 of the Bill- states that “the property, rights and liabilities that may be transferred by a scheme include… property, rights and liabilities that would not otherwise be capable of being transferred or assigned.” It may as well say, “break any law, trample on any rights, do whatever you like… none of it counts for anything anymore, we’ve fixed it for you”. The more Parliament keeps this a secret, the easier it will be for this Government and any future governments to get whatever they want built or fracked, without local busybodies and neighbours getting in the way.
However, given that the ‘save the forests’ campaign transcended politics and class – people equally appreciate beauty-spots to exercise their hounds whether they’re millionaires or paupers – aren’t our political ‘representatives’ taking a bit of a risk that if this secret gets out at an early enough stage (although it is being rushed through Parliament rapidly) that loads of disparate people might find common cause? All the efforts spent in encouraging divide and rule and the rise of the far-right might be in vain… Maybe people will realise they’ve gone too far this time? No protests have yet been organised at the time of writing – but there is a petition, good for raising awareness at least: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/infrastructure-bill-allows-ministers-to-sell-off-public-land
January 3, 2011, Hands Off Our Forest rally at The Speech House in the centre of the Forest of Dean, when thousands of people gathered in sub-zero temperatures to warm themselves around a burning Big Ben.
Ambitious Rachel Reeves, 34, claimed she would do anything to get on in politics and agreed to do the Tories’ work for them because she had been made redundant from her former role as a free-thinking backbencher.
“Where I come from, all the debates have been closed down and there haven’t been any new ideas for years. To be honest, spending time stacking up bigotry on top of misunderstanding for the Tories gets me out of the house. Or into the House, depending on how you look at it.”
Click here to see Rachel doing Nasty Party work for no extra pay!
Recently, I was sitting in some welcome sunshine and I suddenly found myself becoming quite misty-eyed with memories from a few years back. Memories that have undoubtedly grown sweeter and perhaps more selective with time, but no less valid for that. Memories of hope, optimism, possibility, excitement and freedom.
For a bit of context, let’s go back in time with the help of some cheeky re-enacters:
The impact of rave culture is easy to underestimate nowadays. Not only did it introduce a generation to the concept of making their own entertainment, free of the tedious commercialism of the high street, it also went a huge way to ending widespread football hooliganism as folks realised the pointlessness of fighting someone you’ve been grinning at and hugging all night. But it was precisely the “off the grid” nature of raving that saw it rapidly demonised by the powers-that-be. Suddenly hundreds of thousands of people weren’t spending all their hard-earned in pubs and clubs. The brewery barons foresaw disaster and leant on their chums in the police and government to do something about it. The authorities were also spooked by the unity and disdain for authority they saw in the scene. How do you police a bunch of people who, when told to disperse their convoy of cars, spontaneously all throw their keys into the hedge?
Well the reponse of John Major’s chaotic government was the ludicrous Criminal Justice Act, a blanket anti-gathering lump of legislation which even, laughably, sought to define rave music as consisting of a continuous emission of repetitive beats. Obviously, when they’d dried their eyes and picked themselves up off the floor, all decent people let out a resounding raspberry and partied on regardless. But there were other stirrings in the sub-cultural hinterlands. Traveller culture was becoming more widespread than at any time since the 60s as the pop charts got overrun with fiddles and mandolins. Environmental activism was increasingly hitting the headlines in the face of rampant Tory road-building. And it was this last element that led to something truly special. Through a combination of circumstances, and from very small beginnings, Reclaim The Streets was born. This Channel 4 documentary tells the story pretty well (and has been uploaded to YouTube complete with charming period VHS glitches):
A fuller version of the source material is available here:
Despite its anti-road, pro-street origins, it soon became clear that there was more to RTS. It was a defiant kick back against the Criminal Justice Act, it was a means of engaging people in political thinking, it was a demo tactic, it was a celebration of chaos-laced fun over dull conformity. Because RTS actions relied on strength in numbers, everybody who took part was a crucial contributor. Although there was clearly some kind of forward planning being done, most events involved a thrilling spontaneity. A classic example of this was at the early action in Angel when, with the planned soundsystem not turning up, this phat puppy emerged from a side road to provide the tunes:
Not too shabby eh? And proof of how well it can work when someone thinks, “I’ve got some skill, or some equipment, that would be useful; I’ll go along and see if I can help out.” Of course if you don’t happen to be The KLF, you might not have something quite as big and noisy but no matter. The most important ingredient was simply people and the positive attitude they came with. My memories of RTS parties, and the reason I got a lump in my throat thinking back to them, are of incredible friendliness and welcome. There was a real sense that these were the good guys; you could see in people’s faces that they got it. Of course the business of occupying a road and turning it back into a street both demands and creates trust and cooperation. Everyone had to be prepared to move when the group moved and not worry overly about themselves. We all had to subscribe to the view that standing about meekly on the pavement or on some “approved route” is never likely to achieve much, or be any fun. (Are you listening Stop The War 2003?) The thrill of transgressing accepted norms not only bound us more closely together, it provoked us to look beyond the everyday. When you’ve reversed the usual order of things on a stretch of road it becomes easier to imagine a different world. The imagination can take flight and the spirit gets a chance to soar. It may only be temporary, but it’s great.
You can’t have a party without music and you can’t have a street party without people being in the street, so if you’ve been inspired and are planning a bit of a do, you’ll probably find this handy:
And this last tune is just a gift to you for reading this far:
Today we can reveal that the Government has been working both with its legal advisors and intermediaries for the Jordanian Royal Family to formulate a framework for kicking the NHS out of Britain for good.
Although frontline politicians have been unwilling to speak on the subject and coverage in the mainstream media has been kept to a minimum, a Home Office insider was happy to be quoted anonymously. “The real issue here is preventing incitement,” he said. “As long as the NHS is allowed to remain here, there is a very real danger that people will think the country has some kind of duty of care to its inhabitants.” “Furthermore,” added the source, “although no formal charges have been brought, everybody knows the NHS is guilty of disseminating anti-profit ideology. This can’t go on unchecked.”
When asked why Jordan was the chosen destination, our man paused before saying, “I imagine it’s because, apart from people who’ve been on holiday to Petra, most folk know nothing about Jordan so we can say what we like about it and they’ll swallow it.”
Media-watchers have pointed out that it’s not unusual for deportation cases to go unreported. One analyst said, “The powers-that-be generally like to keep these sorts of things under wraps and we’ve all been taken aback at the way the whole Abu Qatada circus has flared up and got in the way of all the real news for days on end.”
For the many, many people on the wrong end of Margaret Thatcher’s ideological blitzkrieg, her death feels like the end of a nightmare. The catharsis is palpable and genuine. However, if we take a step back from the raw emotion, it is simply an elderly person dying naturally. Sad, inevitable, normal, universal.
What we should look forward to celebrating is the death of Thatcherism as a political force. See Owen Jones’s piece. By contrast, this isn’t inevitable. The narrative of Thatcherism was shouted long and loud. Sometimes it seemed to make sense. It was certainly impossible to ignore. it has taken root sufficiently to outlast the political career of its founder and it will have no trouble carrying on now she’s dead. Unless we do something about it. And the first step to defeating it is to understand it.
Like much of politics, the story of Thatcherism is rife with contorted meaning. On the global stage, Maggie was widely seen, along with Ronnie, as a bastion against Communism and tyranny. A quick look back shows that she was in fact rather selective about which tyrants she opposed and which liberties she supported. Now, such ethic-free “pragmatism” is sadly not uncommon in international politics but it needs to be highlighted when a person is in danger of being institutionally beatified.
The idea that private ownership is intrinsically better than public ownership is at the very core of Thatcherism. We’re told sometimes that this is simply an English tendency, even that it’s what makes us better than the French where they’re all into communes and stuff. It certainly struck a chord with the council house right-to-buy scheme. Many people felt it gave them the opportunity to better themselves and move from the working class to the middle class. But with hindsight, much of the eagerness was just naked profiteering. Substantial numbers of council houses were sold relatively soon after purchase as people spotted a chance to move up the ladder, taking advantage of the massive equity given them by the subsidised sell-off. It has now emerged that there’s been a considerable concentration of former council property in the hands of private landlords, taking advantage of surging private sector rents, subsidised by in-work housing benefits. What’s most shameful about the boot-sale disposal of nationally-owned property is that we were promised the proceeds would be ploughed back into council house building but this just never happened. Against a backdrop of right-to-buy propaganda, social housing was seen as a very low priority by councils and was allowed to wither. This leads us to the current situation of endless waiting lists and the mad folly of the bedroom tax which somehow tries to blame tenants for the house they’ve been allocated out of the meagre stock. All told, it is hardly radical thinking to posit that the right-to-buy scheme was a collosal vote buying racket. At the time, tenants had a tendency to vote Labour while the Conservatives were seen as the party of property owners. You can see what the Tories were hoping would happen.
Because the Thatcherite mindset saw every resource as a commodity it also made perfect sense to extend the Cash-In-The-Attic mentality into areas such as utilities, raw materials and national industries. The raft of privatisations in the mid-80s were touted as an opportunity for everyone to own a piece of businesses such as BT, BP and British Gas. This was doublespeak at its most mendacious. We already owned them. Privatisation didn’t confer ownership to the public, it stole the asset from the public and then sold it back to those who could afford to buy. Again, profiteering was the base motive for many and after a short while a large number of shareholders had cashed in their chips for a quick buck and ownership was largely in the hands of a few big financial institutions. Any sense of accountability to the public had been almost entirely removed and the new PLCs were subject to the profoundly non-democratic whims of the (newly-deregulated) markets. As a result, we now have water companies controlled by Chinese corporations, French-owned power stations and a rail network that relies on sky-high ticket prices and massive subsidies to plump up its profits whilst still not running any more punctually. All of this was sold out from under us and yet the country doesn’t seem better off for it. Just more expensive. See here for a fuller explanation.
Of course there were winners in the great privatisation bunfight. An allegation often thrown around by critics of the public sector is that wages are too high, pensions are too generous and the folks at the top are creaming off whopping salaries. Well, that’s as maybe but its all small beer compared to what goes on in the private sector where already fat contracts get further inflated by share options, bonuses and hefty pension pots. Somehow it’s OK because these remunerations are subject, apparently, to market forces and are therefore inherently realistic. Naturally, in private companies which have been vigorously de-unionised (another pillar of Thatcherism), the fat cats can be funded by squeezing the wages of the low earners. This is described as being “competitive” and “flexible” and anyone who suggests that appalling pay and atomisation of the workforce might be hurting productivity is lampooned by Thatcherites as some kind of 70s throwback who would doubtless have us all wearing tank tops and living on Angel Delight. We shouldn’t rail against high earning executives, they say, because they are the wealth creators and the money that they make gets recycled into the national economy through a combination of taxes paid and money spent on goods and services. Sadly, this is bollocks. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that trickle-down just doesn’t work. Firstly, the wealthiest have become expert at reducing their tax bills, often to levels well below what the lowest earners are contributing. Also, they are highly mobile, flitting around the globe to wherever they can get the best value. Of course they spend some money in Britain, but not broadly enough to shore up the national economy. Since the banking crisis even the usual food chain of company profits being ploughed back into investment and, god forbid, wage rises has been subverted as corporations, worried by the turbulent economic situation, hoard cash rather than putting it to work. Yet still the Government subsidies flow into company coffers. As a country, we spend much more on our rail network now than we did when we actually owned it. In-work benefits have mushroomed and allow companies to hold down pay and accrue an extra profit layer at the tax-payer’s expense. Money is being funnelled from the many via the public purse to the very few in company boardrooms and frequently then out of the country altogether into offshore accounts. It is trickle-up economics with no public benefit and it is the result of the deluded ideology of Thatcherism.
I could go on about how the mantra “There’s no such thing as Society” has led to the fatuous newspeak of the “Big Society”. I could tell you what you already know about market dogma wrecking the NHS and preparing the ground for privatisation. I could talk about the politically motivated folly of destroying the UK’s coal industry at a time when it was producing the safest and cheapest coal in the world. But I know that if you havent understood yet then you’re possibly immune to reason and I’d just be wasting my time.
I also hope that no one will be too sad that I haven’t filled this piece with links to stats, tables and graphs. Again, I’m trying to save time. If you want to look stuff up, I’m sure you’ll find it. Also, I’ve never noticed Thatcher’s tub-thumpers concentrating too hard on facts and analysis so in some ways it’s their fault.
A Pentagon spokesman today admitted that “cultural misunderstandings” may be at the root of current tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“We have a team working deep-cover in the Demilitarised Zone and their job is to kind of jolly things along by choosing the music. I’m sure they honestly had no idea that the Rock Lobster is regarded as a deeply unlucky animal in North Korean folklore. There was a strong southerly wind that day and some of the soldiers on the North side obviously felt they were being mocked. If they could make head or tail of the song that is,” he added.
When asked why the agents hadn’t tried to promote harmony by playing “Loveshack” at high volume, the spokesman responded, “To be honest I think the best thing for World Peace would be if we kept the B-52s out of the area completely.
There can be no doubt that Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings films were a landmark achievement in film making. If Jackson had hung up his megaphone after Return Of The King, his status as a Giant of Cinema would have been assured. Returning to Middle Earth was far more of a gamble for him than it is for the prequel-loving money men who run his industry. I suspect he just loves the universe of Tolkein so much that the urge to return was overpowering.
Anyway, back he is, with the much lighter and slimmer precursor to LOTR. But where the heavyweight masterwork was thriftily squeezed into three (albeit epic) movies, Jackson is using the opposite process to achieve the same result with The Hobbit. A book that could certainly be turned into a sub-two hour film is also getting the triple-epic treatment. Whether you see galloping profit motive or rampaging fanboy Tolkeinism will probably depend on how much you like the film, which I suspect will also be greatly influenced by your feelings about LOTR. I loved that trilogy so I’m prepared to trust the same team with this one.
I watched it in the much-discussed HFR3D format and thought it worked well. It IS different to the cinematic look we’re all used to and there are a few times when the heightened realism threatens to show too much (eg. painted backgrounds, animated segments). But at its best it pulls you right into the world of the story, creating an involvement in the film that meant I didn’t once think about the time and didn’t want the film to end.
I felt the LOTR trilogy strengthened with each installment and I can see that happening here as well. Above all, in Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, we have a character to cherish and watch grow.
To make up for the lack of recent bloggage, here’s a whopper. In fact, it’s such an epic that I’ve divided it into two parts. Here’s the first!
To begin, we need to refer back to a blog I wrote just before the national strike of November 30th last year. Entitled “Got To Do Something” it set out my reasons for supporting the upcoming day of action and wanting to be part of it myself. The fact that much of what follows derives from a statement I produced for my legal team in preparation for a court case might give you some inkling as to how things panned out.
So let’s do the blurry screen thing and go back to central London on November 30th 2011.
I was there to show my support for the public sector workers demonstrating against cuts to their pensions and express my more general outrage at the increasing national and international tendency to squeeze the majority in order to enrich the wealthy. As a supporter (more than participant) of the Occupy movement I knew that people from the London camps and other like-minds would be sharing my aims. Having seen a rendez-vous mentioned on Twitter, I turned up at Liverpool Street Station at 7.30am. A group began to form at around the same time as a banner was displayed. I joined the group as it moved out of the station and we began to carry the banner, which carried the slogan “All Power To The 99%”. This slogan chimed eloquently with the kind of feelings I was keen to express so I was delighted to help convey it. Over the next few hours we displayed the banner in various significant or photogenic locations and linked up with some of the pickets that were taking place. Eventually we wound up at the Occupy camp at St Paul’s and went our separate ways for refreshments.
A little while later I returned to St Paul’s to find a large group gathering, ready for the feeder march to the main TUC meeting point at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Again, I made my way to where the “All Power To The 99%” banner was and took hold of it, along with a number of other people. We carried the banner to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, then along the main march route, all the way to Victoria Embankment. If you were on this march yourself, you’ll no doubt remember that it was a calm, jovial affair, marred only by light drizzle and oppressive policing (remember the ring of steel at Trafalgar Square / Whitehall? The horses and Alsatians at opposite ends of the Strand?)
By this time a message had been put out on Occupy’s Twitter announcing a rendez-vous at Picadilly Circus for 3pm. Word went round that we should make our way there independently. I was keen to make sure that the banner got there and I know a couple of knots, so I folded it up tightly and tied it up. On arrival at Piccadilly Circus, it was very unclear what was going on. There was a significant police presence, including a ring of blue-hatted officers standing round Eros, but also a large contingent of PAOK Salonika fans, gathered in London for their match at Spurs that evening. (I now know that the cops in blue hats were members of the Territorial Support Group – TSG – and their role that day was not to watch over Greek footie fans or even particularly to keep an eye on Occupy but to ensure the safety of plain-clothes rozzers in case they got rumbled. However TSG are also the go-to guys for any kind of running around action so we’d see them again later.) The atmosphere was a bit random but cheery enough. A bit of asking around led me to the conclusion that our aim would be to undertake another “public repossession” of an empty building, in the vein of the “Bank of Ideas”. (The BoI was an office building, owned by UBS but unused and empty for years, which Occupy put to use as a resource centre, hosting talks, gigs, workshops and local community activities.) I figured that the “All Power To The 99%” banner I’d spent most of the day hauling round London would be an ideal accoutrement to this new Occupy venue.
After maybe 15 minutes, I heard someone say the banner needed to be opened out. Aware that I’d tied it rather securely, I scampered over and began to undo the knots. Even as I was finishing undoing the last bits of rope, one end of the banner was being pulled away from where I was, in the direction of Haymarket. I grabbed the loose rope at my end and began moving with the banner towards, and then into, Haymarket. The samba band, which I’d last seen early in the morning, had reappeared and was creating a carnival vibe as we fanned out across the road to display the banner clearly. About 100 yards down Haymarket I could see numbers beginning to concentrate around the entrance to a side road on the left. Somebody held a red flare aloft and moved towards the entrance to a building. People rapidly congregated and then I felt a tug on the banner and heard cries along the lines of, “Go on.”
A gap opened in the crowd and again the banner moved away from me as before. Absurdly, I was still trying to get the loose rope organised in my hands. We moved through an open door, to the side of some revolving doors, briskly but walking rather than running. Passing into a kind of atrium, we turned left and began ascending the stairs. After maybe 5 or 6 floors the stairs came to an end and I spotted daylight through a small door. Stepping through the door, we came out onto the roof and, walking round a pathway, came to an open area where the building fronted onto Haymarket. The roof parapet consisted of a lowish wall topped by a sturdy railing just below chest high. The banner was placed outside the railing, pulled tight and tied at each end. I was at the right hand end, holding the top rope, so I tied it securely with a round turn and a slip-hitch. I used a slip-hitch (basically a loop knot) because it would be easier to get undone and it saved having to haul through several feet of rope. I then set about tying off the bottom rope and gathering and re-coiling the loose ends.
As I was doing this I became aware of a TSG officer grabbing at a young lady to my left. He seemed to have completely lost his temper and was tugging very roughly on her arm. Slightly outraged but trying to remain cordial I said, “Hey, steady on”, which sounded ridiculous the moment it left my mouth. He carried on struggling for a bit until more police arrived. They seemed calmer and it looked like they removed their irate colleague from the scene. By this time the banner was being pulled back over the railing and gathered up so I began undoing the rope at my end. Before I could finish, I was grabbed by another TSG who tried to pull me away from the railing and the banner that I was untying. My instinctive reaction was to grab something solid (ie. the railing) to steady myself and then to indicate to the officer that I was in the process of removing the banner. The cop was then joined by some colleagues and together they hauled me away from the railing and spun me round, grabbing at least one of my arms in a lock. Someone was shouting, “On your knees! On your knees!” I couldn’t think why on earth they needed me to be on my knees but I was conscious that I was standing on a wet bit of roof. A few feet to my left the surface was quite dry so I said, “Can I have a dry bit of floor please?” The response was, “On your knees!” I then said something like, “If you let me onto the dry, I’ll be happy to kneel down.” It’s important to stress that, despite galloping adrenaline, I felt quite serene at this point. I had no desire to fight back against the police, I just wasn’t prepared to be bullied or dehumanised. (I’m also really, really fastidious sometimes.)
My serenity took a bit of a jolt as some police officer stamped a foot down between my legs and threw me, judo style, over his leg. So now I was lying face down on the wet roof. One arm was forced up behind my back. I tried to relax and stay supple, rather than tense up. Then I felt a knee pressed heavily into my back. It was in exactly the right location to push my solar plexus against the ground, giving me the feeling of being winded and making breathing uncomfortable. Also my phone charger, in my jacket pocket, was pushing against my ribs. All this was too much. I felt as though I was now being thuggishly assaulted (probably because I was). Although I was unable to look round to see who was kneeling on me, I was able to say, in a short-winded rasp, “Get your knee out of my back you [insert very bad word].” I’m not a heavy swearer but it was the least he deserved. I’ve no idea if he heard me or not but anyway he got off and a few moments later I was cuffed behind my back and then helped to my feet by the first TSG who began the arrest formalities, while I looked down and realised that my left trouser leg was ripped open from top to bottom. There’s just no conceivable justification for that kind of physical violence from the police. I got off quite lightly – some of the others on the roof sustained genuine injuries in the form of sprains and heavy bruising. Glasses and other property were broken, many of us were forced to lie in puddles. And yet we posed precisely zero threat to the police and would have left as calmly as we arrived if they had simply asked us to. It makes you wonder what they get told in their briefings to make them so frightened and confrontational. Or maybe they’re just simple. Who knows?
Anyhoo, I was told I was being arrested for aggravated trespass and criminal damage. All thoughts of withholding my name were undone by a wallet containing about fifteen different forms of ID, so I just went along with the whole dreary procedure. I wasn’t actually that bothered when word buzzed through on the police radios that they should re-arrest us on a charge of burglary. The situation was now firmly in the realm of the surreal. I was photographed on the roof and then we were led down to the top landing inside the building.Unbeknown to us at the time, outside in the street hundreds of police were engaged in their usual wrong-brained tactic of kettling the rest of the group who had come down from Piccadilly. See YouTube for all the usual footage of officers clobbering passers-by and one lighter moment as a plain-clothes snitch is identified and ironically kettled by the crowd. Unfortunately this all resulted in a rather boring afternoon for those of us inside as the cops had decided we needed to be removed, in a rigorously secure operation, to various police stations outside central London. After at least two hours we were taken to the ground floor, photographed again, and then led out through a swarm of flashbulbs and questions onto a waiting coach. My arresting officer got into the aisle seat next to me and eventually we moved off in motorcade fashion, shepherded by at least four police motorbikes.
After the fastest journey through London’s fashionable West End I’ve ever had, I was plonked out at the back entrance to Harrow Road nick, along with my inseparable arresting officer and about half a dozen other arrestees. The time was now 6.30pm and although the drizzle had largely eased, the late November evening air was relatively brisk, especially where it flapped in and out of the remnants of my left trouser leg. Gradually we were moved, one by one, first into a locked cage surrounding the door, then through the door itself and into the booking suite. I got inside at 10.30pm. Tired and cold doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. Moments later the arresting officer of the last guy still outside got permission to bring him in because he was worried about him getting hypothermia. The only thing that made the waiting and the cold remotely bearable was the fact that all our arresting officers were there too. I pointed out that they could have all been at home if they hadn’t arrested us. I also felt it was only kind to mention that there were plenty of more interesting, more socially productive things they could be doing with their lives. “I sell and mend bikes,” I said. “I help people have fun.” At this point the Sarge suggested I be quiet and almost seemed to imply that until I opened my mouth we’d all been getting on fine and I’d had to go and spoil it for everyone. At least this made me smile and it helped to while away the hours.
Once inside, thing speeded up a bit. But not much. The Desk Sergeant booked me in, somebody took my outer clothes and boots (but fortunately I was able to keep my base layer, fleece and thermal socks) and finally I was photographed (again!), fingerprinted, DNA sampled, and tested for crack and heroin. “What?” you say. Well, burglary is a “trigger charge” wherein abuse of heroin and/or crack is thought to be a major driver, so for statistical purposes all burglary suspects are tested. Or, to put it another way, by charging us with burglary not only was there the stain of a more serious accusation but also the possibility of uncovering some scandalous drugginess. Or maybe I was just suffering institutionally-induced paranoia by this time. So finally, at 12.30am, I was shown to my cell and given a rubber lasagne to chew on. Frankly I would have eaten my own foot and slept in a bucket so I was actually quite upbeat. I used the T-shirt I’d been given to cover the pillow bit of the rock-hard blue mattress and folded the blanket so it was under as well as over me and just about got to sleep in time to be woken up and asked if I was OK.
Now I’m an introvert; I like solitude and my own company. Plenty of that in the clink, so, time to ponder, to philosophise, to gain perspective. Fortunately, a couple of days previously, I’d read an excellent blog by the wonderful @Scriptonite (www.scriptonitedaily.org) about her experience of being arrested at a demo and bunged in the cells. The knowledge that other people had trodden the path before me made it much easier to deal with. Of course I was aware of many other folk from other times and places who had gone through infinitely worse ordeals than anything I’d faced. I couldn’t compare myself with them for a moment but I could at least draw strength from their perseverance. Scriptonite’s experience was similar to mine and therefore more directly applicable. I was cheered by the thought that there were probably people aware that I and the others were in there and that possibly they were even waiting for us outside. I had no proof but I had the hope that there might be, and that helped enormously. I didn’t feel fearful, I didn’t feel guilty. I felt calm and fulfilled and I slept the sleep of the just.
Next time… How I woke up all achey, but fought on regardless. Hurrah!
So MTV did a top 100 dance hits of the 90s show. Not sure if it was based on sales or “expert opinion” but anyhoo, Unfinished Sympathy came top. Which is obviously the right answer.
However, the rest of it was a bit rum. What do you reckon was missing or in the wrong place? And if you ever went to a club that wasn’t owned by a corporation, you’ll probably feel there are at least a couple of sub-genres totally unrepresented. So go on, get it off yer chest. Have your say, make a list. Answers on a white label 12″ to the usual address please.
1. Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy (1991)
2. Moloko – Sing It Back (Boris Dlugosch Musical Mix) (1999)
3. The Shamen – Ebeneezer Goode (1992)
4. Snap! – Rhythm Is A Dancer (1992)
5. The Prodigy – Out of Space (1992)
6. Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You (1998)
7. Daft Punk – Around The World (1997)
8. Everything But The Girl – Missing (Todd Terry Mix) (1994)
9. Deee-Lite – Groove is in the Heart (1990)
10. The Bucketheads – The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind) (1994)
11. Tori Amos – Professional Widow (It’s Got To Be Big) (Armand’s Star Trunk Funkin Mix) (1996)
12. David Morales presents The Face – Needin’ U (1998)
13. Baby D – Let Me Be Your Fantasy (1994)
14. Olive – You’re Not Alone (1996)
15. Livin’ Joy – Dreamer (1994)
16. Underworld – Born Slippy (1995)
17. Armand Van Helden – U Don’t Know Me (1999)
18. Prodigy – Firestarter (1996)
19. Sub Sub Featuring Melanie Williams – Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use) (1993)
20. Robert Miles – Children (1995)
21. Snap! – The Power (1990)
22. Faithless – Insomnia (1995)
23. Paul Johnson – Get Get Down (1999)
24. Rozalla – Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good) (1991)
25. B.B.E. – Seven Days And One Week (1996)
26. 2 Unlimited – No Limit (1993)
27. Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman (La Da Dee) (1991)
28. Ce Ce Peniston – Finally (1991)
29. Bobby Brown – Two Can Play That Game (1994)
30. Basement Jaxx – Red Alert (1999)
31. Ultra Nate – Free (1997)
32. Nomad – (I Wanna Give You) Devotion (1991)
33. Bizarre Inc – I’m Gonna Get You (feat. Angie Brown) (1992)
34. Bob Marley vs. Funkstar De Luxe – Sun Is Shining (1999)
35. C&C Music Factory – Gonna Make You Sweat (ft. Freedom Williams) (1990)
36. Fatboy Slim – Praise You (1999)
37. Inner City – Good Life (Buena Vida) (1999)
38. Phats & Small – Turn Around (1999)
39. Dario G – Sunchyme (1997)
40. ATB – 9pm (Till I Come) (1998)
41. Madison Avenue – Don’t Call Me Baby (1999)
42. De’Lacy – Hideaway (1995)
43. Robin S – Show Me Love (1993)
44. Urban Cookie Collective – The Key The Secret (1993)
45. Strike – U Sure Do (1994)
46. Happy Clappers – I Believe (1995)
47. Wamdue Project – King Of My Castle (1999)
48. Xpansions 95 – Move Your Body (1995)
49. Energy 52 – Café Del Mar (1993)
50. Tony Di Bart – The Real Thing (1994)
51. Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe (1994)
52. The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy Hey Girl (1999)
53. Reel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It (1994)
54. Mousse T. vs. Hot ‘N’ Juicy – Horny (1998)
55. JX – There’s Nothing I Won’t Do (1996)
56. Ace of Base – All That She Wants (1993)
57. Haddaway – What Is Love (1993)
58. Alison Limerick – Where Love Lives (1990)
59. Beats International – Dub Be Good to Me (1990)
60. Cornershop – Brimful of Asha (Norman Cook Remix) (1998)
61. Adventures of Stevie V – Dirty Cash (Money Talks) (1989)
62. The Original – I Luv U Baby (1994)
63. Sash! – Encore Une Fois (1996)
64. Grace – Not Over Yet (1995)
65. Culture Beat – Mr. Vain (1993)
66. The Tamperer Featuring Maya – Feel It (1998)
67. Felix – Don’t You Want Me (1992)
68. Gala – Freed From Desire (1996)
69. Altern 8 – Evapor 8 (1992)
70. The Outhere Brothers – Boom Boom Boom (1995)
71. Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby (1990)
72. Fatboy Slim – Right Here, Right Now (1999)
73. N-Trance – Set You Free (1995)
74. Wink – Higher State Of Consciousness (’96 Remix) (1995)
75. Shanks & Bigfoot – Sweet Like Chocolate (1999)
76. Double 99 – Ripgroove (1999)
77. K.W.S. – Please Don’t Go (1992)
78. Run D.M.C. vs. Jason Nevins – It’s Like That (1997)
79. K-Klass – Rhythm Is A Mystery (1991)
80. Gat Decor – Passion (1992)
81. The Prodigy – Charly (1991)
82. DJ Jean – The Launch (1999)
83. Adamski – Killer (1990)
84. Todd Terry – Something Goin’ On (feat. Martha Wash & Jocelyn Brown) (1997)
85. Artful Dodger feat. Craig David – Re-Rewind The Crowd Say Bo Selecta (1999)
86. Dr. Alban – It’s My Life (1992)
87. Mr. Oizo – Flat Beat (1999)
88. The Wiseguys – Ooh La La (1998)
89. DJ Luck & MC Neat – A Little Bit Of Luck (1999)
90. The KLF – 3AM Eternal (1991)
91. MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This (1990)
92. Tina Moore – Never Gonna Let You Go (1995)
93. Brothers In Rhythm – Such A Good Feeling (1991)
94. Enigma – Sadeness Part I (1990)
95. The Grid – Swamp Thing (1994)
96. D:Ream – Things Can Only Get Better (1993)
97. The Blueboy – Remember Me (1997)
98. Corona – The Rhythm of the Night (1994)
99. E.M.F. – Unbelievable (1990)
100. Nightcrawlers – Push The Feeling On (1995)