The last four years have been a really hard uphill battle. We have had to deal with many obstacles and setbacks. After the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict at the inquest it was unimaginable to us that PC Harwood could be acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter. We will never understand that verdict, but at least today’s public admission of unlawful killing by the Metropolitan police is the final verdict, and it is as close as we are going to get to justice.
After everything they have been through in the last four years, I am glad that Ian Tomlinson’s family now finally have an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service, although the fact that it has taken four years for the police to fully acknowledge the events of April 1st 2009 and after says a great deal about how this case has been handled and the attitudes of some of the individuals and institutions involved.
Like many others who were at that ill-fated G20 demo in April 2009 (and who witnessed the behaviour of the TSG first hand), I have been following the progress of this case with much interest and I have been impressed with the quiet determination of Ian’s family in their search for the truth. In an ideal world, many of us would very much have liked to have seen Simon Harwood found guilty in last year’s manslaughter trial, but, as Ian’s widow Julia put it, this apology “is as close as we are going to get to justice”.
They may not have got the kind of justice many of us were hoping for, however, but I wish the Tomlinson family all the best for the future, whatever that brings, and I hope this apology (and the out of court settlement that accompanied it) can go at least some way towards helping them all move on from such a terrible and traumatic experience. I am sure that Ian would be proud of their tenacity, strength and bravery in standing up to the institutionalised violence, incompetence and cover-ups that surrounded his death with such dignity.
I’m often asked why I haven’t gone (and won’t go) into politics. A strong-minded, passionate and opinionated woman like you would make a really good politician, people tell me. You clearly know your stuff and you want to help people; you’d do a brilliant job, they say. Politics really needs more people like you to get involved, they say. You’re obviously intelligent and articulate and opposed to social inequalities – you’d make a great local councillor or perhaps even an MP, they say.
And to all that I say NO.
Aside from the fact that I’d be a rubbish politician because I actually care about people, I will never go into politics because I think that political power is a fundamentally dangerous thing in the hands of politicians. And power of any kind should never be left to the tender mercies of those who actually want it. That’s just asking for trouble.
Consider these small facts: the majority of politicians in Westminster are male, and the majority of them are from relatively socially and economically privileged backgrounds. The addition of political power/influence to this simply reinforces the social and economic power and privilege they already have – and this, almost inevitably, corrupts.
And as Lord Acton (1834-1902) sagely put it:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men” (1887)
“THE ENGLISH DEMOCRATS: NOT LEFT, NOT RIGHT, JUST ENGLISH”
Hmmm. I guess I must be English. I was born in London, have a tendency to talk about the weather a lot, drink far too much tea, and whinge about the form of the England football team on a fairly regular basis. I’m sure you know lots of people like that. You may even be English yourself.
But there’s more to me than “just English”. No-one is “just” anything, not even the English – despite that famous understatement we’re supposed to have. I may be English by birth, but, like most English people, my ancestry is a bit more complicated than that (Welsh and German, if you’re that curious). That’s part of what being English is. We all have our own version of it. We’re a nation of immigrants, right back to our earliest days.
However, I don’t recognise the version of ‘English’ put forward by the English Democrats, whose slightly upper-case obsessed and shouty election literature is the latest to arrive on my doormat.
“time to put ENGLAND first!”
it announces, although it took me some time to figure that out as the leaflet is also covered in untidy (but just about properly punctuated) block capital marker pen scrawl:
They (whoever they are) say that a week is a long time in politics. And this last week or so has indeed been both long and eventful – as far as the general election campaign is concerned anyway. Thursday night saw the second of three televised leaders’ debates, this time on foreign policy issues. To this observer at least, the debate seemed to be more fiery and bad-tempered than that of the week before.
Voices were raised, impatient interruptions were made, very little of any actual substance was said, and there was much less agreeing with Nick this time – David Cameron publicly accused a sneery Gordon Brown of scaremongering and being an out-and-out liar, and they both laid into Nick Clegg in a seemingly pointless effort to flatten ‘Cleggmania’ before it can become truly politically dangerous.
It is interesting to see Brown and Cameron (as well as certain parts of the media) so obviously threatened by a man previously as politically anonymous as Nick Clegg. Both Labour and the Tories always knew that this was going to be a close-run election campaign, but the (perhaps not entirely unexpected) emergence of the Liberal Democrats has got them rattled now – the fact that the old two-party system is now being blown wide open can easily be read as further proof that the electorate is heartily sick and tired of the current, broken political system.
So it’s May 6th then. Now there’s a surprise.
In exactly a month’s time, the polling booths will be open and the British people will be casting their vote for a new/old government, but, finally, today Her Madge gave her consent to Gordon Brown dissolving Parliament – which means the election campaign really, actually, finally, officially starts now (despite the fact that some candidates have been at it for months already).
And what an exciting morning it’s been for all us armchair election followers!
I’m not entirely sure what was most (least?) thrilling about this morning’s frankly mindless media coverage. Forced by Freeview to choose between Sky or the BBC, the telly ended up being muted when my brain started dripping out of my ears. I did catch Gordon Brown’s thoroughly tedious speech – although I was slightly distracted by the phrase ‘as dull as ditchwater’ bouncing round what little brain I had left by this point.
Other media lowlights included David Cameron’s unpleasantly smug speech to the rapt party faithful, complete with its mysterious (hmm) omission of the same two words (“gay” and “straight”) which were so heavily emphasised in the draft version revealed yesterday.
With the election now widely assumed to be on May 6th, the campaign for Britain’s hearts and minds has really begun in earnest, although said campaign doesn’t seem to be working very well – that’ll be on all sides, but particularly on that of the current New Labour government – even before Tony Blair weighed in with his dubious backing of Brown.
For example, the recent budget (which may not even ever be fully implemented at this rate) can only be described as a prime example of New Labour desperation and a rather pathetic attempt at saving the government’s electoral skin. In fact, this governmental desperation is already at such levels that this year’s Guardian April Fool on Labour’s alleged new hard-man-vote-Labour-or-else election strategy actually came very close to being convincing. Scary.
And it’s only going to get worse. I had already received my first batch of election propaganda back in late February, and now, in early April, even more of this rubbish has started coming through my letter box at a steady rate – and the quality of it has got so bad that it would actually be hilarious if this election wasn’t so damn important.
Just like last time, the Tory propaganda was the first to arrive, complete with exactly the same set of slightly sinister photos of that identikit Tory blonde candidate we saw before. However, instead of their previous desperate attempts at politely begging the reader to vote Conservative, this time their desperation just seeps through the paper:
Regular readers will be aware that I’m not a great fan of politicians generally. However, there are the odd one or two who somehow manage, against all the odds, to stick to their principles and hold firm in the face of our deluded political system, and it is they who have my respect and (in some cases) even grudging admiration.
Michael Foot, whose death at the age of 96 was announced today, was one such who fell into that latter category. A left-wing politician of the old school, who – unlike today’s rabble – was an idealist and a principled man, Foot was one of those rare politicians who did genuinely manage to stick to those principles, right until the end of his long and eventful life.
Like a lot of Labour politicians and commentators of his generation, Foot came from a relatively privileged background. Born into a Liberal and non-conformist family at Plymouth in July 1913, politics were almost a part of his genetic make up; his father was twice elected MP for a Cornish constituency, his three brothers were all involved in Liberal politics, and Foot himself became a Socialist during his time studying at Oxford.
The importance of those Socialist beliefs were forcefully brought home to him after his graduation when he spent some time working as a shipping clerk in Liverpool; an experience which exposed him to the realities of contemporary poverty and the social inequalities that were part of many ordinary people’s everyday lives. It was here, in 1934, that he joined the Labour Party and determined he would stand for Parliament.
Now we’re a month into it, I suspect that it’s still too much to hope (perhaps) that 2010 will be a better year politically than the last. I suspect things will pick up where they left off at the end of last year and we’ll get another twelve months of bitching and moaning – but very little action on behalf of our elected ‘representatives’ in Westminster. Quelle surprise.
I can’t help being so cynical. I used to be a full-blown idealist (and I still hold firm to an arguably idealistic belief in the necessity of peace, equality and fairness, despite everything), but the more I learned about and the more I understood the way the political system in this country works, the less convinced I was by its weasel words (ie, not at all), and the less I believed in the possibility of it being an agent for and a necessary force in creating positive change.
Cynicism comes naturally after that.
2009 did little to disabuse me of this belief. All in all, it was a pretty sorry year, politically speaking – although no matter how much you despise the government of the day (and no matter how enjoyable the schadenfreude), it is never comfortable viewing to watch them dig themselves deeper and deeper into a pit of infamy; that same pit of infamy which Tony Blair played such a prominent role in originally (re) opening up back in 1997.
This evening, while faffing about on the UK Parliament website looking for something I couldn’t actually find, I came across this.
In its entirety, ‘this’ is actually a snappily-titled document which goes by the name of The Code of Conduct Approved by The House of Commons on 13 July 2005 together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members Approved by The House of Commons on 9 February 2009.
Basically, this is school rules for MPs. And, as we know, they have a tendency not to follow those.
I can assure you, if you have never encountered this document before, that it’s a truly thrilling read (not) – in fact, it should probably be prescribed on the NHS as a cure for insomnia. However you can, should you so desire after all that, download it here.
This particular passage, which comes from section IV (General Principles of Conduct), immediately jumped out at me for obvious reasons. I reproduce it here without comment, mostly because I don’t think it needs any: