Weblogs for Helen

Posted by helen on Tue 20 Oct 2009 at 18:47

The Defend Peaceful Protest meeting last week was exciting. People are still talking about policing and protest: the so-called "media storm" following the G20 looks like it might turn out to be a shift in consciousness after all. And, of course, the police and the state are still struggling with the issue of accountability as it applies to them, so there's work to be done there. is running a mailing list for discussion, news and updates - let us know if you'd like to be added to it (there's also a facebook group).

I seem to have volunteered to write up the public MPA meeting on November 5th for PSUK/LibCon/OurKingdom etc, so I want to get my head properly around the issues in advance of the MPA meeting, and if I'm linking people to PSUK it would be nice if there was some recent content on it. (On which note, anyone want to talk about civil liberties, dissent, privacy, surveillance, or policing in the UK? We'd really really love to hear from you - it was never intended to just be me and Denny.) So I'll be at the meeting in the morning, writing in the afternoon, and then then there's a civil liberties protest that evening in Parliament Square: what better way of remembering the fifth of November? Anyway, you should come to the protest if you care about such things, it'll be good.

All of which has motivated me to get back into political blogging again. It was one of the things to be sacrificed this summer in the name of Not Being So Exhausted All The Time, which was fair enough, but now I have an enormous backlog of issues I want to talk about. I've literally spent the whole day sorting through my open tabs, filing links and articles into topics, jotting down thoughts, running ideas past Denny and JQP and getting them to fill in the gaps for me. (JQP calls me his Chief Research Otter, but I reckon they're both mine.)

So now I have a big pile of Things To Write About, which is a bit overwhelming but I feel better for organising it all a bit. Quite a lot of it doesn't really fit on PSUK, so I might end up shoving stuff on here unless I can write something good enough that I wouldn't be ashamed to submit it to the news sites.

I won't always have lots to say about stuff, in which case it'll end up linked here as well (although the best way of following what I'm reading/interested in is my twitter, which sees far more activity these days than this journal). Like the three excellent articles I've read today on the role of the internet in democracy:

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet by the late Adams, Douglas Adams. Originally published in 1999 and still relevant and true.

'Interactivity' is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal tweezers, but the reason we suddenly need such a word is that during this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport - the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn't need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don't (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.

I expect that history will show 'normal' mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. "Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn't do anything? Didn't everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?"

"Yes, child, that's why they all went mad. Before the Restoration."

"What was the Restoration again, please, miss?"

"The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back."

The end of Adams' article dates it somewhat, so here are two articles from this week, continuing the theme in light of the recent events surrounding Trafigura and Jan Moir, to bring you up to speed:

Poles, Politeness and Politics in the age of Twitter by Stephen Fry, October 19th, 2009

A tweet is a 140 word expression of what's on one's mind, what one is doing or dreaming of. No one, not Biz Stone and the other founders of the service, not you nor I and certainly not anyone in the mainstream or techno press, ever had the faintest idea what Twitter would become. We still do not know what it will become. Some of those who dismissed it as it rose in popularity will now be slinking embarrassedly to the sign-on page, while political ginger groups of all kinds, right left, religious secular, fanatical and mild, will be sitting around wondering how to harness its power. 'Political consultants' who had never heard of the service six months ago will be hiring themselves out as experts who can create a 'powerful, influential and profitable Twitter brand'. And the moronic and gullible clients will line up for this new nostrum like prairie settlers queuing for snake oil and salvation.

"If a twazzock like Stephen Fry can wield such influence," the mainstream parties and their think tanks will be saying, "just imagine what we can do if we get our Twitter strategy right."

Well, I contend that I do not wield influence. I contend that Twitter users are not sheep but living, dreaming, thinking, hoping human beings with minds, opinions and aspirations of their own. Of the 860,000 or so who follow me the overwhelming majority are too self-respecting, independent-minded and free-thinking to have their opinions formed or minds made up for them in any sphere, least of all Twitter.


Perhaps the foregoing is the most fatuous and maddening aspect of the press's (perfectly understandable) fear, fascination and dread of Twitter: the insulting notion that twitterers are wavy reeds that can be blown this way or that by the urgings of a few prominent 'opinion formers'. It is hooey, it is insulting hooey and it is wicked hooey. The press dreads Twitter for all kinds of reasons. Celebrities (whose doings sell even broadsheet newspapers these days) can cut them out of the loop and speak direct to their fans which is of course most humiliating and undermining. But also perhaps the deadwood press loathes Twitter because it is like looking in a time mirror. Twitter is to the public arena what the press itself was two hundred and fifty years ago - a new and potent force in democracy, a thorn in side of the established order of things.

And, published today, Can't stop the blog: what the internet has done for ideas by Laurie Penny.

The American abolitionist Wendell Phillips once said that '"What gunpowder did for war, the printing press has done for the mind." The internet has had the equivalent impact of the advent of atomic warfare on the world of ideas, making individual thinkers part of a chain reaction whose power can be immediate and devastating. Marshall McLuhan observed in 'The Gutenberg Galaxy that "societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication". The British are desperate to see our creakily ancient institutions - newspapers and political parties dominated by wealthy Oxbridge graduates and a parliamentary system where official communication between the two houses is still overseen by the hereditary figure of Black Rod - reshaped by the internet.

Which leads me neatly to the two new ideas I've seen this week to use the internet as a tool to "reshape democracy". The first is PartyStarter.org, an as yet embryonic idea rejected by the 4ip call for ideas, but published to see if anyone else wants to pick up the baton.

Membership of the main UK political parties has steadily declined since the 1970s. Disaffection with parties and politicians is at an all time high. Yet despite this, the big parties have hardly changed their structure since being formed in the 19th and 20th centuries (see http://www.paulmiller.org/partypoopers.htm for background on the slow demise of political parties in the UK and internationally).

Rather than focusing on getting more people to join the existing parties, PartyStarter will encourage and help people to set up their own political parties. It is based on the belief that innovation in the way that parties organise and operate is more likely to come from new 'start-up' parties than from existing parties.

Denny has pointed out that we already have lots of political parties (including enthusiastic and lively new parties like the Pirate Party), but they don't stand a chance of gaining power under the current first past the post system. So perhaps not that useful, although it's good to see ideas being shared, and I think this sort of thing is indicative of the general mood for electoral reform and grassroots political change.

Open Up Now is an exciting new campaign for just that, based on small steps which seem fairly credible.

The way Parliament is run and government does business must change - and getting the best possible people into office is the starting point.

That's why we want the people, not the politicians, to select who stands for election. That's why we want Open Primaries in every constituency, where the people select their own candidates, and where anyone can put themselves forward to be a candidate. That's why we want all current MPs to agree to stand for re-selection in an Open Primary. We want this before the next General Election. And this is what Open Up is calling on every political party to do.

You should read Heather Brooke's excellent article on transparency, MP nominations and party whips. I don't know if Open Up will acheive their aims - it seems a stretch, although I've signed the petition and it seems to be gaining a decent amount of momentum for a new campaign. But I seem to be seeing an increasing number of calls for reform, and they seem to be getting increasingly credible. Or am I just looking properly for the first time? Either way, it's excited. Now we just have to make a few of them start to stick.


Posted by helen on Tue 1 Sep 2009 at 14:16

Denny has introduced me to 10:10, a scheme through which individuals and businesses pledge to reduce their emissions by 10% in 2010:

Everyone's looking for something to do about climate change. What's needed is something straightforward, immediate and meaningful. I think I've found it.

Today I joined thousands of individuals and organisations from across the country to unite behind one simple idea: that by working together we can achieve a 10% cut in carbon emissions during 2010. It's called 10:10, and everyone can be a part of it.

Cutting 10% in one year is a bold target, but for most of us it's an achievable one, and is in line with what scientists say we need right now. By signing up to 10:10 we're not just promising to reduce our own emissions -we're becoming part of a national drive to hit this ambitious goal country-wide. In our homes, in our workplaces, our schools and our hospitals, our galleries and football clubs and universities, we'll be backing each other up as we take the first steps on the road to becoming a low-carbon society.

To find out more and sign up go to www.1010uk.org To read coverage of the campaign from the Guardian go to www.guardian.co.uk/10-10

I just signed up; it's all stuff I'm trying to do anyway, and if enough people join the scheme, it will help put much-needed pressure on politicians to start meeting targets. The UK started the industrial revolution, we should be the first to visibly start reducing the problems its caused. A lot of political will and an enormous shift in the public consciousness is going to be necessary, but I think it's achievable. And the more countries commit to reducing carbon emissions, the greater a chance we have of persuading the big multinationals to follow suit.


Posted by helen on Sun 30 Aug 2009 at 13:10

I have so much to say about Climate Camp I don't know where to start, including several complicated political articles which are still half-formed, and all the stuff I've been learning about the law, and engaging with the police, and the science of climate change. But I can't write about my experience of being there on any of the political blogs, and I know that the longer I leave it the harder that will be to write so I want to quickly get something down.

I took part in the Swoop on Wednesday, even though I wasn't camping. This felt like a fairly crappy thing to do, as they'd explicitly asked people not to just show up for the swoop and then bugger off, so I was prepared to stay as late as necessary to make sure the site was safely established. I couldn't camp for the week (there was no way I could get time off; I'm having to do extra days in the office at the moment to stay on target) but I was as concerned as everyone about whether the police would behave this time, and wanted to offer the camp what little backup I could. Strength in numbers and all that.

The whole point of the swoop was that, after being abused by police at many previous lawful protests, including the Heathrow camps, Kingsnorth and (crucially) Bishopsgate at the G20, the camp was determined to go ahead as usual. As far as I'm aware, Climate Camp are one of the few protest movements in recent years to have been beaten back repeatedly by the police and eventually emerge victorious: the media frenzy surrounding the G20 was tugged by an effort of will from a story about rioting anarchists to one of thuggish police, and Climate Camp put an immense amount of work, PR and direct negotiation into ensuring that this event would not be similarly disrupted. It worked. The site was kept secret until the last minute, and participants gathered in small groups, on foot or bikes, bearing tents and hiking rucksacks, guitars and flags, around the city to await instructions by text message. I joined the Pink Group outside the Rio Tinto offices, where Legal Observers (including Denny) handed out Bust Cards advising you of your rights if stopped by police, and Climate Camp organisers gave out flyers, and outreach Bingo cards encouraging activists to approach passersby and talk to them about what we were doing. Musicians gathered round singing protest songs, we played a silly British-Bulldog-style game of 'Copper, Corporation, Activist', won by the team that broke the rules most creatively, and there were talks about why Rio Tinto was selected as a meeting point, and why carbon offsetting doesn't work.

There was also lots of sitting around and eating the food and drink we'd brought with us. I was very very tired, having just got back from a weekend away and not having caught up on my sleep, so when I tired of chatting to people I read my book (which was, topically, set during the Reformation). There was a heavy police presence - 14 officers standing on the other side of the street looking bored, and various police dog vans and motorbikes driving past at regular intervals - but they prudently let us get on with it. I overheard a couple of fantastic conversations between activists and City workers, but didn't quite have the energy to do much outreach myself.

When we did get the word to move it was very disorganised, with some people at the front heading off and everyone straggling after. Most people hadn't got a text, so we were trusting those at the front to know where they were going. As Denny commented, it was a system ripe for hijacking by anyone confident enough to strike out confidently in a certain direction, waving a mobile phone. The swoop publicity materials had mentioned splitting up and dodging through the streets so we weren't a procession (which involves different types of legal permission) but in the end we just trailed en masse to the Moorgate tube, thence to London Bridge. The loud guitarist got really annoying at this point - non-stop out of tune singing is much less tolerable on a tube platform than outdoors, and I blushed at the impression we were giving to members of the public.

Once at London Bridge, the sense of disorganisation continued - we knew we were heading to Blackheath, but half the group didn't have tickets (Oyster not being valid on the overground) and didn't even realise it until Denny pointed it out, at which point there were 40 people joining the ticket queue at once. We missed the first Blackheath train, but then we were on our way to the site, aware from the twitter feed that the exciting work of demarcating the camp and erecting the fencing had already (mostly) been done.

We straggled up the hill through the village (very posh!); the camp was right on the crest of the heath. Chosen as a site steeped in the history of dissent and grass-roots reform, including Wat Tyler's Peasant's Revolt. Minimal police presence, as we had by now come to expect. As everyone heaved their camping backpacks to the ground and started excitedly establishing neighbourhoods I couldn't help feeling slightly out of place. I wasn't camping, I wasn't 'part of it', and during the anticlimactic swoop I'd started wondering what there was to distinguish me from the press. I felt like a tourist.

But I've done this sort of thing before, and I wanted to help. A lot of people were sitting on the grass waiting for people to arrive, though, and those unloading lengths of rope and mounds of canvas, and an incongruous collection of plush armchairs, sofas, wooden furniture and old bathtubs from lorries seemed to have it all under control. I sat with Denny on the edge of the Legal Observer's meeting (I would have been one, but I was too exhausted to get to the pre-swoop meeting the night I got back from holiday) and waited for the opening meeting to start.

The camp is run as a consensus democracy, with no established hierarchy. Meetings are held in circles, anyone can speak, and while decisions can take a while to reach, they tend to reflect the wishes of the camp as a whole very accurately. Volunteers to help with various setup tasks were asked for - I offered to help build compost loos but they had more people than they needed. Neighbourhoods (regional camping groups: London, Cymru, North East, etc) were identified, and Spokes for those neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood meetings take place every morning, and the Spoke plus three representatives from the neighbourhood then attend the morning Camp meeting, and speak for their group in any urgent camp-wide decisions. Less urgent questions are decided by consensus at the evening camp-wide Plenaries in the main marquee.

I ended up wandering over to the East Side (Cambridge, Norfolk, Humberside) neighbourhood to see if they needed any help with their kitchen. The woman in charge seemed very stressed, not at all sure what to do with the offers of help from random non-campers ("Have you pitched YOUR tents?" "We aren't camping..." "HRM.") and so after helping her move crates into the kitchen tent and tarps back into the van, me and a few other helpers ended up pitching the kitchen staff's sleeping tents. I was paired with a pretty Cambridge student, with blonde dreads and bare feet, studying Anthropology. The sky was grey and the wind was fierce. We battled with the tent, which threatened to turn into a landsail every other minute, and kept getting tangled with another couple (also London residents who weren't camping) that were trying to raise Tent Number 2. There wasn't space for both tents, each of which could have easily slept an entire kitchen staff, and the Kitchen Organiser kept wandering over to criticise and then changing her mind about what she wanted, which was fairly frustrating. I kept thinking how much more pleasant it was to be in the Green Futures Field, with a central organised core and much less faff, and how the downside of non-hierarchical organisations is that you end up taking instructions from people who are terrible at giving them, but I suppose that faff and bad managers are both downsides of hierarchical organisations as well.

Once the tents were up, I wandered over to the big tripods to keep Denny company while he was on gate duty. They had two legal observers stationed on the gate at all times to keep watch, including overnight (insomniacs were encouraged to volunteer at the camp meeting), and defend it from police -like the fencing, this proved to be unnecessary, but I understood the camp's caution. Groups wandered the perimeter every so often to check all was well.

At the gate, the camp seemed a little bleak to the eye - the lowering clouds, the unadorned yards of Harris fencing, the stark metal tripods thrusting into a darkening sky. The big green CAPITALISM IS CRISIS sign strung across the gate was acting as a land sail in the ferocious wind, dragging the heavy metal poles across the grass in the strongest gusts, so it was taken down, making the whole complex look even more forbidding and quasi-military. "They should have décor!" I exclaimed wistfully to Denny, wishing I had the time to volunteer. We discussed the options for adding colour to Harris fencing without causing the sail effect, and agreed that a décor team attached to the fencing team would have made the new site much more approachable.

Of course, the camp was still in the early hours of its birth, and there were two days of rigging before the influx of people at the bank holiday weekend. But with so much media attention surrounding the Swoop, all eyes were on the camp in its infancy; on the gate on that afternoon we spoke to Green councillors, locals, members of the press. Dozens of photos were being taken, curious locals were wandering over, and a few brightly coloured flowers or painted canvases relieving that industrial, metal fencing and tripods would have made a real difference. I decided to organise a deco team for next year's camp, temporarily forgetting my self-imposed ban against organising extra-curricular activities for a while.

We had other small criticisms as well: outreach was minimal, and lots of interested passersby or local politicians hovered outside the gate, put off by its stark appearance and guessing that the fence was intended to keep them out. This is not an impression it's sensible to give on common ground, especially not when you're imposing on the hospitality of a local council for your water, and anything to make it clear that the fence is self-defence and the camp is open to the public would help. Denny made the effort to speak to people, took some photos for them, but I hid, exhausted, inside the fencing, watching and feeling rubbish for not having the energy to be more use.

I was aware of the extent to which my impression of the camp was influenced by my tiredness and low mood, the grey weather, and my frustration with myself for not participating more fully. Had I had more energy to give, I'm sure I would have got a lot more out of the day. Part of my frustration was just that consensus democracy feels like a disorganised, slow process, demanding a different type of pace, although I don't think that means it's inefficient. If you're chilled, at home, in good company, that pace can be very pleasant, I think; if you're outside it, it can seem like faff.

And despite everything, I felt very safe in that place: surrounded by likeminded, engaged people willing to give their time and energy for a cause I agreed with, on common ground steeped in a history of dissent, on a grassy hill looking over the city skyscrapers to the north. It was wet and windy and I was glad I'd brought my raincoat. I wished I could stay to camp, but knowing I couldn't, and knowing I was too tired to be of much use, we headed home at 7pm or so, to get some sleep. Both of us were interested to see what the camp would become over the next few days, and I think it went without saying that we would return when we were able.

I was relieved not to have been caught in a conflict or kettled until the early hours, glad to get the rest I knew I needed, but I continued to feel bad about not being able to participate as fully as I wanted to. This felt right, like something I wanted to be part of, like all the things that make the first few days in the Green Futures Field far, far better than the commercial festival that follows them. I was aware that my dissatisfaction with the afternoon stemmed mostly from my own tiredness, and the lack of self-respect that came from not camping. (Maybe I could have taken that time off work. Maybe I could have not gone on holiday. Maybe I could have thought about Climate Camp earlier in the year, committed to it, done extra work in August to get ahead at work...) Denny and I followed the camp twitter feed like people obsessed. We heard about the meeting with Superintendent Pendry and the Whitechapel Anarchist Group (whose banners we'd seen on site) that disrupted it by yelling anti-police abuse; we heard about the police erecting a giant cherry picker with mounted spotlights and CCTV; I wished we were still there so my frustration and emotion about these things was as a full participant, and not as a nosy tourist.

I spent the next two days talking about the camp online, defending it to critics, glued to the news feed and spreading the word about interesting updates. My attention was divided between the ongoing negotiations with police and the 'real' story, of what was happening inside the camp (a slower story, but an affirming one: marquees being erected, consensus decision making, people working together, eating together, site-wide plenaries where speakers update the camp on campaigns and other events, entertainment and singing and workshops). Denny went back for a bit on Friday to do another gate shift; "All I'm doing at home is refreshing their twitter feed, I may as well be there to see for myself." Stuck at work, I wished I could do the same.

I got the chance on Saturday, and it was everything I hoped for: I spent the day there yesterday and have much to tell. I'm going back again on Monday morning, but right now I'm due at a business meeting, so I won't get the chance to write more until I come back from the Camp tomorrow. I feel like this is all moving very fast. I'm lucky to be in London, and have the opportunity to pop in and out with having to commit to the week. My life does not have space for this new project but I can't resist it: it follows on inevitably from everything else that has been important about the last 18 months. This is the culmination of a lot of things that started, for me, at Glastonbury and picked up a new thread through my political engagement and Police State; it's a coming-of-age for some of my convictions, and how I choose to act on them. I'm too tired to be spending these hours there but it's energising, affirming, inspiring; this is what I should be doing, so I'm doing it. This is where I ought to be.


Posted by helen on Fri 28 Aug 2009 at 18:25

Climate Camp:




Posted by helen on Thu 11 Jun 2009 at 13:43
Tags: , ,

There are two really worthwhile discussions going on which you should read:

On rape and men by Cereta, challenging the non-sexist or non-sexist-identified men who always protest that "not all men are like that" to stop telling women they're wrong about their own experiences, and start actually challenging sexism where they encounter it.

You're the guy who would never rape a girl passed out on your bed (who, for that matter, knows that such an act would be rape), or the woman in the village your battalion/troop/whatever is overrunning. You're the guy who wouldn't do such a thing even when his buddies were heckling him, telling him he's a fag and a pussy if he doesn't. Even more, you're the guy who would stop his frat brother from raping that girl, and get her home. You're the guy who would stop his comrades, or at least report them.

Now, here's my question: where the fuck are you?

It's a challenging post, and the thread is full of heart-warming stories of men who didn't rape someone, which didn't particularly surprise me. I know an awful lot of men who are prepared to be decent when in a situation with a drunk or vulnerable woman; who will not only fail to rape her, but will look after her and make sure she gets home okay. That's not really the issue, for me. The issue is that I also know an awful lot of men who aren't prepared to be always decent in those situations, and most of my friends have been raped or sexually assaulted once or multiple times, because no-one is prepared to challenge the sexist fuckwits. To tell them to shut up when they make rape jokes. To get them to chill out when they're drunk and yelling at strange women. To tell them to their face that they were out of order when they groped a woman in a club, or pestered someone for sex after they'd already said no, or carried on messing around with her after she passed out.

Before you join in the next conversation about rape protesting that "not all men are like that", think about how much you've done lately to challenge the idea that men are entitled to look at/comment on/touch/fuck women's bodies and if the woman objects or resists she's a stuck-up bitch; as put it, "the idea that if a woman is not actively preventing a man from sticking his penis into her (and even then, if she's an enemy), he is doing nothing wrong, and hey, who can blame him?"

The second post I want to point you at is Perusing Penises in the Park (no, seriously) and some street harassment stories, Khalinche's response to Cereta. This is not so much about sexual violence or living in fear of rape, but the ubiquity of sexual harassment, especially if you live in the city:

I suppose the point of this long, long post is to do what I always try to do - tell a story. Today it's the story of what it's like to live with the constant possibility of having your appearance or person commented on, loudly, by strangers, and of being on your guard many times a day. It is not about my fear of being raped, because that doesn't figure in my life as much as in those of some of the commentators at the linked post. It is about men feeling that they have a right to talk and shout to me about what they want to do and what they think of my body. It is about trying to get through to the men who don't do this quite how common it is and how it affects the lives of most women.

I had limited success expressing this a year ago; and the number of men who told me then that I was wrong, that this was nothing to do with gender, that if I'd only been more sensible I could have avoided it, only proves how necessary this conversation continues to be. Khalinche's post is excellent, and deserves a wide audience.

Edit: Talking about this in IRC, I ended uo looking up this post by Kate Harding, which has a lot of practical suggestions on how men who aren't like that can act to confront harassment and sexism where they encounter it, and why it's important that they do.


Posted by helen on Mon 8 Jun 2009 at 17:37

I feel solely responsible for the fiasco that was the European elections. By not getting myself onto the electoral roll at my new address in time, I singlehandedly allowed the BNP to gain seats. It is ALL MY FAULT. I'M SORRY. :(

Seriously, guys: UKIP have more MEPs than the Lib Dems and the Greens put together? What?

Other things that have freaked me out today include the results of a poll taken before last week's elections. "The average British voter is more likely to think that discrimination afflicts white people than Muslim or non-white people." Oh, and 2% of all BNP voters are Holocaust deniers, and 1% of voters for all other parties thought that "Hitler's Nazis killed around six million Jews Gypsies and other minorities in concentration and extermination camps in the 1930s and 40s" is "completely untrue". (link) I ... don't know what to think. My brain is shutting down in despair.


Posted by helen on Fri 10 Apr 2009 at 16:35

David Lammy MP
Labour MP for Tottenham

Dear Mr Lammy,

I am sure by now that you are aware of the allegations of police brutality against demonstrators during the G20 last week. This week, enough evidence has come to light surrounding the death of Ian Tomlinson that an independent inquiry has been launched, a fact for which I am very thankful.

I remain concerned, however, that the case of Ian Tomlinson's death may drown out the other incidents which took place on April 1 and 2 2009. This case has already demonstrated the willingness of the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC to cover up the truth. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/09/g20-police-assault-ian-tomlinson-g20 provides a good summary of the many attempts by the police to close down the investigation, prevent crucial evidence from being published, and deflect blame away from themselves.

Since the protests last week, eye-witness accounts have flooded online media with convincing and consistent reports of police brutality. The tactic of kettling protesters has already, quite rightly, been publicly questioned. Batons and shields were used aggressively against peaceful protesters inside the Bishopsgate kettle on April 1. Even police medics joined in the fray, enthusiastically hitting demonstrators with full-arm swings from a position of safety behind police lines.

Around midnight on April 1, teams of baton-wielding riot police with dogs were sent to clear hundreds of peaceful protesters from the climate camp in Bishopsgate while the national media was absent. Not only were demonstrators injured and intimidated, but the police wilfully destroyed their personal property - a particularly hypocritical act given that the police used the vandalism of RBS by protesters to excuse police actions earlier that day.

All these eye-witness reports have, over the last week, been substantiated by an ever-increasing number of independent sources, including photographs and video footage. (http://london.indymedia.org.uk/articles/1068 provides some useful links.)

Contrary to the narrative presented by most national media, most protesters were peaceful, and the police response was violently disproportionate. I have been appalled by the biased reporting of this case in the BBC and other national media, which I assume can only be the result of police pressure. I am concerned that this suppression will allow the bigger picture of police conduct and strategy to go unchecked.

I hope that justice is met regarding Ian Tomlinson's death, and that not only the individual officers, but also their superiors, will be brought to account. I also hope that the countless incidents of unprovoked police brutality against hundreds of peaceful demonstrators will be publicly accounted for. Ian Tomlinson was not the only innocent person to be assaulted by police, and the survivors of aggressive policing deserve justice as much as the victims.

I urge you to raise this matter in the House of Commons, and put pressure on the police for an independent inquiry into the wider issue of police conduct and strategy during law-abiding demonstrations. Police should enable peaceful protest, not impede it. The strategy of kettling is more likely to cause violence than contain it, and the use of riot shields and batons against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.

Many people in this country are unhappy with recent decisions made by this government, and have legitimate fears for the future. Personally, I am concerned by a pattern of increasingly repressive legislation curtailing our civil liberties and personal agency. In a party system our power to effect change is limited, and public demonstration remains one of our best options for making our voices heard. If exercising our democratic right to protest results in us being intimidated, unlawfully detained, and physically assaulted, then this country is more police state than democracy.

Yours sincerely,
Helen Lambert

Sent via Write to them. Given David Lammy MP's track record, I'm not particularly confident that he'll speak out on this, so I've also sent letters to Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer and Lord West of Spithead, who debated the use of force against protesters before the G20 last week.

I've also signed this petition against the use of kettling at peaceful demonstrations. And I'll be at the Memorial Protest tomorrow.


Posted by helen on Thu 9 Apr 2009 at 14:19

I've been continuing to add links and quotes to my previous post, trying to keep everything in one place. I do want to call attention to a couple of things though.

You probably all know by now that yesterday evening, additional footage was released of Ian Tomlinson's assault, clearly showing the full-arm swing with a baton which was directed at him from behind. The officer in question has now handed himself in.

This is positive. It means that people are beginning to accept the undeniable reality of disproportionate and unprovoked police violence on that day. It means that the individual accepts culpability, perhaps even feels remorse - although that seems unlikely given the late hour of his confession. And it means that justice, of a sort, will hopefully be served.

But it's also worrying, because if all the blame falls on a single officer or officers, it may deflect attention from everything else that happened. Ian Tomlinson wasn't the only person to be assaulted and injured by police. The peaceful protesters who were assaulted were no less innocent. Hell, even the protesters who started shouting and shoving might have had a point, after being threatened and unlawfully detained for hours with no food, water or medication.

Ian Tomlinson's death, while tragic, is not the whole story. I am glad that this case is being given the attention it deserves. But it's not the only case. The problem here is systemic.

Every time photos or video is released which corroborates the eye witness accounts, which have been many and consistent since April 1, it makes the rest of those accounts seem more plausible.

Eye-witnesses claimed that Ian Tomlinson was shoved and batoned by police.

Eye-witnesses claimed that police made free with their batons, attacking unarmed people who were protesting peacefully.

Eye-witnesses claimed that in the Bishopsgate kettle on the afternoon of April 1st, police medics were among the most violent with their batons, reaching over the front line to attack protesters.

We turned to see the police hitting people. A whole line of them lashing out indiscriminately again and again. Two officers close to me who had "Police Medic" written on their back were walking up and down behind the line of their colleagues, protected from direct assault, reaching over and thrashing with the most gusto of all.
(from Indymedia, Saturday 04 April 2009)

Police medics doing exactly this can be seen in this video, 2:07-2:09. (Look out for the green patches they're wearing.)

Also in this video can be seen police baton-charging seated, unarmed protesters - at the Bishopsgate demonstration on April 1st (05:30-05:44). Climate Camp had not been charged yet; this was in broad daylight, in the middle of the kettle outside the Bank of England. This was people responding to the police assault passively and peacefully by choosing to sit down, have a smoke and look them in the eyes. They were attacked with batons and shields.

So, while I haven't yet seen any video evidence confirming the stories from Climate Camp on the evening of the 1st (beyond the footage of the initial swoop), an increasing number of independent sources are telling the same story about Climate Camp. And thus far, the eye-witnesses have been proved more right than wrong. Their accounts need to be taken seriously by the press, and by an independent investigation on the G20 policing.

I'll be at the G-20 Meltdown memorial and protest this Saturday, marching for our democratic right to protest without fear of police brutality. It'd be good to see you there.


Posted by helen on Wed 8 Apr 2009 at 13:06

Everyone in London has been following the saga of the G20 protests and the police response to it. But I keep finding things other people haven't seen, and other people keep finding things I haven't seen, and when I told my mum and dad about this at the weekend they hadn't heard about any of it, so I'm not sure how far this has spread in the national press yet.

And even if you're in London, if your sources are the BBC, the free papers or the Evening Standard, you've probably got a distorted version of events.

I wasn't at the protests; I was at work, and the evening was my partner's birthday, so I was spending time with him instead. I'd been invited to the Climate Camp by various hippie friends, and considered going to it, but I had mixed feelings about using the G20 as a vehicle for general protest. The G20 was convened as a financial summit to sort out global recession and world trade. I'd read up on it a bit and had a sketchy understanding of quite how complex the whole messy business was, and I felt that the world leaders would have their work cut out to curtail protectionism, and keep trade links from breaking which might take years to rebuild. Never mind world peace at the same time. President Obama has been criticised for trying to fulfil his progressive campaign promises at the same time as sort the economy out, and not really achieving either; critics argue he should fix the economy first and then deal with the rest of it. And while the Copenhagan summit is arguably too late to deal with climate change, it's only in six months' time, so I was sort of disinclined to tell the G20 they should be sorting out Jobs, Justice and Climate Change at the same time as all the complex financial stuff.

Since then I've rethought that. Not only because we should be thinking about environmental and financial crises holistically if we want to solve them, rather than compartmentalising - I don't think that's realistic with our present governmental system, but I still think it's true - but because the police response to the protests was shocking, and I wish I'd been there with a camera, been there non-violently, so I could have added my voice to the eye-witness accounts flooding the internet over the next few days and insisting that the media representation of what happened was wrong.

Okay, there's a lot to get through here, so I'm going to attempt it in roughly chronological order.

The G20 protests: attempting to see through the smoke

Early reports

These are the first reports I saw:

Police clash with G20 Protesters BBC News on Wednesday, 1 April 2009, 15:46 - putting the instigation of violence squarely on the heads of protesters

G20 protests: Riot police, or rioting police? - George Monbiot for the Guardian, Wednesday 1st April 16:16

G20: The strong arm of the law - Rowena Davis and Sunny Hundal for the Guardian, Wednesday 1 April 17:36.

Hobby horses of the apocalypse! Penny Red, Wednesday 1 April

Added 09/04/09: G20 - The best press photos - April Fools Day - April 1, 2009

On the night of Wednesday 1st April, I followed friends at the protest through facebook, texts and twitter. Reports were that they had been kettled for no reason, the police were being very heavy handed, stopping people leaving with batons and shields. Some protesters were angry and fighting back. It was all very ugly but no-one could get out. People were frightened and angry. No-one knew who had thrown the first punch but there was a general consensus that if it was a protester, it was a case of a rogue individual rather than a united group initiative.

Meanwhile the London papers, the Metro, the BBC are full of stories of violent anarchists, destroying property and breaching the peace, and forcing the poor police to rein them in. I don't have links for those because they made me so pissed I closed without saving. Some of the following articles link back to them though.

Eyewitness accounts

On Facebook I am surrounded by people who were there, linking to blog posts and eyewitness accounts. People started to talk about the kettles; they started to talk about the events after police tried to close Climate Camp down on April 1.

By GreenerBlog: Kettling: the tactic that backfired and Kettling: How should we respond?

The Guardian continues to be the only paper corroborating the eyewitness reports I'm receiving through blogs and personal accounts on social networking sites.

Did the handling of the G20 protests reveal the future of policing? - Duncan Campbell for the Guardian, Friday 3 April

Since Climate Camp is where I would have been, had I been there - if I'm going to protest anything it's climate change, there's no point protesting about the recession in my opinion - I am fascinated and horrified by the reports coming in of police behaviour after dark, once they've cleared all the journalists out of the area.

The siege of Climate Camp by Stuart White, April 2, 2009

What I saw - Various eye-witness accounts of police brutality when they cleared out Climate Camp on the evening of April 1, organised by a medic who was baton-charged by police.

At 7:10 I was sitting around near south end, north end had a bicycle-powered sound system up and people dancing, there were a few (<10?) drunk idiots slumped round being incoherently rude to the police but absolutely no threat or sign of violence. It was just turning too dark for TV crews and commuters had left. Then this happened (link to youtube video). Riot police turned up maybe 6-8 deep south end (video I do't think shows lines behind the two front lines who were actually charging), two deep north end, started kettling us (no-one in or out). Then the south end baton-charged. They charged us sat down praying, they charged people sitting round eating tea, they were hitting people faster than they could run away, and going for heads rather than legs. At first people tried standing in front of them hands in the air (to show you are't holding weapons), but they were getting beaten up so people ran, and they were still getting hit. I saw three people throwing fruit, but as far as I could tell that was as violent as resistance got. You can see on the video people chanting "This is not a riot" and "shame on you", no-one hitting the police back.

Greens protest formally over G20 police tactics - "The protesters' stories of police brutality and the police's story of complete professionalism just don't stack up," says Jenny Jones

These two posts by Bristle are good collections of photos and eyewitness accounts:
Watching the police: Attack on the G20 Climate Camp (part 1)
Watching the police: Attack on the G20 Climate Camp (part 2)

Let's refresh our memories as to what these violent, anarchic protesters actually getting up to that was so provocative:

Climate Camp in the City

The Calm Before The Storm - With the world watching Climate Camp 2009

Ian Tomlinson

The mainstream press still hasn't picked up on the unprovoked brutality of police against protestors on the night of April 1st. They are, however, starting to question the original "evil protesters, professional police" narrative, because of the investigation the Guardian ran this week into the death of Ian Tomlinson, inside the kettle near the Bank of England on the afternoon of April 1.

Video reveals G20 police assault on man who died
and accompanying articles:
Police 'assaulted' bystander who died during G20 protests
Ian Tomlinson death: G20 witnesses tell of dogs, batons and an attack by police

De Menezes taught the Met nothing by Duncan Campbell

Extended Youtube footage - including of a single bottle being hurled at police as they shielded Tomlinson from the crowd. (A far cry from the rain of bricks claimed to have been thrown at polce medics by protestors in the Evening Standard.)

Ian Tomlinson: What happened? - by GreenerBlog with links to eyewitness accounts.

Added 17:56 "Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News says that ITN have exclusive footage that 'shows police clearly striking out at him with a baton.' Will be on the news tonight at 7 PM." (thanks to )

Added 09/04/09: G20 Police Attack Protestors Causing Severe Injuries (Youtube video)

Added 09/04/09: Sousveillance notes by Denny on Thuesday 9 April on the use of batons by police medics in the Bishopsgate kettle.

Added 09/04/09: And this is finally getting international coverage:
Questions About Police Tactics During G-20 - NY Times, April 6, 2009, 6:26 pm

Media propaganda

What we have here seems to be media propaganda resulting in a mirage, and victim-blaming on a grand scale. This means that most people in the UK still believe the protesters were the original instigators of violence, that the police only responded to force once a riot had already begun, and that the police response was restrained and legitimate. This propaganda needs to be challenged.

Correcting the media narrative of the G20 protests on April 1, 2009, from CeaseFire Magazine, Tuesday, April 7, 2009 21:21

"Anti-capitalist protesters embarked upon a wrecking spree within a City branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland today," shrieked The Times on April 1, "and engaged in running battles with police as G20 demonstrations turned violent. Police were forced to use dogs, horses and truncheons to control a crowd of up to 5,000 people who marched on the Bank of England, in Threadneedle Street, on the eve of the London summit."

This narrative of events is entirely typical. Under the headline "Police clash with G20 protestors", the BBC reported that "protesters stormed a London office of the Royal Bank of Scotland", later adding that: "officers later used 'containment' then 'controlled dispersal'" (BBC, April 1). The Guardian reported: "The G20 protests in central London turned violent today ahead of tomorrow's summit, with a band of demonstrators close to the Bank of England storming a Royal Bank of Scotland branch. [S]ome bloody skirmishes broke out as police tried to keep thousands of people in containment pens" (The Guardian, April 1).

What is interesting about this narrative is that it precisely reverses the events of the day.

Media quietly admits smearing G20 protestors by Sunny Hundal for Liberal Conspiracy, April 3, 2009 at 1:10 pm

As of today, the BBC are finally starting to catch up with events: G20 death man's son seeks answers

Added 04/09/04: The BBC is still behind everyone else: How should the police handle protests? on Have Your Say, Wednesday, 8 April, 2009, 16:55

added 16:13: G20 policing caused man's death: police coverup and media lies (lots more coverage at Indymedia London)

added 09/04/09: Did Costumes and Props Undercut the Seriousness of the G-20 Protests? Is the media to blame for focusing so much on what is most visually arresting, or are the protesters at fault for spending too much energy attracting attention and not enough articulating practical steps that might actually change the system?

Added 09/04/09: G20 assault: how Metropolitan police tried to manage a death - The Guardian, Thursday 9 April 2009.

It began with an anodyne press release from the Metropolitan police more than three hours after Ian Tomlinson died. It ended with a police officer and an investigator from the Independent Police Complaints Commission asking the Guardian to remove a video from its website showing an unprovoked police assault on Mr Tomlinson minutes before his heart attack.

Stay balanced

Okay, so. I don't want to join the hyperbolic brigade screaming that the police are murderous pigs. Eyewitness evidence can build a compelling case, but it's not proof, and there is already a counter-mirage being thrown up by over-excited liberals making uncorroborated claims of police violence. People saying Ian Tomlinson was beaten to death with police batons, etc. Lots of people have been angry with the police since 1991 and some of the myths springing up around the G20 are frankly unhelpful. But this doesn't mean eye-witness accounts should be dismissed out of hand, and this doesn't mean the press coverage is any less fanciful.

I wasn't there. I can't work this out just by browsing the internet; there should be an independent inquiry (rather than by the police watchdog, who as a point of policy use police reports as evidence rather than taking any independent interviews from witnesses!). All I'm trying to do here is raise awareness. This is more complicated than the BBC would have you believe. Stay sceptical. Ask questions.


Edited 18:05: People are engaging with this, getting angry, reposting it. That's great. Some of you are writing blogposts or to your MPs; even better. I do want to re-iterate the warning above, though.

For instance, a few people have already started circulating the claim "the police baton-charged a prayer meeting". This claim derives from the accounts given at What I saw. These reports make for powerful reading, and I was very emotionally affected by them. Thus far, however, they appear to be the accounts of a small group of acquaintances, who would have re-inforced each other's version of events before posting. They match some reports outside the group (linked above) but so far I haven't seen video or photo evidence of the police charging seated protestors, or the attacks by police getting bloodier than what you can see here.

The prayer meeting claim seems to be corroborated by the fact that a 'Buddhist meditation circle' and 'prayer for peace' were scheduled to take place at around the same time as the police charge shown in the above video - between 6-7pm on April 1st. However, this would have been taking place inside Climate Camp, not at the edge where people were standing up as the police approached.

That's not to say it didn't get nastier after dark, or that the eye-witness accounts posted to blogs are fabricated. However, I think it is important when writing about this, particularly to MPs, to focus on the evidence that is backed up by several independent sources. If you care about this, I would advise you to put the sensationalistic headlines down and concentrate on the stuff we can make a strong case for. There is more than enough of this to make a point.

I am anxious that the protesters and their supporters are in danger of shooting themselves in the foot by getting over-excited and making exaggerated claims. The meme of violent police is as catchy as the meme of violent protestors. If we pounce on the most dramatic claims, and they are subsequently disproved, it may weaken any remaining case we try to make.


What the Met have to say

Here are some articles covering the police point of view of events:

Operation Glencoe policing and security for the G20 London Summit - Metropolitan Police Service - offical Met reports.

Police are now effecting a slow dispersal of the remaining group of protesters who formed part of the Climate Camp demonstration at the top end of Bishopsgate. These people have now been demonstrating for over 12 hours. While this has been peaceful, they are being moved because Bishopsgate is a main arterial route. To allow them to stay would cause serious disruption to the life of the community in this area. Police are using powers under section 14 of the Public Order Act to do this. They have made every effort to tell protesters they would need to leave, warning them several times through loudhailers. (evening of April 1)

Blogs by police officers who were working at the G20:

Stressed Out Cop: Apathy in the UK and Any one of us

G20: Sheepdogs and Wolves - Friday, 3 April 2009

Most officers were on extended shifts (12 hours minimum though most did 16+ each day) and when things went properly pearshaped we had no relief and were just kept on, regardless of when we were due to start the next day. On the 1st for example, most of the serials were on an 0800 start, they didn't finish until 0200 and were then due back on for 0430 - so much for a minimum of 11 hours between shifts. After spending 14 hours getting battered with bottles and poles in one of the cordons in the City we were retasked to clear and take the climate camp.

(JQP points out: "There is no evidence that anyone on any police barricade spent '14 hours getting battered with bottles and poles'. Since that would have involved non-stop violent assault onthat picket from 10am onwards right up to the moment climate-camp was finally wrecked circa 1am." The first charge on Climate Camp happened while it was still light.)

Whose Street? Our Street!. (There are more links in the sidebar to other police blogs. I haven't had time to go through those yet but looks like there's quite a lot of material if you're interested.)

added 17:13: G20: The upside of 'kettling' John O'Connor for the Guardian, Thursday 2 April 2009 16.30

added 09/04/09: Sigh by mummylonglegs on April 1, 2009.

Fools pretending to be protestors. Terrorists pretending to be protestors. Vandals pretending to be protestors. Greenies, Beardies, Trots, Commies, Scroungers, Losers and Wasters all pretending to be protestors. They are not protestors, they are fuckwits.

Under surveillance: police target environmental protesters and journalists This Guardian video was found by Denny - it was filmed last year, but the commentary clearly illustrates police attitudes towards the free press and the right of the public to protest.

Context and commentary

Okay. There's more, but that pretty much frames the picture that has formed for me over the last week. Here's some analysis by people who have more time to write about things than I do.

Some historical context: A Brief History of Violence by Rhian Jones

Directionless Bones, a militant radical, on violence and police strategy:
Put People First, Psychological Biases, and the Role of Violence
G20 Protests: Perspectives on Police Tactics, Part 1 - Liberal Moralism
G20 Protests: Perspectives on Police Tactics, Part 2 - Militant Strategy
Machiavelli for Anarchists, Part 3 - Public and Private, Contracts of the Powerful and the Powerless

JohnQPublican, commentating on eye-witness reports, media management and hypocrisy:
Feast of Fools
They predicted a riot - containing a useful critical analysis of some of the eyewitness accounts.
Feast of Fools II: Foot in Mouth

I still blame police brutality by Sunny Hundal for Liberal Conspiracy, April 2, 2009 at 4:21 am.
So who will excuse police brutality now? by Sunny Hundal for Liberal Conspiracy, April 8, 2009 at 4:38 am.
Sunny was one of the four journalists who were present during the protest on behalf of the Guardian; hence that paper's sympathy with eyewitness reports even when they contradict the official version of events.

Added 17:40: G20 death is a sign of systemic problems in the policeby Ian Dunt for Yahoo News, Wed April 8 at 11:01am.

Picture the scene: it is around 14:00 BST. A group of peaceful protestors around the Bank of England are kept about 20 metres apart from another group of peaceful protestors on Mansion House Street. Much has been written about the effect this has on demonstrators - namely to make them more irritable and rowdy than they were previously. But it must surely have an effect on the police as well. At best, the people they are policing are treated as cattle. At worst, they are treated as a public disorder event which hasn't happened yet.

They are not, of course. They are British subjects exercising their democratic right to protest. But police behaviour is influenced by the words of their commanders, and the operational basis on which the policing is conducted.

Added 09/04/09: G20: Police turned my dissatisfaction into anger - Saturday 04 April 2009 15:17 by Longdancingboy

A moment before the clashes started, when the crowd had started to push forward against the police line I thought to myself, "God, those cops must feel pretty scared". Their line of a few dozen was trapped in between two groups of many hundreds. They had no way out. I was honestly worried for their safety if there was a crush.

Then a strange thing happened. The instant the officers started raining down blows the heads of anyone and everyone I lost all sympathy for them. In a flash they had gone from being on my side, there for my protection and safety, to causing harm to innocent people. I actually became afraid of being hurt by the police.

And this when I had been a Special Constable for eighteen months when I was at university. I know from first-hand experience that it's a tough, dangerous and mostly thankless job, even when they're not on the front line of an angry crowd. Yet suddenly my perspective shifted. Now they've lost my respect. This makes me extremely sad.


It has been suggested to me that it is possible that the mainstream press was so slow to point blame at the police because of the stringent legal regulations in place which restrict this. I have been informed that the police can, and will, sue journalists for slander if they make claims about the police or individual police officers that cannot be proved in court. I don't have any sources for this, but would appreciate them.

Okay. I should do some work now. Feel free to add links in comments. I'll keep this entry public; you're welcome to link to it.


Edit 14:18: Denny has posted the letter he sent to his MP this morning here. It's a good letter. If you care about this at all, you should write to yours.

Edit 18:54: Denny and I will be at the G20 Meltdown protest this Saturday. See you there?

EDIT 22:01 Wow this is moving fast...
Ian Tomlinson death: New video footage from G20 protests gives fresh angle on attack - Wednesday 8 April 2009
Footage originally released on ITN Channel Four News at 7pm this evening, showing the police office who attacked Tomlinson drawing back his arm and hitting him full swing with the baton from behind.

Ian Tomlinson death: Police officer comes forward to IPCC - Wednesday 8 April 19:50

Riot police officer comes forward as Ian Tomlinson death investigation begins - April 9 2009

Good, the individual has accepted culpability and police use of batons against protestors will hopefully be called into question. Clever, the individual handing themselves in deflects culpability from higher up the chain of command - where responsibility for police strategy and conduct still lies.

I hope this doesn't close the whole story down. I hope it paves the way for more revelations. Because this was a big deal, but it was by no stretch of the imagination the whole deal.

Edited 22:41: John Q Publican apparently agrees with me: Feast of Fools III: Guilty.


Posted by helen on Thu 8 May 2008 at 17:38
Tags: none.

Two links:

1. Nadine Dorries, a pro-life MP currently campaigning for a reduction in the legal time limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 20, recently released a list of "20 reasons for 20 weeks". Pro-choice campaigners Coalition for Choice has recently retorted with "24 reasons for 24 weeks, fight back for women’s rights to abortion. This has been masterminded by my good friend Penny Red - we all helped her brainstorm reasons when I was round for dinner on Tuesday night, and the final draft of the list has evolved considerably. I think it's a damn strong article, and hugely admire Penny for carrying this forward. She's also released a related article focussing on David Cameron's anti-choice campaigning. Both are very much worth a read. And if you'd care to propagate the link to "24 reasons", please, please do - the more widely read it is the better.

2. A detailled (and unusually balanced) article about the reclassification of cannabis. I'm disgusted and drained by the whole palaver - surely, SURELY there are better ways for the government to spend their time and money? But it's refreshing to see that not all reporting is wholly sensationalist, even if this one does rather skimp over the medicinal benefits of cannabis to certain groups, and other liberal examples of workable legislation - for example, Canada's. This doesn't have to be a choice between Holland/puritanism. I mean hell, we could even try leaving the law how it is for once, rather than niggling and tweaking and worrying at it as if we were didn't have anything better to do.