I listened to the segment on Radio 4 this morning that featured London Mayor Boris Johnson and Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson discussing the attack on Charles and Camilla. Part of the discussion focused on why, when it is standard practice in the protection of ‘principles’ to have many alternative routes planned before the vehicle sets out, the vehicle was driven past the scene of protests anyway.
Now, it seems to me that there was a strong political motivation for doing so. The Royals could never have been considered at real risk from what were ostensibly peaceful protests by students, but the car was bound to have something minor done to it – after all, the protests are about fairness and democracy, the sight of inherited wealth and divine birth being driven past in an expensive limousine would probably be too much for most people to resist.
This would then be the front page of newspapers, not the vote, not the peaceful majority of protests, not the numerous incidents of police brutality that were passed around Twitter throughout the day or the fact that ‘kettling’ is an extremely dubious tactic that almost seems designed to turn peaceful protests violent.
The most worrying part of the R4 program was the repetition by Sir Paul Stephenson that the armed police protecting Charles and Camilla acted with great restraint throughout – i.e. they were really good not to shoot anyone. I just find that a bit worrying. Surely the whole point of employing protection in the first place is that this situation is avoided. They should have taken an alternative route – or less obvious transport.
Instead, they just happened to be caught in a media storm with protesters and photographers on hand to ensure that today only one thing is being discussed – and it has nothing to do with fairness, democracy or the right to peaceful protest:
Judging by the reaction I have heard this morning to the Daily Mail frontpage, this PR has been very successful and students are being demonised. People have been distracted, once again, from the real issues in politics.