Last Sunday George Bush graciously flew into the UK for a final official visit before he steps down as president in January next year. PM Gordon Brown looked distinctly uncomfortable at their joint press conference, particularly when he had to announce that the UK would continue to support US military adventurism in the Middle East by sending yet more troops out there.
Of course, over the years many millions of us opposed these illegal wars, but to no avail. This was the last opportunity for peace protesters in the UK to vent their feelings towards Bush. The police responded in an increasingly heavy-handed way, penning the peaceniks up, beating innocent people around the head for no reason, and calling in the armoured riot police.
One friend of mine said that they were standing there playing protest songs when suddenly a wall of Robocop lookalikes appeared and began to advance on them. My friend, a seasoned activist, had never seen anything quite like it; even he was unnerved. Another decided to make a stand. Well, to be exact, he lay down at their feet, protected only by Solomon his trusty Peace Dog.
Despite all this, the police persisted in blaming the protesters. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison announced that the Met would hold an enquiry and said: “We are seriously disappointed by the irresponsible and criminal action of those who have challenged police….”
Allison then went on to make a statement that chilled my heart: he said that the protest could have been used as a “cover” for terrorists targeting George Bush.
So this is what it has come to. Many intelligent commentators over recent years have said that politicians and police use the threat of terrorism to gain more and more draconian powers. Time and again we have seen innocent people stopped for no good reason under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Infamously, this Act was also used to throw 87 year old Walter Wolfgang out of a Labour Party conference for heckling Jack Straw. Police can even arrest you now purely to ascertain your identity.
But for a senior policeman to claim that violence is acceptable against peace campaigners as they might be harbouring terrorists is one step beyond. The tactics the US army has used so disastrously on the streets of Baghdad have now been imported to the streets of Westminster.
I have been saying for a long time that the laws are already in place for the UK to be defined as effectively a police state. The only reason that this is not yet obvious to all is because these laws are not applied more widely. But perhaps we are seeing the first signs of this now.
Where will this end? The German people did not just wake up one day in 1939 and find that they lived under a fascist régime. The process was slow, and the erosion of democracy incremental. The vast majority was not even aware of what was happening to their country until it was too late.
They say that if you put a frog in cold water, and then gradually heat up the pot, the frog cannot detect the change in temperature fast enough and will sit there boiling to death. This, I fear, is what is happening to our democracy.