Boiling a Frog

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.


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