Thursday, 12 March 2009


The phalanx of police officers faced us on the other side of the gate. Grim faced, unspeaking, and dressed in full riot gear they looked as though they meant business. Their foes were formidable, a 54 year old politician, and the managing director of a business that makes transformers to get electricity from renewable sources into the grid, both of us trying to engage them in conversation about global warming.

True it was midnight, and we were in the countryside, and they were from Wales and perhaps had never been to Kent before, but the climate change camp in the field at the back of us did not consist of a bunch of violent insurrectionists but of middle class students and assorted greenies.

I spent a couple of days camping and occasionally speaking at last summer's protest camp against a new Kingsnorth power station. My impression was of it being a cross between a scout jamboree and a party conference held in marquees rather than hotels: a happy-clappy affair with very eco toilets. Non-violence was the order of the day.

Not many of the police were like the Welsh lot. I chatted to officers from the 26 forces represented who were relaxed and friendly, but there were more police around than campers and the whole thing was ridiculously over the top.

Kent police claimed that 70 officers were injured in the £5.9 million operation, but a series of questions by Lib Dem MPs (Norman Baker also made it to the camp) revealed that none were inflicted by protestors. A bee sting appears to have been the worst case, although one officer was off for a day or two after hurting his toe when he shut his car door. The allegations I heard at the time of crayons and board games being seized have been proven true.

Protestors should take copies of the Lib Dem report to future camps and make sure every police officer gets a copy. They can then spend their idle time wondering how people who ordered such an approach can get into senior positions of command.

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