Copenhagen: the crackdown

Most of those arrested in Copenhagen were entirely innocent

Reporting on Saturday's march here in Denmark is overwhelmingly focused on police action, with 938 people arrests made. All but 13 have already been released. An eyewitness I spoke to watched the entire scene from her apartment overlooking Amagerbrogade street. Some young people who had infiltrated the crowd were throwing stones and smashing windows as they passed the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Police descended on an entire section of the crowd referred to as the "Black Bloc". Most of those arrested were entirely innocent and bird's-eye images of lines of the detained in multicoloured bobble hats and ski jackets contrast with rumours circulating yesterday of hundreds of black-clad youths.

The operation was shockingly efficient. The arrested were pulled on to an adjoining street, tied up with cable ties and left to sit on the near-frozen roadside for nearly four hours. I heard a marcher from Japan tell how he was put into a police bus and brought to a huge warehouse where he was detained in a cage for up to nine hours. He described the atmosphere as jovial, with everyone there safe in the knowledge they had done nothing wrong. By the time I passed the scene half an hour after the arrests were made, all that could be seen was a line of strict police blocking off views on to the adjoining road.

Back on the march outside the Bella Centre, Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, wrapped up the movement with an inspiring speech. She emphasised again one of the salient points of this conference, that it is about people. "I sometimes worry slightly about the images we have . . . If the image is a melting glacier or the polar bears -- and I love polar bears -- it still distances us . . . For me, the image of climate change is a poor farmer, a poor indigenous woman, and she is desperate because her livelihood is being undermined."

Unlike previous speakers, Robinson wasn't afraid to launch into the numbers debate. She put the minimum that developed countries must donate to the developing world way above the earmarked $10bn. We should expect a fund of $200bn per year and put the initial fast-track fund at a minimum of $100bn. "This is very modest in terms of financial bailouts and defence budgets," she said. The crowd was reverentially quiet throughout, but livened up when Desmond Tutu took to the stage, cackling and grinning and calling for the "wonderful rich people -- and you are wonderful" to realise their "moral" obligation.

While this went on outside, one blogger inside the centre described the place as "hermetically sealed", with people crowding around screens to follow the protest outside.

Another 200 people were arrested today in an unauthorised march that was planned to blockade Copenhagen's port. The protesters were on their way to the headquarters of the shipping firm Maersk. There has been little mention of this protest, which seems to be a very fringe affair, involving what the police have called some "hardcore" protesters.

The only sign of action was the sound of police cars racing around the city at around 2pm, adding a little drama to what was otherwise a pretty quiet day in town.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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