Memo: water cannons part of the plan, Laurie Penny learns

Security firm's email also identifies location of possible kettle.

Two hours ago, I was passed this email via a trusted source. It suggests that police plan to kettle demonstrators along the route of today's education march, and that plans are in place to use potentially lethal water cannon "if need be". The memo appears to come from Business Monitor International (BMI, a security risk company. The police have denied the suggestion.)


Student protest email

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Right now, I'm standing at Malet Street with several thousand students, unionists and allies waiting for the march to leave Bloomsbury and head to the City of London.

The stated aims of the march, which was called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, are to "support the 30 November Strikers" and to "stop the HE White Paper" which is set to open up British universities to further privatisation after last year's vote to triple tuition fees.

Demonstrators are calling for a tax on the rich to fund free higher education in the UK, and the selection of the City of London as a target makes a clear statement that protesters see corporate greed and public sector cuts as inextricably connected.

One year ago tomorrow, students took over the Conservative Party's headquarters at Millbank. After a year of arrests, kettling and brutal crackdowns, the shift to targeting banks rather than Parliament is perhaps indicative of a growing awareness of where and by whom power is truly wielded in Britain today.

A spokesman for BMI declined to comment on the specifics of the memo, but added that the company was often given information "which we pass on internally".



Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.