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

Click here to see a larger version

 

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.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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