You're not bringing that in here...

A table cloth triggers a police crackdown at Climate Camp

Dear Marina,

It was lovely to meet you at Climate Camp last week. My Harold was quite taken with you. And you make such a wonderful pot of tea. Thank you for taking the time to help us and listen to our concerns. When we’re moved out of our home we will take with us a lifetime of memories including time spent with people like you at Climate Camp. I was very concerned at the heavy handedness of the police. Did you have any problems?
Hilda, Sipson Village

Thank you Hilda and up yours! Since I was doing no wrong – merely exercising my right to empower others to protest – I haven’t come away with any lasting problems, other than having my grandmother’s table cloth confiscated under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act. I might, apparently, have used it as a weapon.

It was in fact, required to keep up my own exacting standards while serving tea to protesters. The tea was still served – but it’s never the same without doilies and a cloth.

The police have since lost the cloth – claiming they returned it to camp. I have no recourse for complaint because under Section 60 the police can do anything. Their words.

I am left bereft of a family heirloom and scratching my head: you never notice the erosion of civil liberties until the rug of rights is gone from under your feet or more pertinently the cloth of democracy is gone from the table.

Male officers, despite declaring my wit as the only sharp thing about my person, also subjected me to some pretty full on body searches. Once again I cannot complain because under Section 60 the police have the powers "to do anything" as they repeatedly insisted.

During one search, to put this into context, with that many witnesses, had it been a member of the public rather than the long arm of the law touching me in that way, I’d be pressing charges for sexual assault and expect justice to be done.

Tell me Hilda, have you and Harold ever considered anarchy? I only ask because it seems to me that dismantling our current system of government is our only hope if we are seriously going to address systemic problems within planning law. Without changes any efforts to halt or curb the progression of climate chaos are futile.

But hey, given the current trajectory of state interference and the rise of police powers, I guess they’ll shoot us all long before progress is made.

Dear Marina,

I’m all for saving money. That’s why I’ve turned down the thermostat and installed energy efficient light bulbs. But I’d hardly claim I was playing my part to halt climate change given government plans for airport expansion and no plans for improving public transport. Should I give up or what?
Confused, Leith

Saving money is a good thing, especially when you spend your savings wisely. And of course every drop of greenhouse gas prevented from escaping into the atmosphere has to be a good thing. So obviously, don’t give up.

If anything, now is the time to increase activity that may help us stabilize the climate. Eating more vegan food and less meat and dairy products is good. As is super gluing yourself to the doors of the Department of Transport or DEFRA. Such actions won’t make much of a difference to your own personal carbon footprint, or indeed to that of the civil servants employed in such places. It will however highlight the scale of the problem to others and give you a day in court on charges of criminal damage. But since once the glue has been dissolved, it's hardly likely to be a scratch on any structure you might adhere yourself to, you’d have to come before a pretty grumpy judge not to have your case dismissed. Good luck!

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear