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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Why is Labour surging in Wales?

A new poll suggests Labour will not be going gently into that good night. 

Well where did that come from? The first two Welsh opinion polls of the general election campaign had given the Conservatives all-time high levels of support, and suggested that they were on course for an historic breakthrough in Wales. For Labour, in its strongest of all heartlands where it has won every general election from 1922 onwards, this year had looked like a desperate rear-guard action to defend as much of what they held as possible.

But today’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll has shaken things up a bit. It shows Labour support up nine percentage points in a fortnight, to 44 percent. The Conservatives are down seven points, to 34 per cent. Having been apparently on course for major losses, the new poll suggests that Labour may even be able to make ground in Wales: on a uniform swing these figures would project Labour to regain the Gower seat they narrowly lost two years ago.

There has been a clear trend towards Labour in the Britain-wide polls in recent days, while the upwards spike in Conservative support at the start of the campaign has also eroded. Nonetheless, the turnaround in fortunes in Wales appears particularly dramatic. After we had begun to consider the prospect of a genuinely historic election, this latest reading of the public mood suggests something much more in line with the last century of Welsh electoral politics.

What has happened to change things so dramatically? One possibility is always that this is simply an outlier – the "rogue poll" that basic sampling theory suggests will happen every now and then. As us psephologists are often required to say, "it’s just one poll". It may also be, as has been suggested by former party pollster James Morris, that Labour gains across Britain are more apparent than real: a function of a rise in the propensity of Labour supporters to respond to polls.

But if we assume that the direction of change shown by this poll is correct, even if the exact magnitude may not be, what might lie behind this resurgence in Labour’s fortunes in Wales?

One factor may simply be Rhodri Morgan. Sampling for the poll started on Thursday last week – less than a day after the announcement of the death of the much-loved former First Minister. Much of Welsh media coverage of politics in the days since has, understandably, focused on sympathetic accounts of Mr Morgan’s record and legacy. It would hardly be surprising if that had had some positive impact on the poll ratings of Rhodri Morgan’s party – which, we should note, are up significantly in this new poll not only for the general election but also in voting intentions for the Welsh Assembly. If this has played a role, such a sympathy factor is likely to be short-lived: by polling day, people’s minds will probably have refocussed on the electoral choice ahead of them.

But it could also be that Labour’s campaign in Wales is working. While Labour have been making modest ground across Britain, in Wales there has been a determined effort by the party to run a separate campaign from that of the UK-wide party, under the "Welsh Labour" brand that carried them to victory in last year’s devolved election and this year’s local council contests. Today saw the launch of the Welsh Labour manifesto. Unlike two years ago, when the party’s Welsh manifesto was only a modestly Welshed-up version of the UK-wide document, the 2017 Welsh Labour manifesto is a completely separate document. At the launch, First Minister Carwyn Jones – who, despite not being a candidate in this election is fronting the Welsh Labour campaign – did not even mention Jeremy Corbyn.

Carwyn Jones also represented Labour at last week’s ITV-Wales debate – in contrast to 2015, when Labour’s spokesperson was then Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith. Jones gave an effective performance, being probably the best performer alongside Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood. In fact, Wood was also a participant in the peculiar, May-less and Corbyn-less, ITV debate in Manchester last Thursday, where she again performed capably. But her party have as yet been wholly unable to turn this public platform into support. The new Welsh poll shows Plaid Cymru down to merely nine percent. Nor are there any signs yet that the election campaign is helping the Liberal Democrats - their six percent support in the new Welsh poll puts them, almost unbelievably, at an even lower level than they secured in the disastrous election of two year ago.

This is only one poll. And the more general narrowing of the polls across Britain will likely lead to further intensification, by the Conservatives and their supporters in the press, of the idea of the election as a choice between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as potential Prime Ministers. Even in Wales, this contrast does not play well for Labour. But parties do not dominate the politics of a nation for nearly a century, as Labour has done in Wales, just by accident. Under a strong Conservative challenge they certainly are, but Welsh Labour is not about to go gently into that good night.

Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.

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