Climate camp double agent: money well spent?

Apparently it cost £2.25m to fund Mark Kennedy’s undercover exploits. Was it really worth it?

Apparently, PC Mark Kennedy's infiltration of the green protest movement, which culminated in the policeman's unmasking by the campaigners who had thought of him as their friend for the best part of the past decade, cost an estimated £2.25m.

This seems like a lot. Even taking into account the fact that he seems to have won the affection of the protesters by bankrolling some of their activities (the way to impress green campaigners, apparently, is to have your own set of wheels) it's hard to imagine how he had to spend this much. Presumably he was just the kind of guy that can't say no.

Eventually he switched sides and declined to give evidence in the trial of the six protesters charged with conspiring to shut down the Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station in 2009.

Anxious to be sure that as much money as possible was well and truly wasted – as well as the last nine years of his life – he waited until after the trial had already racked up costs of £400,000 before doing so. That way he made sure that his name was definitively erased from the good books of both parties.

If a gaggle of mild-mannered green campaigners were worth spending £2.25m on, you can only assume that the Met has a snoop in every protest organisation in the country. That Father 4 Justice dressed up as a paunchy batman? Mole. He's probably not even a real dad.

At this very moment, the shadowy top brass of the Taxpayers' Alliance are looking at one another in their volcano lair, trying to figure out whether Kevin who does the accounts really hates regulation as much as he says he does. He talks like a sound free-marketeer, sure, but how can you know for certain? It could just be a ploy. He could be a cop – who doesn't even care about taxes all that much.

Caroline Lucas supported direct action on climate change – does this mean that there are moles in the Green Party?

Anyway, I digress. The important things are: a) how on earth can pretending to be an eco-campaigner justify annual expenses of a quarter of a million quid, and b) what other useful things could the Met be spending all that money on?

Useful things the police could have spent all that money on

  • Employing 50 actual policemen (ie, those not on extended Smoking Dope and Messing About leave) for a year.
  • 2,812 shiny new Tasers – why spend so much money investigating suspicious crusties when you can just keep them on the straight and narrow with the occasional paralysing zap?
  • Setting up two new five-horse mounted units and maintaining them for three years. Police horses are pretty and everyone can enjoy patting their glossy noses and/or running in blind panic as they charge in terrifying unison. A much better use of public money.
  • Keeping a police helicopter in the air for 4,500 hours. Think about all that invaluable surveillance time going to waste! (Incidentally, 4,500 hours is almost as much time as PC Mark Kennedy spent chilling out with a doobie and a nifty hat in nine years of sterling police work.)
  • 30 police dogs for 10 years. The number of police dogs was cut two years ago. The credit crisis was blamed at the time, but that's only because giving the real reason – a chronic drain on funds caused by maintaining the offbeat lifestyles of undercover agents – would have risked blowing Mark Kennedy's cover.
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The most terrifying thing about Donald Trump's speech? What he didn't say

No politician uses official speeches to put across their most controversial ideas. But Donald Trump's are not hard to find. 

As Donald Trump took the podium on a cold Washington day to deliver his inauguration speech, the world held its breath. Viewers hunched over televisions or internet streaming services watched Trump mouth “thank you” to the camera, no doubt wondering how he could possibly live up to his deranged late-night Twitter persona. In newsrooms across America, reporters unsure when they might next get access to a president who seems to delight in denying them the right to ask questions got ready to parse his words for any clue as to what was to come. Some, deciding they couldn’t bear to watch, studiously busied themselves with other things.

But when the moment came, Trump’s speech was uncharacteristically professional – at least compared to his previous performances. The fractured, repetitive grammar that marks many of his off-the-cuff statements was missing, and so, too, were most of his most controversial policy ideas.

Trump told the crowd that his presidency would “determine the course of America, and the world, for many, many years to come” before expressing his gratefulness to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for their “gracious aid” during the transition. “They have been magnificent," Trump said, before leading applause of thanks from the crowd.

If this opening was innocent enough, however, it all changed in the next breath. The new president moved quickly to the “historic movement”, “the likes of which the world has never seen before”, that elected him President. Following the small-state rhetoric of his campaign, Trump promised to take power from the “establishment” and restore it to the American people. “This moment," he told them, “Is your moment. It belongs to you.”

A good deal of the speech was given over to re-iterating his nationalist positions while also making repeated references to the key issues – “Islamic terrorism” and families – that remain points of commonality within the fractured Republican GOP.

The loss of business to overseas producers was blamed for “destroying our jobs”. “Protection," Trump said, “Will lead to great strength." He promised to end what he called the “American carnage” caused by drugs and crime.

“From this day forward," Trump said, “It’s going to be only America first."

There was plenty in the speech, then, that should worry viewers, particularly if you read Trump’s promises to make America “unstoppable” so it can “win” again in light of his recent tweets about China

But it was the things Trump didn't mention that should worry us most. Trump, we know, doesn’t use official channels to communicate his most troubling ideas. From bizarre television interviews to his upsetting and offensive rallies and, of course, the infamous tweets, the new President is inclined to fling his thoughts into the world as and when he sees fit, not on the occasions when he’s required to address the nation (see, also, his anodyne acceptance speech).

It’s important to remember that Trump’s administration wins when it makes itself seem as innocent as possible. During the speech, I was reminded of my colleague Helen Lewis’ recent thoughts on the “gaslighter-in-chief”, reflecting on Trump’s lying claim that he never mocked a disabled reporter. “Now we can see," she wrote, “A false narrative being built in real time, tweet by tweet."

Saying things that are untrue isn’t the only way of lying – it is also possible to lie by omission.

There has been much discussion as to whether Trump will soften after he becomes president. All the things this speech did not mention were designed to keep us guessing about many of the President’s most controversial promises.

Trump did not mention his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, nor the wall he insists he will erect between America and Mexico (which he maintains the latter will pay for). He maintained a polite coolness towards the former President and avoiding any discussion of alleged cuts to anti-domestic violence programs and abortion regulations. Why? Trump wanted to leave viewers unsure as to whether he actually intends to carry through on his election rhetoric.

To understand what Trump is capable of, therefore, it is best not to look to his speeches on a global stage, but to the promises he makes to his allies. So when the President’s personal website still insists he will build a wall, end catch-and-release, suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” “where adequate screening cannot occur”; when, despite saying he understands only 3 per cent of Planned Parenthood services relate to abortion and that “millions” of women are helped by their cancer screening, he plans to defund Planned Parenthood; when the president says he will remove gun-free zones around schools “on his first day” - believe him.  

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland