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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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

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.