A "counter-propoganda" poster. Photo: @specialpatrols
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Posters across London are challenging the Met using its own data – why has one gone missing?

An anonymous arts organisation has been posting STRIKE! magazine's "counter-propaganda" across the capital. Now one of the posters seems to have been whitewashed.

They look so similar that they make you double take. Going past on a bus or bike, they are indistinguishable from the Metropolitan Police’s poster campaign. But their messages are anything but pro-police; and the #acab (“all cops are bastards”) tag at the bottom suggests a different source.

In fact, these posters were created by independent newspaper STRIKE! magazine after a Freedom of Information request revealed the Met had spent almost a million pounds on a campaign designed to improve their image in areas where “confidence in policing is lower than average”. The posters advertised what the Met considered to be recent successes, including putting the “five worst anti-social offenders” in Lewisham before the courts and stepping up drugs raids in Islington.

The campaign has attracted ridicule from organisations such as the Center for Crime and Justice Studies, who suggested the police would need “psychic powers” to know some of the statistics they claimed.

The poster which prompted the CCJS to ask if the police were psychic. Photo: Center for Crime and Justice Studies

According to a STRIKE! spokesperson, the messages they spread were “a massive public expense”. They launched a counter-campaign through “Brandalism”, a form of activism that seeks to radically disrupt the “visual assault” of advertising in public space, which STRIKE! calls “completely undemocratic, in that it is public space used to make a profit” – or, in the case of the police, to “promote lies about policing in the areas worst affected by police violence and racism”.

Their “counter-propaganda” posters appropriate the police posters’ design to spread an alternative message, using a shared visual identity to highlight a striking contrast in content.

A Met police poster alongside a STRIKE! ​parody.

If this all looks familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time the posters have had an airing on the streets of London. In 2014, the “shadowy art-activism organisation” Special Patrol Group helped the design go viral after they distributed them around the city.

Now, after a week that saw deaths in police custody at their highest level for five years, Special Patrol Group are back. STRIKE! claims not to know who put the posters up, but suggests they've used a technique advocated by the Brandalism website that recommends the group put the adverts up by, “hiding in plain sight with hi-vis vests”.

Last night, however, it appeared someone was fighting back. After the designs received press attention yesterday, one of the posters in New Cross seems to have been whitewashed over. A STRIKE! spokesperson tells me the act came as a shock; the campaign initially received “great feedback from members of the public”, and residents of the building where the poster was displayed seemed not to know anything about a potential cover-up.

Now STRIKE! is asking if the police arranged for the poster to be whitewashed:

The figure on the poster is based on fact, confirmed by the Met themselves. The billboard was a derelict site which hadn’t been changed for years and in the past few months had been covered in fly posters. Nobody bothered to change that but someone was clearly very quick to get rid of this advert. Why? It looks like the police are afraid of the truth.

Nevertheless, the publication hopes to continue taking action. “Theresa May herself has told the police that there are too many bad apples in the force”, says a source. “After 25 years and 1,513 deaths in custody with not one conviction of a police officer, [she’s] launched an investigation. Big woop. It’s not enough.

“Until police officers are held responsible for their wrongdoings, violence, corruption, murder and racism we will not be satisfied. Until we build a society where ‘crime’ is not so closely related to inequality, we will not stop fighting”.

We have contacted the Metropolitan Police for comment and await their response.

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

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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