Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Shirley, Simon, Chris and David

by Stephen Tall on April 1, 2009

The Times tells us that four senior Lib Dems will be on hand to inspect police treatment of protesters at today’s climate camp in London’s Square Mile:

Four Liberal Democrats – Baroness Williams of Crosby, Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne and David Howarth – will act as legal observers at the climate camp to prevent violence initiated by police, rather than protesters.

Mr Howarth, the MP for Cambridge, said that police and media were guilty of “talking up the violence”, adding: “The danger is that they are putting off peaceful protesters, and attracting the wrong sort.”

Over at the paper’s Comment Central blog, Lib Dem-baiting Daniel Finkelstein ponders if this is Nick Clegg’s idea of an April Fool joke:

Aside from being an extraordinary insult to the police, it misjudges the public mood about the protests I think.

Well, maybe. But if Danny wanted to be fair (and I’m sure his journalistic pride demands that he does) then he would have acknowledged that there are very legitimate concerns about policing of climate camp events.

Just last December, after all, a home office minister was forced to apologise to the House of Commons for alleging that 70 police had been injured by protestors at last August’s climate camp in Kingsnorth: the actual figure was zero (0). However, the injury toll among protestors at the hands of police was most definitely not zero.

This, then, is absolutely the right issue for liberals – and therefore Lib Dems – to take a keen interest in: liberalism is about championing the rights of those without power (the poor, weak and disposessed). It would of course be very easy to simply stick up for the police every time, and assume they can do no wrong – as Danny does so. But when the police are in the wrong, as they were at Kingsnorth, politicians should call them on it without fear or favour.

So good on Shirley, Simon, Chris and David for making a stand for the rights of peaceful protesters.

>> You can read LDV’s previous coverage of the Kingsnorth climate camp at these links:

Opinion: Whose law is it anyway? (Neale Upstone) – 18th August, 2008;
Baker takes on rozzers – 15th December 2008;
‘Toothache, diarrhoea, cut fingers and possible bee stings’ – the injuries that Kingsnorth climate camp protestors were blamed for inflicting on police – 16th December 2008.