diamond geezer

 Thursday, April 21, 2005

Vote050505: Bethnal Green and Bow - rotten borough

The rumour was that Tony was coming to Brick Lane. The police said he wasn't, they said he was up north, and as it turned out they were right. But there did seem to be slightly too many policemen compared to normal, and a couple of camera crews, so something was clearly afoot. The epicentre of the action eventually became clear - a tandoori restaurant up Hanbury Street, and one of the few businesses in the neighbourhood with an Oona poster in the window. Outside the restaurant entrance stood a few people with Labour badges flanked by an ever-increasing number of police. Across the narrow street they were faced by a tribe of anti-war protestors wielding black placards, few of whom looked local. One older gentleman had a very different grievance, he was opposing Crossrail's proposed worksite in the area, and he thrust multi-language leaflets into the hands of every passer by. Everybody was very well behaved, stepping back onto the pavement whenever the rookie PC asked them nicely. Another small crowd gathered on the corner of Brick Lane to watch the main crowd, and a policeman with a camcorder took pictures of us all just in case we turned out to be international terrorists.

At precisely one minute to three the anti-war protestors started shouting. They had a few well-rehearsed one-syllable choruses ("Troops Out! Blair Out!") which they repeated even though Mr Blair was nowhere to be seen. At three o'clock a procession of Labour supporters holding red banners rounded the corner from Brick Lane. They swept up the street, in some cases rather sheepishly, and assembled outside the restaurant. Oona was amongst them, as was mayor Ken, but I only found this out several hours later when I got home and watched the encounter on TV. The protestors' chants grew louder ("Blair Out! Oona Out!") and eventually more chilling ("All The Way! Galloway!") as the Labour ensemble filed inside the restaurant. The whole shouting match was over within five minutes, and I was surprised how rapidly both the crowd and the police drifted away. This was a pantomime event stage-managed purely for the media, with no attempt whatsoever at coherent campaigning. Nothing was thrown, nothing was resolved, but it all made good publicity for both sides. Modern politics, at least round my way, appears to have lost its footing in the real world.

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