Monthly Archives: November 2010

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The impossibility of defending police terror

The first comment anyone contributed to this blog is a useful demonstration of the poverty of imagination in our public conversation. I had suggested that police on horses terrified quivering civilians.

Are these the same ‘quivering civilians’ that broke that police woman’s arm? Or the ones that decimated a police van? The police were keeping a distance until the vandalism started, weren’t they? And I have to say that I’m not surprised that they were a little more heavy-handed, given what happened at Millbank two weeks ago. Continue reading

Police violence and horses

Laurie Penny’s blogpost on yesterday’s police kettling in Whitehall, and even more the video of a moment when police horses advanced on peaceful crowds who showed no visible signs of being about to riot, focus the issue of police violence, the obscene complement of our politics. The violence of the police, horrible as it is, is nothing more than the hidden, disavowed obverse of government by the band of self-supporting cutthroats we elected in May.

The natural response in the light of this police violence, voiced by many people on Twitter, in blogs, and elsewhere, is shock and revulsion. The tactic of moving huge, powerful, and forbidding animals at crowds of kettled civilians, is an outrage. Griping comments like the following, posted on the Liberal Conspiracy webpage that is hosting the video, utterly miss the point: Continue reading

Student occupations, John Lewis, and the externalization of belief

I heard earlier today that a student I teach is occupying the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford (the student website is here). I was driving a car at the time I heard, so I couldn’t jump for joy, but my heart swelled with pride. In the university at which I teach full-time, they’ve been occupying the Founder’s Building and set up a webcam to display their peaceful protest (see their website).

These excellent students stand in solidarity with thousands at more than a dozen universities across the country who are protesting not just against the proposed rise in tuition fees, the cutting of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and the evisceration of the funding model for higher education, but in general against all the cuts that the ConDem government is visiting on the country – cuts that disproportionately hit the poor, sick, and otherwise vulnerable. There is no economic case for the cuts; they are simply being pushed through as a continuing consequence of an ideological shift that took place a generation ago, when the fall of Communism brought with it, mostly unacknowledged, the death of social democracy. (David Wearing provides a nice analysis here; Žižek’s New Left Review piece from this August is a more substantial piece: read it here.) Continue reading

The real problem with proportional representation

Simon Jenkins’s column in today’s Guardian implies that under PR the Left would end up with a political settlement just as distasteful to us as the present coalition. His basic assertion, superficially plausible, is that

The vilification of the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, by his party for “breaking” various election promises is absurd. It flatly contradicts a Lib Dem belief in proportional representation and its handmaid, compromise. Continue reading