Democrats & Liberals Archives

London Calling

Far be it from me to suggest that we British are an unfriendly crowd. I don’t think that’s the case at all. But there are some rather strong mumblings going around this windswept little island that suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, President Bush might not want to come here next week.

Story update, 18:40EST: President Bush will apparently not be hidden from protesters - the Metropolitan Police has said “there’s no intention to spare anyone’s embarrassment”. If that’s true, it’s going to be an interesting trip for President Bush…

It started with a half-jokey project by activist Tim Ireland called Bare Your Bum At Bush, which suggested a mass mooning of the President to spoil any photo ops. That then graduated to plans for full scale demonstrations during the President's state visit.

This left the London Metropolitan Police rather nervous, as – let's face it – having Tony Blair, George Bush, HM The Queen, and a few tens of thousands of protesters in the same area might literally be the greatest security risk in the world.

The US Secret Service were even less happy than the police. The London Times quoted a British source as saying:

They [the Secret Service] wanted to turn London into little Washington by closing roads for miles around, hours before the Presidentís motorcade passes, and that is just not acceptable here.

The situation has evolved into a battle between the Metropolitan Police - who want to keep London secure but keep business running, the Secret Service - who want the President safe even if they have to shut down the whole capital, and the protesters - who'd quite like to show the President what they think.

Some of the protesters are even planning a purpose-built mobile phone weblog, which will essentially allow anyone on the streets with a camera phone (and that's a lot of people over here) to update everyone else on where the President is and what he's doing.

So what's my point? Simply this: considering the £4million ($6.7million) that it's going to cost us to protect the President, the inevitable conflicts that will happen with over-nervous police and over-zealous protesters, and, yes, the security threat that the visit poses... could the President possibly stay home?

Side note: during the visit, I'll do my best to update WatchBlog with what's happening over here, and who 'won the battle' between protester and police. Place your bets now...

Posted by Thomas Scott at November 12, 2003 10:15 AM