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Protest? Riot?

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Apr 23 2002 17:48

Possible riots near the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow (24 April)

1. John   
Apr 23 2002 18:15

As far as I know, Henry Kissinger is coming to the Albert Hall to give a speech. Many people believe that his carpet bombing of Cambodia was a war crime and that he has no right to be in our fair city.

He gets this everywhere he goes, so he's probably quite used to it by now. Christopher Hitchens wrote a good book about it, btw

Apr 23 2002 18:32

I heard earlier in the day that there is what could be deemed to be a fat cat convention in the RAH tomorrow. It's some corporate directors convention/meeting or something of the like. Anyhow college are expecting anti-capitalist protesters to be around and so may be activating all day swipe card access to building only and a stop a search for those without them. Bring your base ball bats just in case you need to fend off any rent-a-thug-I'm-an-anticapitalist-but-i-don't-really- know-what-one-is-as-I-eat-McDonalds- once-a-week-have-a-mobile-phone-and-want-to-be-rich-really type of people.

Apr 23 2002 21:07

War crimes, eh?

What are the rules on citizen's arrest for an alleged war criminal? (Hamish are you reading this...?)

4. Sam   
Apr 23 2002 21:28


tomorrow is a big meeting of the "Institute of Directors" which is definitely an organisation of Faaaat Caaats.

Everyone is a bit worried about Anti-Capitalist riots at the moment, because next week is the big may day protest (wednesday 1st may) - i went to this in the first year when they trashed McDonalds, and the next year i went on skates - it can be quite dodgy if you're stupid, but if you want to have a laugh with the street performers, it can be quite good. Just remember to leave Trafalgar Sq before the riot police start charging!

oh, and this link might help explain tomorrow, and the general site will explain what they hope to acheive on may day -->

5. Sam   
Apr 23 2002 21:31

NEedless to say, i have an exam that afternoon - actually it's a management exam, so i'm sure there is some irony there - but if anyone wants tips on where to go, and what to avoid, and most of all how to stay away from the inevitable trouble, email me.

Apr 23 2002 21:40

Oh look, they've got a letter of support from Tony Benn. And I'm more than vaguely amused to see that the 'Trial of Henry Kissinger' has prosecuters and witnesses but no-one in defence. Still, balance and objective sanity isn't exactly what Globalise Resistance is known for is it.

7. Sunil   
Apr 23 2002 22:07

People protesting against Kissinger so many years after the fact?


How many countries - apart from the US - would ever allow somebody born, raised and educated in a foreign country and speaking the primary language of that country with a marked foreign accent to rise to a respected position of such power, influence and prominence?

(apart from totalitarian regimes, communist dictatorships and fascist pseudo-religious states)

8. Tim   
Apr 24 2002 00:06

Mmm..China is my country. Hu Jintao is NOT the vice-premier, Li Lanqing is. Hu Jintao is the vice-president. Please be consistent.

Bit silly if I say Tony Blair is the prime minister and then call him the chancellor afterwards.

Mrs Fennell. Do I get a present/prize for that?

Apr 24 2002 10:55

Mmmmmmmmmm...... Kissing....

What do you mean fat American politian? Vietnam War? I thought that was a film!?

Oh right, capitalism - Yup I'm against that. Well, apart from the sale of food, I do believe in that. And clothes - I don't particularly want to make them myself.

Apr 24 2002 12:34

Hmm. I've got a room in the top floor of the east wing of Beit, with a superb view of the Statue, the RAH, and Prince Consort Rd.

Though I did hear some far away chantings about eight or nineish this morning ('murderer murderer murderer' ... 'terrorist terrorist terrorist'), I was sorely disappointed at the lack of riot. The police seemed well up for it, as well, but they cleared off about ten-ish when it became clear that absolutely nothing was happening.

I was more disturbed in my slumber by the builders who are still finding ways to make noise on the Royal College of Music...

Apr 24 2002 14:54


You are right, of course. That was a silly error. I do know that Jintao is the vice-president and not the vice-premier. Though what their actual roles in the Government are is a mystery to me.

No prizes, though.

12. Sunil   
Apr 24 2002 14:56

Maybe it was too early in the morning for the lazy protesters. They probably spent all night getting stoned whilst hugging their trees and couldn't be bothered because ultimately nobody cares.

13. John   
Apr 24 2002 15:39

As usual, people are getting the issues mixed up. As what's variously referred to as "The Movement", "Anti-Globalisation" and "Naomi Klein's Mates" is disparate and leaderless, it's hard to tell what it means and so easy for it to get hijacked by people

who want to throw bricks.

The Henry Kissinger protest is a good example of a disparate protest. A lot of people feel that Henry Kissinger should be put on trial for ordering the devastation of a country not even involved in the war, and that the US resistance to an International Criminal Court is based partly on the fear that its past crimes (and everyone has skeletons, look at the UK) will come to trial, and yet expects everyone else to cooperate with it. Maybe if there was an International Criminal Court it would be able to deal with criminals such as Osama Bin Laden without the need to for the US to devastate an entire country and put its young soldiers in the firing line.

A second strand is worried about the rise of corporate power. It's evidently not Anti-Globalisation, as its supporters communicate across the world and consider poverty stricken workers in Calvite to be every bit its problem as wrecked mining communities in Wales. It's not anti-capitalist, as most people who follow it believe in paying a fair price for a fair service. It's anti-corporate, but even that is deceptive, as it mostly doesn't oppose business per se, but business that becomes too powerful. For example, current free trade agreements are centering on opening up public services to multinational business. Is making sure business can make a profit from supplying water (and prices inevitably rise after privatisation) more important than making sure everyone can receive clean water first? And do we really want to push "free trade" so evangellically when a strand of the GATTs agreement would threaten publicly-owned health services such as the NHS? The contradiction between people who mock "collectivism" while arguing that more needs to be done for one of the largest

Collectivist organisations in the free world is glaring.

A third strand at this protest are the trouble makers, variously known as "anarchists" and "the black block". "Anarchist" is misleading, as anarchism refers to the idea that the individual is important and pure, only to be corrupted by society. I don't subscribe to it myself, but Thatcher's belief that "there is no such thing as society" defines her as an anarchist using the proper meaning. There is nothing about the philosophy of anarchism that involves wearing balaclavas and fighting policemen, these are just people spoiling for a fight who don't deserve to be associated with something as complex as anarchy. And as I found out myself at May Day last year, they are not representative at all of a diverse and thoughtful movement which has been sullied by its hijacking by these people, who would be variously BNP or Millwall fans if it gave them a chance to throw things.

Anti-capitalist? No. Do I know what it is? Yes. Food for thought?


14. Dan L   
Apr 24 2002 16:17

I was at the protest reporting for Live! this morning. Details can be found at:

Apr 24 2002 16:25

"and prices inevitably rise after privatisation"

Really? They do nothing of the sort. While there is no theoretical reason why it should be the case, experience has shown that private enterprises are always more efficient and better run than state ones. When monopolies are privatised the process is conducted within a specific regulatory structure designed to ensure that prices DO NOT rise (unless something unforseen happens that would have caused them to do so even under public ownership). There are examples of bad privatisation (the railways) but there are also examples of good ones (BT etc). BT may be in a bit of 3G-induced mess at the moment, but how much cheaper is it to make a phone call, quicker to get a line installed, etc, than it was 15 years ago?

16. Sunil   
Apr 24 2002 22:03

True, Oliver.

But I object to my gas company trying to sell me water and electricity, when there are companies whose job it is to do just that. It's the same with the other utilities. Having increased competition is one thing, but having 30 companies slugging it out in a crowded marketplace is something quite different. I don't need 30 possible gas suppliers. 3 or 4 will do fine so long as they do not collude.

For god's sake the gas company doesn't even do its job right - screwed-up bills, long waits for servicing, etc etc etc. Instead they waste money on expensive rebranding projects and on ads telling us how they can supply water.

The word for it is greed.

And having lots of competitors does not stop them from colluding and forming a giant oligarchy.

Apr 25 2002 08:16

Saying your gas company is inefficient and can't bill you properly, then saying that there are too many companies in the marketplace is a bit of a non sequiter.

If you don't like the company you're with then change! That's what consumer choice is all about...

Apr 25 2002 10:31

I'm with Oliver here. If London Electricity want to start selling me gas as well as electricity then I see it as good business, not greed. I mean it might even shock British Gas into getting their arse into gear and providing me with a better service when I tell them I'm switching. Let me see.........6 red bills due to their inability to set up direct debit accounts. Oh and not billing us for six months as they've been billing the lady downstairs for our gas (we've all just put two and two together.) Hmmmmmmm. I'm glad consumer choice exists! (oh btw, can you name me 30 gas suppliers that operate in the london area, Sunil, just to back up your earlier remark?)

My earlier comment was aimed at John's Third Strand of protestor for the reocrd.

19. Sunil   
Apr 25 2002 14:42

Okay, so I was exaggerating. But too much competition can be bad if it forces companies to diversify too early and waste money on extraneous costs and aquisitions - and run deeper and deeper into debt - in a bid to make some profits in a crowded marketplace. It's basic economics.

British Gas was hardly an exmaple of a poorly performing utility. I tell you not one of the gas, electricity or water suppliers in my area is actually genuinely very good. The only thing they are good at is producing glossy leaflets.

20. John   
Apr 25 2002 23:22

Really should be working, but what the hell...

Was quite interesting listening to Johnny Ball (Felix Dinner) talking about a certain utilities company he was asked to promote...

"So, you "buy" electricity off the National Grid for a much cheaper price than people who have been buying it for years, add on your mark up and sell it to ordinary people so you can buy all these offices. It's a load of bullshit, isn't it?"

Privatisation is treated as an end in itself, and there's more things bugging 3rd world companies than liberating public services. Being able to supply them to all should surely be the biggest priority, on which Tony is strangely quiet.

Problem is, his only response to the "anti-globalisation" campaigners is to say "we cannot close our borders and shut down the Internet." Therefore, he is able to dismiss an entire strand of argument without even understanding it. Can I ask all of you to never use the phrase "anti-globalisation" again? :)

Apr 29 2002 15:03

"When monopolies are privatised the process is conducted within a specific regulatory structure designed to ensure that prices DO NOT rise"


When BT was privatised a regulatory framework was established (i.e. Oftel). Since 1981 BT prices have been capped by RPI - 1.5%-ish (meaning that there is a real-terms decrease in price every year - and when inflation is higher than 1.5% prices can still rise.) Nevertheless Oftel's regime has been criticised because BT has been allowed to make big cuts in variable costs (call charges) in return for increasing line rental (which it gives it a more guaranteed income and is worse for poorer/lighter users).

However, in EVERY other privatised industry the price controls have been RPI + something (e.g. in water, electricity and gas). So prices have risen - above the rate of inflation - but the rate of increase has been capped. The justification was that the regulator(s) appreciated the need for increased investment in those industries, after years of decline in state ownership. The net result is that water and other non-telecoms utility bills are now 3-4 x what they used to be for the average household.

Price controls are now slowly being abolished now that competition has finally been introduced in many sectors (so that they are no longer true monopolies). But as John points out. The National Grid is still a monopoly - as is BT's local loop. These entities are subject to non-existent competition and the price controls are not always deflatory.

Incidentally, the price controls for Rail companies is also an RPI + formula (rather than -).

There are also many privatisations where there are no price controls (e.g. British Airways) although this is usually becuase the market is deemed to be able to provide sufficient competition.

22. John   
Apr 29 2002 22:18

Mmm, and bear in mind the UK government is in a much stronger position to stand up to big business than a lot of developing countries are, and they're essentially being obliged to privatise whether they like it or not.

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