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Birmingham Mail Editor 'fascinated' as Conservative threatened with Arrest in Brum
West Midlands Police threatened a Conservative activist with arrest after "insidious" insult. The city's most senior political journalist stood nearby.
The Conservative Party Conference was hosted in Birmingham last week and the city (or at least those protestors bussed in by various left-wing campaign groups) gave party members a less-than-warm welcome.
I attended conference myself (disclaimer, I am a party member) and had the pleasure of meeting the protestors in person.
On Sunday afternoon, myself and several others including the regional party chairman, a friend’s elderly mother and two local volunteers approached the conference from Broad Street.
We were met by well-known shouty Steve Bray - normally found in Westminster heckling Conservative MPs with a megaphone - and a raucous mob who stopped us in our tracks, blocking our way and hurling the vilest abuse inches from our faces.
The insults ranged from the predictable, ‘Tory scum’, to the textbook, ‘bastards’, ‘c**ts’, to the questionable, ‘child murderers!’. We should count ourselves lucky, a friend was called a “race traitor” by one bigoted assailant.
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The police, having eventually rushed forward to remove the protestors from our path, were clearly out of their depth with panic on many of their faces.
The incident was filmed by a protester, finding its way on to twitter and becoming a talking point at Conference. The police’s poor response to the incident has been raised by senior party figures with Police Chiefs.
Despite the Birmingham Mail’s Political Editor Jane Haynes paying attention to the anticipated protests ahead of conference (‘Thousands expected to protest in angry backlash’), she seemed less interested in their behaviour once the protesters had arrived.
The Political Editor did however, find time to cover the ‘Birmingham is a dump’ twitter spat (details here), a story on a soup kitchen she ‘came across’ (in the same place it is every week behind the Birmingham Council House, where she reports live from the Council on a regular basis…) and the Prime Minister’s whereabouts when she took 48 hours away from the media rounds ahead of conference.
Of course, it may be that Haynes missed the protesters at their peak and did not witness the police’s inability to manage the situation, nor the video circulating social media…
But a second incident is more curious.
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Connor Tomlinson, a vocal – and controversial - young conservative held a conversation with Haynes outside Conference and, by his account, was threatened with arrest having referred to someone as ‘insidious’.
Any political journalist worth their salt would know calling anyone crafty or sinister is far from a crime in this country. You may even think that police over-reach in threatening someone with arrest would be an incident worthy of a local journalist’s writing skills.
In the event, no article has yet appeared in the Birmingham Mail, but Haynes did tweet about the incident at the time. She described it as “a fascinating insight into the line that @WMPolice [West Midlands Police] have to tread” and asked, “when does something become an insult?”.
Last time I checked, insulting someone was not a criminal offence.
I understand the interaction was filmed and will emerge online this week - it should make for interesting viewing alongside the formal complaint Tomlinson has submitted to the Police.
Haynes’ lack of interest in covering this incident (choosing instead to bury it in a twitter thread about anti-gay Christians) speaks volumes about the state of our local press which many on the right in Birmingham consider to be biased against them.
The banner images for two of her conference-related articles are pictures of the protests, their written content completely unrelated to the abuse-hurling crowds in Centenary Square.
It is easy to see why Conservatives are disparaging of our local press. It is little wonder that Counter Cut, where we try to shed light on issues like this, has been so warmly received.
Our regional paper needs to do better to ensure balance in its writing, starting with their Political Editor, who might like to reflect on whether Police threatening to arrest someone for words that could ‘be insulting’ might be worth her time to report.
It is also high time our increasingly activist police force, led by Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner, are reminded of their duty to enforce the law rather than police people’s opinions.
Written by Dominic Stanford, Counter Cut Editor-in-Chief
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