What I learned wandering around the Conservative conference protests as a journalist

On Sunday journalists were spat at outside the Conservative conference in Manchester for doing their job. At the same time, in the same place, I moved around the protest without experiencing any of this. In fact, I’d already written the first half of this blog before I even knew it had happened.

It is plainly not okay for anyone to be gobbed on as they go about their business.

But here’s the protest as I experienced it.

The crowd around me explodes into noise.

Stop taking pictures of us you f***ing *****”

“Do you have the right to do that? Do you? Wankers!”

A young lad, about 18 with auburn curly hair and baggy grey jogging bottoms, makes the loudest comment.

Why are you doing that from four floors up? Come down and take our picture if you want it.”

I’m stood amid a group of men aged 18 to 40, almost uniformly dressed in grey hoodies. They are part of the People’s Assembly protest gathering in Manchester’s Great Northern Square outside the Conservative party’s annual conference. It’s 10.45am on a Sunday morning.

The group caught my eye as I walked down the road from the Radisson Blu hotel – a place so swish it smells of expensive perfume. Pootling around ready for a fringe event I would later be chairing I’d collected my conference press pass a few minutes earlier and was walking back towards my hotel.

As I did, I noticed an angry bearded man with matted hair, holding a pair of black trainers in his hands, and walking in threadbare socked feet as he yelled at a policeman. Men in hi-vis jackets (working for an acronymed security company) were leaping out of vans and setting up barriers around the plot of grass which sits right in front of the Great Northern Quarter, overlooked by a huge brick converted warehouse, and alongside the conference entrance.

More dishevelled men were walking across the road. All white, all male, all looking as if they’d slept little for days.

One of the men asked if the police were completely blocking off the square. At this point I was curious. Were they being stopped from protesting? Aware that I was tottering in heels, wearing a bright pink coat, and holding a conference brochure I was a bit hesitant about asking further questions. The get-up shrieked I’m a tory. But a press pass isn’t just there for access to nice-smelling hotels. So I started to follow them.

“Is something going on in the square?” I asked the man, who later told me his name was Andy.

“It’s the People’s Assembly, they’re having a protest,” he said in thick Mancunian accent.

“Are the police going to stop it?”

“They can’t,” he said, nodding to the converted warehouse, “there’s an AMC cinema in there, and businesses. They can’t afford to stop them being open. They won’t mess with the businesses”.

I explained I was journalist. They seemed fine. We kept talking.

A small group showed me the tents on the square where people had camped overnight, and described the protest’s centreFile 06-10-2015, 21 58 59 at Piccadilly Gardens from where they had arrived.

I explained I wrote about schools. They told me of the Facebook page where I could look to see People’s Assembly’s education events and asked me about prison education. (They are worried about cuts).

Callum, the oldest-looking in the crowd, with a startling similarity to Timothy Spall, talks bluntly but smartly about Noam Chomsky, totalitarianism, Trident. His points are astute even if I don’t always agree. The whole group are excited that Corbyn is due to visit.

During the conversation people wander in and out. Some look as if they are struggling with drug addiction; one has tobacco-stained fingers the colour of a chain-smoking 100-year-old. But they are sensitive to one another and keen to help me. They are worried that violent tendencies will mean the loss of their message and talk about the police with calmness, “They largely do their job well, just on occasion they go overboard.”

And then. It explodes.

From several floors up in the warehouse they hear a shout. I don’t hear it. But they seem to.

Camera lenses are suddenly pointing out of several of the windows – snapping away. Producers, photographers, on-lookers, all looking down from their lofty positions. The anger among the crowd swells.

File 06-10-2015, 22 04 12

The only visible trace of the photographers is in the 6th window from the left in the second floor of windows on the brick part of the building. There were many more.

Andy pulls his hood up, Callum starts pacing, many of them start shouting.

The young auburn-haired lad, circling from around the edges, now steps out in front of the crowd and starts yelling skywards. In his thick Manchester accent he wants to know from the camera people what rights they have to photograph him. He swears. He tells them he’s going to go up there and batter them.

Two men come out of the tents, waving sticks and middle fingers.

My heart sinks. Every time one of them throws their arms out or points their stick, I know the photographs are getting better and better. Every swear or insult proves their unreasonableness.

Andy and Callum know this too. “Stop being so aggressive,” they hiss at the young man.

“It’s a public car park. I’m going to go up there and get them,” he replies, shrugging his shoulders furiously and puffing out his chest.

“Why don’t you just ask them to come down here?” Callum says sharply, “Tell them if they want pictures of us to come down and ask us what we’re doing.”

The weariness of the group is palpable. I feel entirely torn by it. On the one hand I know why the photographers are four floors up. They’re awaiting the march. A fourth storey is a perfect vantage point from which to record it. While waiting, it makes sense to get some other shots. The group’s over-reaction is perfect.

At the same time, I can see how it feels intrusive. Here we are talking about Chomsky but me and the young men know that if the pictures are printed they will simply say ‘yobs’.

“They don’t even know our name”, says Andy.

Shortly after leaving the group I head to a fancy coffee shop on a parallel road. I order a flat white coffee and a bakewell slice. It costs six quid. The room is filled with smartly-dressed people who, like me, are here early for conference and who, also like me, are hiding in the comforts of somewhere warm, clean, ‘civilised’. It’s the sort of place most of us spend our lives, I suspect.

I think about Andy, Callum, and the angry young man. It strikes me that perhaps the ‘new politics’ isn’t so much about a lurch to the left as it is about recognising that the people on the ground want the people on the fourth floor to know their names. Or at least have the decency to come down and ask.

By 2pm I have watched my first fringe event within the boundaries of the actual conference. Education secretary Nicky Morgan has said all the right things and I have tweeted and written and clapped.

As I walk towards the exit reading social media on my phone I notice that journalists are rightly furious because one of them has been spat on by a protester. The picture lays bare the grim reality. Up ahead the police are telling people to hide their passes. There is panic in the air.

Knowing I must go back to my hotel regardless of the situation I decide to walk back across the square. If things turn nasty I hope I might be able to find Callum or Andy. Or that someone might remember me as the girl with the pink coat from earlier and go easy.

File 06-10-2015, 22 00 18As I head out onto the square the protest is snaking around it. A choir of middle-aged women stands along one side of the road singing an adapted hymn about the bedroom tax. It is haunting and powerful. The tent group are mostly wearing face masks. I can’t see anyone I know.

I start talking to two security guards from the Great Northern building who are out on the square for a better view.

One has a thick scouse accent: “It’s all fine. The worse thing is when it gets violent, then the media will start saying that it’s everyone, and the words get lost, that’s bad, that means you’ve lost the message, but there’s good and bad in everyone, and look at all these people, and it’s fine.”

They complain that health secretary Jeremy Hunt purposely came through the square where the protesters were standing.

“Everyone else has gone the other way but he came through here and he wonders why people are at him and that, but he came through here on purpose.”

I have no idea if he did or didn’t, but it does seem an unusual route compared to other politicians.

One of the security guards bristles as he sees two ‘leaders’ of the camp emerging from the protest, and heading to sit on a low wall by the grass. They’re the men I saw earlier coming out of the tents; waving fingers at the press. One is heavily tattooed, leaning on a walking stick, wearing a t-shirt with a comic cover, his eyes slowly rolling. The other is neatly dressed in jeans and a black bomber jack, but he’s agitated and gaunt. He has one visible tooth.

I wander over and ask whether anyone has told them to move their tents. They start explaining about Section 60s, and police ‘force’, and spraying down pavements. I don’t know what any of it means. I explain that I’m a journalist. We talk for a while about their grievances.

One of the pair, Tom, is angry that his sister’s benefits have been cut dramatically and she is struggling to feed her daughter. She was forced to attend a food bank last week, he says.

“Meanwhile they’re ordering 3,000 bottles of champagne into there at sixty quid each and yet they’re the ones using the police to protect them.”

I don’t know if his figures are accurate nor why his sister’s benefits have been cut. But it’s an anger-riling sentiment if you, like Tom, believe it to be true.

The other man, John, talks about his homelessness in the 90s. Eventually he went to university (John Moore’s in Liverpool) and wrote poetry for a while. He had a book contract, once. But he lapsed when his sister got ill. Now he is angry with the royal family.

“Things like the first world war were caused by royalty” he says, “We send our poorest to die for them… But why aren’t their children ever the first into battle?”

I have no answer.

After an hour of ducking and weaving in the crowd I head to my hotel, then back again, each time without a hint of anyone shouting directly at me. Across roads I see people in suits being heckled and others on mobile phones diving under police barriers and being escorted away. The chants of Tory scum are happening as I walk up to the entrance. I can hear them. I just don’t think of them as personal insults.

Inside everyone is sharing their experiences of being yelled at; of being called a Tory c***, of being intimidated, of the awfulness. I feel guilty for pointing out my take was so different. On Twitter someone suggests it’s because I’m northern and scary. In my ludicrous outfit and with an accent considered normal for the area, neither is true.

Instead, the fourth floor metaphor keeps coming back to me.

Protesters simply see people in suits walking away. It’s the symbol of what makes them most angry: being ignored by the wealthy. That’s why they yell. And, to them, a media who sticks a camera in their face to get a story without first seeking to understand is a parasite. Not Tory scum, but journalist scum. A part of the establishment that ignores its people. It doesn’t matter whether the nuance of that is true or not – that’s how they feel, and so they shout.

Sadly – inevitably – inside the conference gates I learn that the spitting, the yelling, and the aggression has only served to build the walls up further. “They don’t deserve my attention,” says someone who has been yelled at repeatedly. “Welcome to the new politics,” remarks another with disdain.

And so we waddle into the age old battle of the powerful and rational deciding that unless you can have a ‘civilised’ conversation then you’re not welcome at their door and the emotional crowd outside become angrier and angrier as their voice is dismissed for not being what is deemed civil while the people in power continue imposing cuts – a behaviour the protestors would argue is uncivilised – and they do so while applauding one another in a fancy conference centre.

No one should be spat on. No one should be dismissed as unimportant.

We must guard against the fourth floor crowd, who have the keys to the kingdom, barricading themselves in and dismissing the mob below. If that happens, the mass will increasingly want to come up and batter the ignorance out of them. And while, somewhere, on a metaphorical stair landing between the two, there’ll be me and Callum hovering around in our pink coats and grey hoodies trying to work out how the hell we get the two groups to talk sensibly, the fact is we have no clue of how to even begin. Writing up this experience was really all I could think to do.



Categories: UK Education Policy

55 replies

  1. One of the best blogposts from a party conference I’ve read in a very long time – speaking to delegates, protesters & security personnel at length before concluding.

  2. Thank you for this. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    Those ‘on the fourth floor’ think they’ve got it absolutely right and – to a certain extent – no amount of evidence or conversation is going to change their mind.
    Those ‘on the ground’ are hurting because decisions made have disempowered and disenfranchised them. Whilst those ‘on the fourth floor’ continue sipping champagne.
    I’m with you and Callum (though probably not in a pink coat!) somewhere in the middle trying to figure out how on earth we get the two groups talking openly, honestly, respectfully and compassionately.
    It’s a really hard place to be – but it’s where the world can be changed.

  3. Great perspective, thanks.

    “…the powerful and rational deciding that unless you can have a ‘civilised’ conversation then you’re not welcome at their door and the emotional crowd outside become angrier and angrier as their voice is dismissed for not being what is deemed civil while the people in power continue imposing cuts”

    Well I’m not powerful and only rational sometimes, but I am a Tory and the reason I dismiss the protestors isn’t because of their incivility. (Maybe if I was at conference my perspective would be different?)

    It’s more because I don’t believe that they’re really protesting about welfare cuts. As in, if it wasn’t these cuts it would be something else. If the Tories adopted everything the protestors said they want as policy, they’d still protest. Because their true objection to the Tories isn’t any policy, but simply because they are Tories.

    Lots of people seem to want to participate in a righteous battle between good and evil. As there is no conveniently evil big political party around, they simply nominate the Tories and proceed as planned anyway.

    It’s like underneath the normal political process there’s also this giant LARP game where we imagine the Tories are a fascist government and we’re the resistance and it’s great fun!

    It’s hard to say how much this is true. There are *definitely* people like this (trust me). But whether it’s a majority or minority of protestors in Manchester is hard to say. It’s tempting to dismiss ALL protests on this basis, but of course that’s a really dangerous and unfair thing to do. But I bet you lots of Tories do. Especially if they’re holding “Tory scum” or “Tories hate all children including their own” placards*. If you want to encourage dialogue, that’s your big problem on the Tory side.

    * was that last one real btw? I’m not sure if it was a parody or not.

    • Dan you point to a great truth about the problem Tories have in engaging with some sections of the community. Upsetting as it is I am of the Bevan school who believe that Tories are lower than vermin. They have always attacked and attempted to destroy cooperative enterprise. The belief that profit is primary, that there is no real notion of Society, that business trumps any notion of democracy, that everything is for sale including my legislative representative. They spread division and actually hate their fellow British citizens – lazy sponging something for nothing commentary. Views on foreigners unrepeatable .
      How anyone could support the Tories given their historic oppression of the majority of citizens is hard to conceive. My conclusion along with many others, yes the majority 76%, is that you are intrinsically evil. Just have to be it is the only logical explanation for support of evil policies. I am sorry ,but will keep fighting.

      • “They have always attacked and attempted to destroy cooperative enterprise. The belief that profit is primary, that there is no real notion of Society, that business trumps any notion of democracy, that everything is for sale including my legislative representative. They spread division and actually hate their fellow British citizens – lazy sponging something for nothing commentary. Views on foreigners unrepeatable.”

        Yes, and Labour as a party is a vehicle for misogyny and homophobia. They seem to deliberately select economic policies that they know will destroy jobs and impoverish the poor. Their profligacy with the public finances is so extreme that the required cuts to balance the books cause immense suffering across the UK. Their multi-decade project to deny a quality education to all but the wealthy is well known, as is their famous disdain for Britain and the British.

        I mean, I could carry on all day in this vein, as I’m sure you could too. Don’t bother complaining that this isn’t the party you recognise, I certainly didn’t recognise myself or any Tory I know in your description.

        So, the question is, does supporting a party like this, the Labour Party, make you evil? I have been arguing not, but I want to respect your views, so I will consider the possibility that you are an evil person.

        But for now, I continue to believe that we are both focusing on the absolute worst possible interpretation of everything the other says and does, rather than being charitable and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

        • The Tory party has made and continues to make cuts that actively disadvantage the poor and cost public sector jobs, not the Labour party. They also introduced workfare, resulting in jobs being destroyed and replaced with people on benefits being forced to work for nothing. Aside from this, they keep claiming to have overcome the deficit, but keep committing to harmful cuts. You wouldn’t vote for a surgeon who removed your foot after you developed a staph infection, but called you back for an amputation of the other foot to balance the boots, would you?

          • Sorry Ben but you literally employ blind faith, your reasoning is disturbing to say the least…If you mean that you disagree with the way that the Tory party distribute our GDP then please re-phrase as I cannot understand exactly what you are suggesting….do you want the government to borrow more money than we have?

      • Sorry but your wrong…you attempt to imply that the Tories believe in Profit over democracy? sorry but what are you even using as evidence for this…just because you have said it doesn’t make it so…again with your “historic oppression of the majority of citizens” what are you even saying? who has been oppressed? Again just made up drivel. Which political party do you even support?

    • Danlucraft – we only dislike you because you are a tory, & what you actually do is irrelevant? This is odd logic: what do you think makes you a tory? Presumably you either assume you are born to it or you have a collection of ideas which agree with and uphold toryism. For either of those I dislike you because they result in what you do. Please do something different, then I might like you better.

    • I think in order to win over people you have to understand their point of view so here goes, when your friend who is bringing up a child on her own and she is constantly getting sanctioned for petty reasons you can’t help but get angry, when you bring up children on your own and one needs help to get over a difficult past and the help is wholly inadequate you have to wonder and when you are expected to believe a pack of lies all the time from the Tory party you wonder if popular apocalyptic books for teens are becoming reality.

      It gets worse because a little research on You Tube makes you realise cutting your friend’s benefits to starvation rates and not allowing your child the help they need is not helping the economy but harming it you have to wonder what the point is. So carry being one of the chosen ones or just talk to a few poor people, ask about the details that this government runs over and get beyond the name calling.

      Yes demos are fun, I had a great time on June 20, but why not come together in a common purpose, you have Church. Many lefties get on my nerves, I would rather hear intelligent conversation than “Tory scum” and I do get fed up with the Socialist kingdom of heaven that I’m not sure exists but look at blind faith in the markets, that spread unhappiness and inequality to the masses, it may be working out for you but it’s not working out for me and working less well for millions of other people.

    • if you truly think the issue we have with tories is ‘us and them’ism rather than us having a problem with their policies, which have direct negative consequences on our lives, you’re seriously deluded. this is not a fucking larp game.

  4. Thanks for that. My son is a PA member. They are not radical or violent, they meet regularly to talk and they protest against injustice so they’re busy in most areas of modern life. Frankly, I no longer care about the mainstream media distorting and not reporting the truth. Social media is subverting their bias and bile, if newspapers are worried about losing readership they should pay attention to this but, as seen in their reaction to the rise of Corbyn, they are hopelessly behind the story.

  5. Good reporting … except why are all accents “thick” … bit patronising there …

    • Ha! So, I’m from about 15 miles away, right between Liverpool and Manchester, so we have a mild version of both accents. It’s therefore common when you tell a story about a person the listeners haven’t met to describe if the accent is thicker (or stronger) and which one so that you know which side of the town they’re from and how close to the city. A childhood tic, is therefore the answer.

      • The word ‘thick’ is somewhat pejorative. Adjectives like ‘strong’ or ‘broad’ could have been used instead, which would have made the same point without the hint of patronising.

        • Fair enough. I’m from nearby and we use ‘thick accent’ synonymously with strong. It’s never even dawned on me it had any other meaning. But fair point. (We would never say ‘broad’ though. To me that means it spans two areas, like our accent, not that it is dense in colloquialism and off-beat sound and therefore harder to understand, which is what ‘thick’ is explaining).

          • It used to be the case that Salford was different from eg. Irlam, so what’s a “Manchester” accent anyhow ?!

      • Sorry to have caused the fuss ! To me, “thick” is in the sense of “impenetrable”, and (again, to me !) has the sense of “what are these locals talking about” !
        Hence my getting the “patronising” vibe – which I fully accept was never your intention ! but just one of the (entirely personal ?!) nuances of our rich language 😉
        But I liked the article …. and I was not getting “upset” (term used in your Twitter posting)

  6. This is an unfortunate article. You’ve placed yourself as a superior third party with the most insight into “what’s to be done” (as if two kids were fighting each other and you are the sensible adult), and in doing so have committed a classic ‘third way’ fallacy. You are horrified by a spitting incident, yet think the worst thing that has happened is that the protestors have been ignored? Try being deliberately starved, sanctioned, refused benefit and therefore the only means of survival. Do you not see that THIS is the actual violence that should be condemned, the war of attrition on poor and disabled people? Or am I being too partisan for you?

    • Oh, you’re absolutely right about the middle way giving an assumed superiority. There are some parts that counter it: my lack of knowledge of protest rights, my inability to answer questions. But I don’t have a side, and I’m not going to manufacture one for the piece, so if I’m stuck with the perils of being in the middle (that is, coming across like an unfortunate super-ego) then I’ll wear it.

      On the starving and sanctions: those points are made by Tom. I can’t make them; I don’t experience them. That’s what the bake well slice bit is showing. I also do raise the question of whether it is more uncivil to shout or to cut benefits, and that each would say the other is to be condemned.

      “Am I being too partisan for you?” No.

      • Thanks so much for writing this, so many people have no control or dignity that when the little they have is chipped away anger takes over.

        I feel like scum by this government so I have mixed feelings when I hear protesters shouting “Tory scum they treat anyone who isn’t just like them like scum and even TV channels aimed at poor people like Channel 5 tell them they’re scum, that is gross. When you realise that the poor are being picked on because the government gave the bankers eye watering amounts of cash people feel like they are trying their best and being treated like scum, the fact the Tories expect nobody to shout back shows that they don’t care about people’s lives, they don’t look at the details and they have no compassion. In their rational way and their expensive suits the Tories are scum.,

      • Your problem – or rather ours, as activists/disabled and poor people denied access to the media in which to give out the information – is that you are part of a system that denies that access. In this way all the available evidence that is in the public domain via social media, that make my comments accurate (in terms of what is being done to people) is, ironically, withheld from so many of the public. That you yourself, a journo of all people, are ignorant of these issues, shows how bad the situation is. So yes, by all means wear the criticism. But unless you learn from it, all you do is maintain a status quo, by which the powerful of this country wage a war of attrition against poor and disabled people which can actually be fairly described as similar to Nazi-style fascist policy, while most of the UK population remain in blissful ignorance. If that doesn’t chill you, I don’t know what will.

      • I honestly don’t mean this to come across as rudeness, but as a journalist – especially one reporting on the Tory party conference and corresponding protest – don’t you think you should have worked harder to inform yourself on the issues involved? Just because you don’t personally experience something, doesn’t mean you can’t inform yourself on the experiences of others. Similar, Tory policy. Although you claim to be a policy nerd, so surely you have some personal insight into the impact of Tory cuts?

        • Which issues? I’m an education journalist – I was there to report on education policy. If you want me to explain the nerdy details of the Conservative’s Education and Adoption Bill to you, I can. Section 60 rules on protesting? Nope.

    • I have to admit that it does seem as if she was trying too hard to present a ‘balanced’ perspective.

  7. Why did you feel it was necessary to mention Manchester accents? What do you expect in Manchester?

  8. Hi,you say the press were just doing their job,the point is they don’t do their job. We don’t have real journalists any more,just over priviliged gossip columnists.
    This government has got away with murder without the tory papers uttering a sound.
    Small wonder people are angry.

  9. This is the best piece about the protests that I’ve read. Thank you for trying to understand, and thank you for writing a balanced and honest piece.

  10. Journalists being gobbed on, just for doing their jobs.

    Quite.

    Their job is to lie for gain: to distort or make up quotes and statistics about benefit fraud, immigration. terrorism, and write them up for propaganda value in The Mail and generate material for propaganda TV ‘zoo’ shows about fat weddings and Benefits Street.

    The photographs will be selected for unflattering and ugly angles. then reprocessed to maximise the sinister effect and published under banner headlines: THE FACE OF HATE: HAS BRITAIN SUNK TO THIS? with a spew of bile, distortion and libel.

    Someone lives that life. and that face, without the photoshopped shadows and the hate speech; probably an ordinary life and certainly a better life than many journalists.

    Their employers and their neighbours get to see the propaganda: jobs are lost for that.

    …And that, before the photographs are passed to FIT teams – and who knows what a Police Forward Intelligence Team will do with that?

    Photographs are dangerous, in the country Britain has become.

    Maybe you should ask what’s in your file: you were at that demonstration, too. What could be done with all that information?

    What could you be asked do do?

    Maybe journalists should gob on demonstrators: arguably it is cleaner than the job you do.

    Everbody on that demonstration knows that the Red Cross are intervening in our inner cities to assist the food banks; they know why and they know exactly who’s responsible for that. And yet, it isn’t in the news: don’t wipe off the gob until you’ve made at least a token attempt at getting *that* into mass media – or reported, factually and honestly, on why it is that such a thing remains unknown, unheard by the public, and hidden under steaming piles of journalism.

    • So … selectively considering a number of cases to tar all journalists with the same brush – sounds as if you are guilty of similar “crimes” to which you accuse the journos ! (ALL journos …)

      No doubt the things to which you refer do go on, or have gone on … but I would think it’s not ubiquitous.

    • No wonder the public are angry, everyday we see journalists utterly failing to do their job. Today the BBC’s assistant political correspondent Norman Smith reported on Cameron’s speech to conference.

      It wasn’t a report as much as ‘Here’s what Mr Cameron said in the rest of the speech that we didn’t include in our highlights’. In 3 minutes of reporting there was not one question or indeed any critical thinking, criticism, statistic or doubt over Cameron’s claims.

      That’s disgraceful for a broadcaster that is supposed to the champion of ‘impartial journalism’

      (Yeah I know you’re going to mention that newspapers are not like that, that they are critical – or supportive, depending on their bias. However, newspapers have no where near the viewing figures of the BBC. You can combine total daily newspaper sales in the UK and it will still only ever be a small percentage compared to those that get their news from the BBC.)

      Cameron’s language is filled with the same vitriol as the protestor’s, calling Corbyn anti-British, a terrorist sympathiser – is outrageous, yet the BBC in Scotland today described is not once, but 3 times as ‘passionate’

      That failure of journalism leaves people feeling hopeless. Those who are active source their news from elsewhere and often find journalism of greater depth on the internet, the most recent example being the US bombing of a MSF hospital in Afghanistan now forgotten about by the BBC but not by the likes of ‘The Intercept’. That atrocity, like the illegal war in Iraq is a war crime. That story has now been completely buried by the majority of UK broadcasters.

      These actions of journalists not forgotten by the public, the curtains have been pulled back and a light is finally being shone into the murky world of news reporting.

      So frankly whilst it is not nice being gobbed on, I’m not surprised.Nor do I find it anywhere near as offensive as some of the tripe that is passed of as journalism today.

  11. a great piece. I was there on Sunday, not a crusty hippy or a raging protestor, but a “normal” mum and nana. I spent time at the homeless camp speaking to people and sharing food, and like you enjoying their company and their take on life.
    We have all become to engrossed in our own little lives, and become so selfish that we think no one else’s stories, thoughts or lives are important.

  12. Sometimes an attempt to understand is all it takes to break the cycle. Well done for responding with commendable human empathy to the insulting and the insulted, and for knowing that these roles are reversed depending on one’s initial viewpoint. See you on the second floor.

  13. Very good journalism here apart from referring to it as the Great Northern Quarter, it is the Great Northern Square you were referring to. There is a Northern Quarter in Manchester but it is not near the Great Northern Square/Warehouse. Apart from that though, bravo.

  14. Thank you Laura. This was both straightforward and profound, as all good writing should be. Journalism at its best.

    I do so agree with ‘rescuemama’ “We have all become to engrossed in our own little lives, and become so selfish that we think no one else’s stories, thoughts or lives are important.” By writing in this way you are leading for example, without having to spell it out.

    I’m also fascinated by the way the comments on here reflect the range of behaviours that you witnessed in Manchester: intolerance, judging, a lazy refusal to engage, generalisation and making assumptions about others and also curiosity, compassion, empathy and a genuine willingness to learn.

  15. Yeah, how unreasonable of people to be angry that the government’s screwing them over and the press is helping them.

  16. danlucraft, too tired and weary to go into this today, but you are very wrong on people not protesting against welfare cuts, you clearly are listening to the wrong people! I and DPAC (Disabled People against Cuts and Black Traingle) were doing just that and not only against financial cuts, tryig to get us into work that isn’t there, cutting support that helps, that’s just one of many and I have worked, as have many other disabeld poeple. Tories won’t accpet that some people can’t do paid work and “they” don’t want to pay for that, but it’s not their money anyway!!! One Tory spoke to a young woman (mixed race) about hger brother dying, due to cuts/ATOS “testing” and he said, “good” and made a sexual commnet to her as if she was a prostitute. I watched I don’t how many Tories going in and out of the Confernece and almost all laughed at us, sneered and held us in utter contempt, no matter what we did/didn’t do and I even spoke with one, along with a friend and we tried to speak to him rationally about cuts.disability, social mobility (poor don’t have this) and he was very pleasant, but clueless, it was laugable???!

  17. Thought provoking.

  18. While the 4th floor thing is clearly unhelpful, I can see why the journalists or politicians may not want to come down and speak with the crowd. Ok, some may not want to hear, may want to indulge their own prejudices, but Im certain that many just see it as too risky. They see a crowd that contains a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, a lot of anger and see a potential threat because they arent confident that they wont get attacked. Like, genuinely thinking “do I want to risk ending up in hospital?”. The way a woman may think if she sees a bunch of young men on a dark street corner when walking home late at night. They may be harmless, but do you take the risk? And if even a small minority of the crowd are shouting abusive language or acting in a threatening way, that tends to put you off even further.

    • Oh, absolutely. I get why. I just think that, in the end, there’s 60,000 people out there and no-one is dying and the police are *everywhere*, so while it might be a bit scary, your actual likelihood of harm is pretty low.

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