Thursday, March 26, 2009

Preparing for lockdown

Apologies for the long absence from here. I have been travelling on a rather long journey which was work related and took me from London to Hong Kong, to Shanghai then back to Hong Kong, back to London and out to Dubai and then finally to Abu Dhabi.

Three weeks were spent in a collection of taxis, planes, trains, hotels and offices. It was rather fun although I am not sure my wife would agree. ! I also learned that jetlag, in the broadest and least defined sense of the word, can be a scary thing that can suddenly catch up with you despite the best of intentions to the contrary.

Anyway I am now back in a London that has struggled to Springtime only to fall back to its wintery ways now that the clocks are about to go forward to summertime.

London is preparing for the G20 next week but more so it is preparing for protests. The protests are expected to focus on the City of London, the financial heart with the Bank of England at its centre. The "day of rage" is said to be Wednesday, April 1st or April Fools Day.

Maybe it is all going to turn out to be an April Fool. Britain has a long history of failed revolution after being one of the first countries to experience real revolution. It is so conservative at its core that it even after beheading its King, it is the nation that brought back its monachy.

After Karl Marx published the communist manifesto in London in 1848, the Chartist movement rallied and fear stalked the city that revolution was about to come to Britain. In actual fact the numbers of people who had joined up as special constables dwarfed the numbers who had come for revolution.

I suspect this April Fools Day will follow the same trend. Some of the protestors plan to storm banks and city institutions. However every office is now making plans similar to those being made in my office. It is officially "business as normal" but everyone is being instructed to come in dressed casually to avoid the small minority who want to "burn a banker".

It is difficult to imagine real political violence being turned on City workers. However in a time when the windows of former bank bosses are generally seen as fair game, no one can rule out that an extreme few will "push the envelope" out to doing something more radical.

A legion of private security guards is being hired to supplement the police. The battlelines on Wednesday are expected to be drawn first at the City railway stations- Moorgate, Liverpool Street, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

Whether self-conscious jean-wearing City workers will have to run a gauntlet of street fighting anarchists remains to be seen. I think it will be relatively peaceful although somewhere in the City the mandatory Starbucks looting will probably occur. Looting of a Starbucks seems a "tick the box" on all political protests these days. Rather bizarrely a Starbucks near the Israeli Embassy was looted when the protestors couldn't reach the Embassy during the last Gaza conflict.

My office has a group of ex-Ghurkhas acting as security guards so I suspect we stand a good chance of riding things out.

Nonetheless next week looks set to be quite a memorable week for London and the G20 and the travelling roadshow of protestors come to town.

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