Archive for July 13, 2012

Laurie Penny explains why with her usual vigour:

In Britain, private security agents might be hired to do the same jobs as police officers and prison guards, but they’re not accountable to the public in the same way – at least, not yet. The Independent Police Complaints Commission still has no power to investigate private security staff, and the Government is prevaricating over the watchdog’s request to extend its remit – which was supported by G4S – while extending the outsourcing of policing to for-profitcompanies. G4S was recently awarded a £200m contract to take over half of the civilian duties of Lincolnshire police force. Policing employees helping protect the public in Grimsby and Scunthorpe will now wear G4S’s company logo – that discreet sharp slash of red and black.

What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world’s streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: “The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we’re on to the wall, we’ve got your back.” If that made any sense at all, I doubt it would be more reassuring.

It’s brilliant to look back on this, given the fiasco currently unravelling regarding G4S’s incompetent mishandling of the role they were paid hundreds of millions to undertake at the Olympics. It now turns out there’s no penalty clause in their contract:

Private security company G4S will not be financially penalised for failing to recruit sufficient security guards for the Olympic Games, it emerged last night.

The firm has been accused of letting the country down just two weeks before the Games, with soldiers forced to cancel family holidays to ensure venues are protected. But a senior Government source told The Independent that the contract with G4S did not include a penalty clause.

The revelation appears to contradict a statement by the Home Secretary Theresa May in the House of Commons. She told MPs that while the contract was between G4S and the Games organisers Locog, she understood that there were “penalties within that contract”.

A source said that in fact it was a pro-rata agreement where G4S were paid for each extra security guard they supplied – and not penalised if they did not make the overall target. “The person who negotiated the contract should be shot,” the source said.

 

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You know things are bad when the Spectator are on LOCOG’s case:

The real risk, in my view is not so much from the letter of the law. It is from the chilling effect on free speech, created by the rules and their gung-ho implementation. Consider the following:

  • Sally Gunnell photoshoot promoting easyJet’s new London Southend service in July 2011. Locog executive stopped photoshoot of her raising a Union flag above her shoulders. Union flag was removed & she had to change from a white tracksuit to an orange T-shirt.
  • Butcher in Weymouth. Was told to remove his display of sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings.
  • Olympicnic. A small village in Surrey has been stopped from running an “Olympicnic” on its village green.
  • ‘Flaming torch breakfast baguette’ offered at a café in Plymouth to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic torch was outlawed by Locog.
  • ‘Cafe Lympic’ & ‘Lympic Food Store & Off License’. Both had to drop the ‘O’ at the start of their names. But Alex Kelham, a brand protection lawyer at Locog, says: ‘The legislation actually catches anything similar to the word ‘Olympic’ as well. It’s not a fool-proof get-around.’
  • Florist in Stoke-on-Trent. Was ordered to take down a tissue paper Olympic rings display from the shop window.
  • Oxford Olympic Torch stalls. Traders will have to cover up their logos, and can only sell soft drinks from the Coca-Cola product range (inc. bottled water)
  • Webbers Estate Agents in North Devon. Threatened with legal action for displaying makeshift Olympic rings in its windows.

The word soon gets around: if you upset the Olympic censors, they will come for you. And what shopkeeper wants to get landed with a massive lawsuit? You’d sooner not take the risk. If a newsagent has been told (as we were, originally) that it’s illegal to be rude about the Olympics then to stock this week’s Spectator – which is defiantly rude about the Olympics – would be a risk you’d understandably not take.

This can’t possibly be in the spirit of what the Olympics are supposed to be about. Protected by missiles for fuck’s sake? Insane. Missiles forcibly installed on people’s roofs? What sort of country is this anyway? I can’t imagine what sense it makes for chips which aren’t McDonalds’ to be outlawed in the Stratford Park during this period! But G4S not being able to deliver the security personnel it promised, forcing army personnel to police the event, is serious financially (how many hundred million were G4S paid?) and sets an ominous precedent. And PLEASE someone tell me what sense there is in banning cyclists from ‘Games Lanes’ (very Soviet) in the run-up to and during a SPORTS EVENT?! There’s no discussion going on about sport at all, as far as I know! This is crazy!