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Blogs

The spite and vindictiveness of the British state

9 December 2013

12:06 PM

9 December 2013

12:06 PM

Good luck to Trenton Oldfield, his wife Deepa Naik and their newborn baby today: it’s Oldfield’s day of judgement. He will find out if he is to be kicked out of the country, as Theresa May apparently wants. The tribunal hearing is at 1400.

Oldfield, if you remember, disrupted the Oxford-Cambridge boat race a couple of years back and served a bizarrely lengthy prison sentence as a consequence. I did not – and still don’t – agree with his protest. But it hurt nobody, endangered nobody apart from himself and the boat race was concluded. It seems to me to have been a rather grandly eccentric protest in a great British tradition.

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What is not part of the Great British tradition is the spite and vindictiveness on the part of our state which followed. I assume the state is taking its wrath out on Trenton – who, incidentally, works for a living, has not claimed a penny in benefits and provides work for other people – because it is unable to kick out the real nutters, the Islamists who wish to blow us all up, or Somalian rapists who can’t be deported in case they find Somalia an inclement place to be. Oldfield is an Aussie, and we can treat them just how we like.

A bunch of Oxbridge dons have written complaining about his treatment, here’s part of it:

101 public figures provide testimonials in support of Trenton Oldfield

Tribunal Monday 9th December, Taylor House, Rosebury Ave, EC1R 4QU

On Monday 9th December a judge will decide whether to accept the Home Office’s application to deport Trenton Oldfield who was imprisoned last year for disrupting the Oxford Cambridge boat race. (1) Trenton’s choice of target was designed to highlight the injustice of growing inequalities being presided over by a government cabinet composed of almost 70% Oxbridge graduates. His intentions have been met with a grossly disproportionate response by Theresa May whose representatives will seek to prove at the tribunal that Mr Oldfield is “not conducive to the public good”, has “undesirable” associations and even presents a “threat to national security”

This is not the first time there has been political intervention to ensure that Trenton is punished for an entirely peaceful protest. Having initially been charged with a low level public order offence, Trenton found his charge upped to one of “public nuisance” under a 12th century law which the Law Commission has said should be scrapped. This followed the intervention of a conservative MP Michael Ellis who raised concerns that “one idiot” could cause such disruption at a sporting event in a Home Affairs Select Committee just ten days after the boat race.

Although public response to the protest was initially divided, there has been widespread opposition to the heavy handed treatment of Trenton. 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal plans to be dropped and supporters include MP Peter Hain, who played a high profile role in the anti-apartheid movement, and leaders of 6 major trade unions. (4) Around 250 Cambridge University academics and staff have also expressed anger that such “a draconian penalty be applied in the name of an event representing their institution”. Author Danny Dorling who has written widely on issues of inequality will be amongst those providing character references in the hearing itself. 101 character references written by public figures can be read here.

The persecution of Trenton takes place in the context of increasing criticisms about attacks on the right to protest in Britain including of the crime and anti-social behaviour bill which will give greater powers to councils and police to prevent or disperse protest if it risks causing “public nuisance or annoyance”.

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