Richard Howitt MEP explains how Tory Basildon Council had him focibly ejected from Dale Farm - despite him informing them and the police of his presence.
By Richard Howitt MEP (Labour, East of England)
As readers of Left Foot Forward will be aware as the local Labour Euro MP for Essex I have been a long-time campaigner on the issue of Dale Farm. Throughout this my prime focus has been to ensure that the rule of law is followed by all sides and to try and seek a mediated solution, which did not end in the scenes we have sadly witnessed over recent days.
Yesterday evening whilst giving national media interviews at a designated media compound controlled by the Conservative-run Council at the site, I was ordered to leave by Basildon Council employees and then physically seized by two of the Council’s private security guards and forcibly ejected.
Here is a copy of the letter (pdf) I sent yesterday to Basildon Council in advance which states clearly that I was only seeking to meet a media commitment, had no intention of seeking to enter the Dale Farm site, and which emphasised that I would be using the opportunity to express strong support for the rule of law.
I also sought and obtained earlier in the day police permission to go to the Dale Farm Media Point safely.
Yet, after ejecting me, Basildon Council issued a clearly politically partisan press statement saying that I somehow “tricked” my way in to the designated media area and represented a “security breach”. However my presence was at the clear invitation of the BBC’s evening regional news programme and I entered the area openly with the programme’s presenter who showed the necessary accreditation.
Although I have strongly criticised Basildon Council for refusing to accept mediation to avert the crisis, I have also consistently called for the law to be respected, supported the role of the police and condemned violence. It’s ironic that I was prevented from being able to give those messages yesterday, which responsible politicians from all parties should surely want to promote together.
I am now pursuing the matter and wanted to share the facts personally with readers of Left Foot Forward.
I believe it is outrageous that the Conservatives have apparently used their control of the Council to get the Council’s officers to undertake politicised acts on their behalf which can only be interpreted as actively seeking to prevent the opportunity for Labour to speak out on an issue of deep concern, which they were actively promoting on behalf of the ruling party.
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• Did “intelligence” on Dale Farm protestors come from undercover police agents? – Kevin Meagher, October 19th 2011
• End of the road for Dale Farm? – Kevin Meagher, October 13th 2011
• Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers – Kevin Meagher, September 2nd 2011
• The ‘Dalits’ of Dale Farm have needs too – Kevin Meagher, September 1st 2011
• Exposed: Kaminski’s links to “neo-Nazi skinhead movement” – Shamik Das, April 1st 2010