Last week I was very proud to join with 30,000 other police officers and march through the streets of London to protest with dignity and pride. The purpose? To raise public awareness of the strength of feeling officers feel about the 20% cuts being imposed on the police and the risks that engendered to the public and ourselves.
I’m lucky. I had an opportunity for a hotel room at a very reasonable rate so was able to travel down the day before. I had a chance to put my feet on the floor in London for the first time… EVER and walk around. I was able to ride the tube for the first time.. EVER. The lady at the tube station when I bought my ticket laughed.. she didn’t believe me I’m sure.
Wednesday was a brief opportunity to just meander without any plan or agenda. I took the tube to embankment and managed an impromptu tweet up with @babsy__ who dashed out of her office to meet me at the foot of the Gurkha Statue. I then wandered onto Whitehall and spent 20 minutes chatting with the police officers at Downing Street before continuing to Parliament Square and then Buckingham Place. I chatted with the officers there (a pattern forming) and then paid my respects to our fallen colleagues at the National Police Memorial.
I then headed into Soho and met up with @princessofVP at De Hems where I discovered the true beauty of Twitter and the internet. The fact that you can communicate with someone across the internet and yet find you have a lot in common, a shared sense of humour and an enjoyment of one another’s company. As a London rookie I was given a whistle-stop tour of Covent Garden, taken to the “mouse pub” .. (it does have another name.. The Sun.. I think) and then we went our separate ways. It would have been quite a dull night on my own otherwise.
Having had a good nights sleep I took breakfast and then sat in the hotel reception and waited to be collected by a taxi. I was about to start a bit of a surreal journey into a world I never saw myself being a part of. In the week prior to the march I had been approached by the producer of the PM program on BBC Radio 4. They had seen my “Tools Down, All Out” blog and wanted to interview me about my thoughts on the march and the cuts. After taking some advice from trusted confidants I agreed and the taxi was now whisking me across London to the iconic BBC Television Centre.
I arrived and checked in at “Stage Door” reception and was quickly met by the producer. He led me into a large open plan office where I was introduced to @suttonnick the editor of the World At One. A program that many of you will know I tune into if I get my break at 1pm on weekdays. I was then introduced to the man who was to interview me @eddiemair We had a brief chat and I was quickly put at my ease. Feeling a little more relaxed I was taken through to a recording studio and Eddie asked me firstly why I was in London. We chatted for about 20 minutes or so and then we were done. I shook hands with all and was shown out to the front where the BBC had arranged for a taxi to drop me on Millbank so I could join the march. On the way Nick tweeted me to say @marthakearney (we follow each other) felt snubbed that I hadn’t said hello to her. I vowed that should I ever have the opportunity again I will not be in such a rush and try to meet many of the lovely folk at BBC Radio 4 that I follow.
The taxi drove me in toward Millbank and as we got closer the traffic snarled up. There were coaches everywhere and hundreds of pedestrians walking along the footpath on Grosvenor Road many wearing black Police Federation baseball caps. We managed a short cut and I eventually jumped out at the top of Vauxhall Bridge Road and walked toward Millbank. I was in a throng of 100′s of police officers. I found myself trapped in a crowd and unable to get any further. I needed to get to Millbank to meet up with @princessofvp and @janpashley by the Tate. I jumped over the fence and managed to walk down the riverside of Millbank and get to the Tate. The next problem was phone and internet connectivity. There were so many people there using phones that I simply couldn’t place calls or send tweets to find out where people were. This problem continued throughout the march which explains why there were so few tweets. With perseverance I did get a few out but spent most of my time frustrated.
I had absolutely no idea where my force was. There were just too many people and even with the banners they were holding it would have been difficult to pin them down. I gave up on the idea but could see Dorset up ahead so we walked up and joined them. I hunted out the Dorset Federation Chairman @mrclivec. We have never met but he knew who I was before I’d even opened my mouth! It was lovely to meet someone who has given me a lot of support over the last few months.
The march wound its way through the city and we got support from the PCS demo and were also clapped by Met officers protecting 10 Downing Street on Whitehall. This action was later criticised by Blair Gibbs from The Policy Exchange as being improper. I wasn’t surprised. He’s never really had a good thing to say about the police in the last 12 months that I’ve been following him. We finally reached Pall Mall where it sort of just “ended”. The march just seemed to fizzle out into nothing and people loitered around with many asking “Is that it?”. I hadn’t travelled with my force and so missed the briefing but it did seem a bit odd.
There were so many twitter folk that I wanted to catch up with but we were spread so far apart that it became pretty much impossible. I did manage to contact fellow custody sgt @sixtyfootdoll and having been at Pall Mall for 10 minutes she was just coming past the Home Office. If that doesn’t give an indication of how big the procession was then nothing does. I was by no means at the head of the march either. Thousands of officers finished before I did.
I grabbed a coffee on Haymarket and @sixtyfootdoll met me briefly. Again nice to meet but she had to dash to get back to their coach. There was a further tweet up arranged for 4pm at Mudlarks near Tower Bridge that I had been invited to. I was keen to go as this was a chance to meet up with a lot of people in one place. However, I knew I couldn’t stay long and didn’t want to be south of the river and heading back to the hotel in rush hour. I made my apologies and jumped on
the tube at Leicester Square. On the way to Hendon I got my phone out and took a shot that just had to be taken by any self-respecting Radio 4 listener.
My trip to London then finished as it had started. Wet and rainy. I walked back to the hotel in the rain picked up my car and headed home. Radio 4 was on the radio and I waited patiently for the PM program to begin. In many ways I was glad of the march and how it occupied my day. It would have been a very nervous wait until 5pm with nothing to do.
Just after 30 mins into the program my moment came. I would offer my praise to the actor doing my voiceover. Whilst sounding nothing like me, he got my intonation and pauses perfect and many who know me personally who listened immediately knew it was me. You can listen to the interview below
The interview was edited but the message I tried to convey is not lost.
There are many who will ask what the march achieved. Will it make any difference. Of course it will. People have seen we were angry about what is being done to the police service and the office of constable. The media picked up on the story and publicised it. Unless the government starts to listen to us then the problems predicted by Paul McKeever will come to pass. If we do nothing now.. people will ask WHY we did nothing when we knew it would happen. We end up looking worse. It is our duty to show the public what the problems the cuts will cause in any and every way we can.