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My Great British Summit Cock-up Hell

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Paul Mason | 08:23 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009

I arrived at the "rendezvous" - a derelict car park - at 5am. I was security checked at 0504. I got on the coach at 0505. The coach was turned away from the Summit the first time at around 0520, again at 0525 and then got pre-turned away a third time at 0600. Then we went back to the rendezvous to find that ALL coaches containing accredited journalists had been turned away from the summit.

Grimness turned to humour but not for long. Our convoy attempted a second time to gain entry to the offsite place where we are allowed to get our security passes. But no, yet again the same policeman - and seemingly no communication. By this time various journalists were earbashing FCO and Downing Street press officers who thought they would be getting calls about a fiscal stimulus.

I am pleased to say that Newsnight, Sky and ITN all played a heroic role in the, shall we call it kerfuffle, that led to journalists leaving their buses and marching into the facility.

This three hour wait of course, and this level of hassle, rudeness and incomprehension by those in authority, is exactly what the poorest of the world have to put up with just to get into work, or get to a water source, every single day.

I am in the Excel centre now (arrival time 0800 - it is about half a mile from where I was at 0500), and I think they've probably managed to avoid a Dome style scenario, but the sight of journalists from countries we would call third world shaking their heads in disbelief makes this more than just a quirky twist to the start of the day.

The hierarchy here is: (i) police, (ii) civilians in bibs who work for various security firms, and then (iii) politicians, journalists and lastly (iv) the public. It is of course that middle layer of people suddenly empowered by hi-vis bib to obstruct those lower than themselves, but with no power to communicate or break through obstacles higher than themselves, that oversee chaotic events like this.

Suddenly I can understand very clearly why the British state does not want to run a major financial institution. I think the Germans could probably run a nationalised company decently, but we, the Brits, have this way of turning everything into a chaotic soul-less mess.

Sky News is calling it the Great British Cock-up. Jon Snow of Channel Four is voxing the foreign journalists on their views about the mess. At times like this I always think of Orwell: the genius of Nineteen Eighty Four is that it imagined what Britain would look like if it became a bureacratic collectivist dictatorship. I think I have just had a glimpse of it.


  • Comment number 1.

    Why dod you go by bus? There is a Docklands Light Railway Station next to Excel... so why not hire a train since the trip was in the early morning.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am also in the Excel centre now.U try to get it.
    Ford Rangers Forums

  • Comment number 3.

    1. Because we were instructed on pain of sniper fire to only go in by official bus. All the DLR stations are closed.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is exactly the sort of thing I expect, especialy when the gvt introduce ID cards and the database. (Or they could save 10 to 20 billion in these straightened economic times and not bother, but common sense and previous commitments to civil liberties don't matter with this gvt)

  • Comment number 5.


    I have been saying for ages that the problem with Britain lies in the management. I should know this as I am a manager.

    The problem is general, applying to both the private and public sectors, and revolves around the principle of hierarchy as structured in the British class system. Everyone is looking down their nose at everyone else.

    You have to be ambitous to succeed rather than competent. This is why the place is run by idiots whose only standard is to please their boss.

    I can reasonably claim that George Orwell knew my father and a couple of old friends. Sadly they are all dead. Lucky people!

  • Comment number 6.

    What in all that's holy does "pre-turned away" mean?

    Talk about mangling the language.

  • Comment number 7.

    During WW2 lots of people were shot and killed under the illusion they were parachists when 'Dad's Army' began manning road blocks.

  • Comment number 8.

    A pearl of truth this one:

    "...but we, the Brits, have this way of turning everything into a chaotic soul-less mess."

    And so broadly applicable: the Brown leadership, the BBC or the City, for example...

  • Comment number 9.

    Stanilic #5- thats exactly it:
    "You have to be ambitous to succeed rather than competent"

    That neatly sums up what I have been pondering for a year or two ie the gap between what is claimed and what occurs, and how come certain people are in charge of everything.

    Paul Mason - this is the future of journalism- sitting in a shed with lots of other talking heads, being fed stuff by those in charge.

    In fact a lot of journalism has been like that for years. Which is one reason newspapers are selling fewer copies.

  • Comment number 10.

    Put a token of authority on a man - whether a day-glo bib or an armband - and you create a bureaucrat, a thug, or all too often, both. Autocrats the world over and throughout history have known this trick.

  • Comment number 11.

    This three hour wait of course, and this level of hassle, rudeness and incomprehension by those in authority, is exactly what the poorest of the world have to put up with just to get into work, or get to a water source, every single day.

    With the possible exception of the water source, I hate to break it to you (still inside the London 'bubble', see), but welcome to 'our' world! imagined what Britain would look like if it became a bureaucratic collectivist dictatorship.


    So, as somewhat redeemed by it, you can keep the last line.

    Yours, one of (iv).

    ps: And as we're into artistic warnings of the near future, you might want to hark back to what that V might stand for. Tony's kid can help.

  • Comment number 12.

    Well Paul ,you should have just stayed in bed and hired the Jungle Book from block busters or downloaded it from you tube

    Their is nothing that the G'towe conference would have to say in public that Walt Disney hasn't already said better in film .

    Alternatively read some PG Wodehouse and Jeeves will tell your intuition whats going on .

    I posted a satire a while back where i said Dyno rod should be called in to clear the blockage in the financial system and would probably charge 1 trillion pounds [not far off]

    As has been said

    Only clowns and mystics speak the truth.

    The symbolism of the G'towe conference photoshoot is telling .Kevin Rudd the heartistic Australian premier was under the halo [o in jobs] how apt and Burlesqueonly moved away from his Halo to be seen nearer president Obama ,also how apt.

    The sooner the pigs trough between the Crests of the economic waves is filled in by the central banks ,then the sooner we can prepare for the real tsunami rather than mistake its deflationary precursor for it

    Some scientists believe that the mythical [but not defacto untrue] great flood at the time of Noah was caused by a massive build up of liquidity in the himalyas basin that caused a Rock slide and CONSEQUENTIAL cascade of water into the region in conjunction with heavy rainfall caused by a red hot meteorite passing within 6.66 inches of the ocean surface

    As it was in the time of Noah so shall it be symbolicaly in the last days

    Truth is always revealed symbolicaly before being revealed substantialy ,even over vast time periods.

    The Herald of free enterprize was a warning as was the twin towers world trade centre colapse seven years before the 777.7precipitous domino colapse in the DOW INDEX

    In operation is a spiritual calculus that overrides all other powers shaping them as putty at the appointed hour for the appointed purpose .

    In 2011 it will be 40 years since the gold standard was dropped in 1971 by the then president Nixon .

    USA power has been sustained in the economic wilderness by a faith based "in God we trust currency exclusively with no gold backing for approaching 40 years.

    The economic turmoil represents the final struggle between Good and evil on a global level where the lawless one[s] hiding behing Darwinism is[are] being revealed .

  • Comment number 13.

    Paul: i think it was not a well-managed media opportunity and i have to agreed with your comments...about the hierachy!

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 14.


    I fully sympathise with your difficulties at Excel.

    I had the misfortune to be in London last Monday, when I had a meeting near Piccadilly (north of The Mall/Birdcage Walk), and arrived in town at Victoria (south of those streets). I got caught up in the Mexican President's state visit. This involved a bunch of dumb policemen effectively hemming everyone into St James's Park between said streets whilst our supposedly under-resourced army pranced about in the clothes they'd found in the Royal dressing up box. Hemming us all in was, presumably the police honing their tactics for the G20 demos, I don't know. In any case, nobody could cross the road if there was any sign of a soldier marching or riding up the roads Presumably if anyone had tried, we'd have been arrested under "anti-terror legislation" or, worse, became Jean-Charles de Menezes II.

    I left the UK three years ago to live in Ireland. My adopted home has its faults, I acknowledge, but we certainly don't have the same security obsession that Britain does. Politicians are so unpopular partly because of their self-importance in thinking that their "protection" is worthy of so much disruption to everyone else. It isn't. Somebody needs to make them aware of it, but if even the media is threatened with shooting if they try to get too close and use non-approved transport links, then who can tell them? Don't you think Britain has ceased to display any sembalnce of being a liberal democracy? And don't you think you and your colleagues should be spending more time highlighting this than acting as nothing more than a distribution channel for government media releases about "summits" that just don't matter?

  • Comment number 15.

    Whether G20 was well run or not the tactics used to great the great and the good there were precisely the same used by General Brian Horrocks's vain attempt to get the Guards Armoured Brigade to Arnhem in 1944 using the only road available. Brown was more successful than Horrocks but the dockside dinosaur cranes paid poignant tribute.
    One other thing they glossed over in the G20 aftermath was the 9-1 rejection of the RBS remuneration at its AGM. CEO Hester said afterwards that the vote was noted but nothing would be done to effect its sentiment. Or the legality of the RBS implementing recommendations which had been rejected.
    Doubtless Brown intends to treat the rest of us in the same cavalier way as in the past.


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