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Mark Thomas show banner
23:00 - 23:30
Monday 14/05/2007
14th May 2007
Monday 11 - 11.30pm
Mark Thomas protests outside Parliament
Mark Thomas tells of his campaign against the Act which requires anyone wishing to protest near the Houses of Parliament to obtain a permit.
Welcome to the world of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

This is the law that requires you to get permission from the police to demonstrate in Parliament Square. However, what counts as a demonstration according to the police is one person with a banner or one person with a badge standing in Parliament Square for just one minute.

Being arrested for wearing a badge or a T shirt seems a tad Kim Jong Il to me.

These are strange times and we have a strange law- its a mix of Kafkaesque absurdism and British bureaucratic prowess which has lead us to the state where a woman was threatened with arrest for having a picnic in Palriament Square. Her cake had the word PEACE iced upon it and the police insisted this counted as an unauthorised political protest.

The law has seen Maya Evans arrested and convicted for reading out the names of Iraqi and British war dead by the Cenotaph.

And on Red Nose Day I had to apply and receive permission from the police to wear a red nose in Parliament Square. The police advised me that if I wore a red nose without permission I could be arrested for an having unathorised demonstration.

The show celebrates peoples protests against this law as well as trying to show the absurd lengths it has gone to.

If you have any questions about the law or want to find out how to organise your own protests or just want to argue about the programme then feel free to drop me a line here.


If you want to find out more about this act use the form below to send us your questions, Mark will be back to answer them over the coming week.

Or read what the Home Office have to say about the Act.

Useful Links:

See the area covered by the Act

The BBC's Action Network web site

Mark Thomas' own web site

The Home Office web site

Mark Wallinger's State Britain exhibition
Ask Mark Thomas about the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act

Mark Thomas
A few more Q and A's

Q:If I am hitching down from Edinburgh and do not know when I will get to London can I apply for demo over a three day period , sometime in which I should arrive?

A: Simple answer here is: don't know. However, there is a section of the SOCPA law which states that you can apply for permission not less than 24 hours before demonstrating , if it is not reasonably practicable to apply for a demo 6 days in advance. So you might be able to arrive in London, hand the police your application, explain that you were hitching down and therefore it was not reasonably practicable to apply 6 days in advance as you had no way of knowing when you might arrive.

The other thing you could do is simply phone and ask if you could have permission over a three day period.

Q: Can I have a T shirt saying "I'm not out for a walk, I'm a protester."

A: Not without permission.

Mark Thomas
Here are some replies:

What badge would count as a demo in Parliament Square?

A CND badge, a political party in fact I had to get permission to wear a red nose in Parliament Square on red nose day, as this could have been interpreted as a demonstration.

Could an MP be arrested for wearing a Poppy in Parliament Square?

The decision of what constitutes a demo is down to the individual officer on duty, so technically a police officer could regard a poppy wearing MP in Parliament Square as taking part in an unauthorised protest. But the likelihood of it happening are quite slim.

How to join in a Mass Lone Demo?

They are held every third Wednesday of the month - so the next one is on the 18th of April and they are held between 5.30pm and 7.00pm, folk just come along when they can in that time if they can't make the whole thing.

How do I apply for permission?

Hand a request into any Metropolitan police station or send it recorded delivery, 6 days in advance of your protest.

You can down load a police form from my website

But you by law do not need to hand a form in. You can write your own letter to the police, stating 1)You are seeking permission to demonstrate under SOCPA 2)Your name and Address 3) The location of your demo 4)What your demonstration is about (just a title) 5)Time and date of the start AND the finish of your demo.

The police MUST send you written permission for your demo. But if you have not received it on the morning of your demo, as the post might arrive after you have gone to work, you can phone Special Events at Charing Cross and ask if you have your permission- the number is 0207 240 1212.

When do the Mass Lone Demos hand in the applications?

We do it on the 2nd Wednesday of the month at Charing Cross, between 5.15pm and 7.00pm , if you can't make it you can ask a friend to hand your form in. The police should give a signed copy of your request. SO the next hand in is the 11th of April and the demo is on the 18th.

What is the law regarding megaphones?

Westminster council have a form you can fill in to apply to use a megaphone in parliament Square but it will cost £150 to apply to get the permission.

What are political parties stand on SOCPA?

Lib Dems are attempting to repeal this section of SOCPA, Baroness Sue Miller has got a private members bill up on the issue. Originally the Tories said they would support her move but only to decrease the limit of the zone the law applied to- to 200 yards around Parliament, instead of the 1 km which now exists.

How can I find out the area the zone applies to?

Here is a copy of the map

Could I wear a T shirt saying "I am not a protestor I am just out for a walk."?

Yes you could, though the police could interpret this as a comment on the law and therefore a protest. Just to be on the safe side I would check with the police. In fact I shall try and do that by Monday for you.

Could I moor a barge outside Parliament and protest?

No. But you could move up and down the Thames outside Parliament with a banner protesting. You would need to get permission to do this under SOCPA. The RMT union organised a protest on the river about river pilots and the reduction in training for them, the RMT had to get permission under SOCPA to have a protest boat.

Would the 80's vigils outside the South African Embassy or Greenham Common have been illegal under SOCPA?

Outside the South African embassy would be legal as it is outside the "designated area " of the SOCPA zone-though if you wanted to hold a vigil outside the Nigerian embassy ( for whatever reason) which is in the zone, then that would be illegal unless you got permission under SOCPA.

As for Greenham common the vigil should be OK but any person who gets onto the base would be breaking the law. Under section 128 of the Act, a person commits an offence if he enters, or is on, any designated site in England or Wales as a trespasser. Under section 129 of the Act, a person commits an offence if he enters, or is on, any designated Scottish site without lawful authority. The list of military sites is at: Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 3447

Could I apply for a demo where no one attends?

You can apply for a demonstration and if no one turns up for whatever reason, bad publicity, ideological disagreements, sickness etc- then that would be perfectly legal. However, if you applied for a demonstration with the intention of not turning up then that could be a matter of wasting police time. Also for a SOCPA demonstration to take place you need to have people or a person there. So if you applied to have a demo stating that it was a "personless" demo then you would not get permission as it would not be regarded as a demonstration.

Mark Thomas
Dear John

thank you for your e mail and for your thoughtful question.

The issue of wasting police time is one that I have thought about over the past months. Firstly, let me be clear that the police by law MUST give permission to a demonstration request, the commissioner can put conditions on it, like how many people can attend and how many banners you can have etc. The fact remains that they have to give permission.

That is the law. Also when any Bill is going through Parliament there is an assessment of how much the legislation will cost to implement- every legislation has to have this and the cost analysis is done by the relevant department, so SOCPA will have been costed and is under review so any increase in the cost will be assessed and budgeted for. This is the background to the actions I undertook.

The question about police time is , I am guessing, about police time and resources, it is really: am I using up police time and resources that could be used in solving crime, reducing the threat of crime and detecting plots such as the London bombings?

If this has occurred then the police are being run on a shoe string and mismanaged. If we genuinely have a police force that can not handle a monthly form processed for between 50- 150 people without it having an impact on policing then we are doomed. If our forms being processed takes police from front line duty then serious questions have to be asked about the legislation and the way the police are being run. If this is the case then bringing it to the open would be performing a public duty.

Secondly, the forms are processed by a unit called Special Events, whose job it is to coordinate events in Westminster, everything from Chinese New Year through to Make Poverty History in Trafalgar Square.

So there is a unit specially for this kind of work, so practically our Mass Lone Demos are not taking police from front line duties.

On the legal point- "are we wasting police time?", the answer is: No, we are using our rights and fully complying with the law. If the complying with the law is legally wasting police time then the police have the right to arrest, charge and work with the CPS to bring a prosecution against individuals for complying with the law. This would be a legally, morally and constitutionally mad.

On a second legal point, the Human Rights Act protects our rights, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in essence the right to protest, these are enshrined in law. These are our legal rights. As such any police action that sought to restrict or punish an individual for using a legally protected human right would genuinely see us heading into a police state.

On a moral and political level the question of wasting police time is simply not applicable. If anyone is having their time wasted it is us.

Parliament and the police through the introduction and implementation of this law have wasted citizens time. I did not get time to say this in the show , as we only have a half hour slot, but I had to get police permission to wear a red nose in Parliament Square on Red Nose Day, in case I broke the law and was arrested under SOCPA for participating in an unauthorised protest.

All of this boils down to one thing: if a law is this absurd it is a bad law and bad law shouldn't be excused, it should be challenged.

There is one further point to make about this, which is that over the past few years laws and proposed legislation has reversed the onus of accountability in Britain. Anti terror laws mean a Kurd can be jailed for wearing a badge with a picture of the jailed guerilla/terrorist leader Abudlah Ocalan . You can get 6 months in jail for wearing a T shirt. The ID card scheme, the DNA data bases of citizens who have not committed crime, the DNA data bases for children, the reduction in information that we can get under Freedom of Information, all of this tilts the balance of accountability. The last few years have made citizens more and more accountable to the state, when it is the state that should be accountable to us.

Hope this answers your question.


Tourist Guide (London)
OH my!! I have been Braking the law. Each time I take a party to the house of parliament I talk about the British constitution!! I will now have to say to our foreign visitors. I am prevent by law to explain about this location!. The home of freedom of speech is dead!

Stephen Bournemouth
Pure genius: I just wonder are there any exceptions to the Law? For example is the floor of the House of Commons exempt as it is within the exclusion zone and can be seen by the public from the gallery. Are PM excluded? Would an MP addressing a number of people with cameras/ Microphones be breaking the law? If not I think this would deserve a demonstration.

Mike Booth, Warwickshire
Brilliant radio. I too was made late by just having to listen till the end. I haven't laughed so much or been so saddened by such beaurocratic stupidity for a long time.

Simon, Ipswich
this has got to be a podcast..

Jo in Bath
RE - swearing at 6.30pm on the beeb - my 2 and a half year old son laughed his socks off at my laughter - and he particularly liked the bit when Mark said 'one man's crap is another man's shit is another man's poo!' (it was the poo that really did it) For goodness sake get real - there are more important things we should be protecting our children from, for example their dwindling human rights, rising Co2 levels and SATs at aged 3.

I'm amazed that a radio show could make me WANT to protest. Can't wait to join in the mass lone demo. Good stuff Mark

Sorrel Kinton, London
Is there any way I can get hold of this as a download? It is brilliant and I want to be able to listen to it over and over again.

Jane, Bedfordshire
This half-hour show was the best comedy I'd heard on Radio 4 for a long time. It's still buzzing around my had. Very funny. It deserves to win a Sony.

Rachel The Netherlands
What a wonderful, hilarious and scary programme. Tried to explain this law to friends in Holland - freedom of speech here is seen as q very basic right - and they could not believe it. Please keep up the good work.

Rod Davies - Derby
There are far too many of these time wasting demonstrations. When are you going to organise a protest against them?

Stuart, derby
Please make this downloadable. I know a lot of people who should hear this.

rebecca wright
thanx,very inspirational.Only Request `WE NEED MORE MARK THOMAS ON RADIO AND TV PLEASE `Thanks

Stephen Phillips
I don't think people should be able to set up permanent protests outside parliament, so would favour SOME degree of restriction.That this draconian nonsense failed to get rid of the man it was designed for is sadly typical of the competence of HMG.Meanwhile, in Wales it is illegal to smoke in public buildings - but OBLIGATORY to have signs telling you this. Murder is also illegal. I think I will campaign for signs to this effect also.

steve portugal
BRILLIANT unfettered genius, pace, timing, delivery, content, not to mention you actually did the sh..t. hat off to you sir for keeping alive what i can only call the 'dunkirk spirit' as i'm sure winston would have happily agreed ( is the ectoplasmic medium available to corroborate this? ).well done dude, never give up the fight.... big hug from the algarve posse....

Col. Stevenage
Excuse any typos, still not cleared tears of laughter from my eyes. PLEASE: Downloadable version. So many more people need to hear this & just won't unless its handed to them on a plate (or cd or USB stick, etc)

Mary Fisher
I was late for a celebration meal because I couldn't tear myself away from the programme. I was in tears of laughter - and I'm old and reactionary. It was brilliant.

Andreas, St Albans
Sorry Steve Ayland, I am not sure you got my point. I think Mark is fantastic, it is why I have already been on many of these mass lone demonstrations. it is not he that annoys me, it is the behaviour of the idiots he satirises, but it is mark that points them out, and therefore kind of mark that annoys me. see what i was saying? anyway, if you are such a big fan of the suffragettes, i am sure i will see you down at the next mass lone demonstration, keen as you are to use your democratic powers? ;-)

Phil Ward
Fantastic, PC MacAnally for Superintendent!Now, about getting a podcast of this so we can pass it round?

Peter Lewis, Heathfield
Have the organisers of the London Marathon made arrangements so that a runner who collapses outside parliament while wearing a slogan will not be arrested, even if the slogan is a war protest?Will all the costumed runners have to be checked for explosives and offensive weapons? You can stuff a lot of damaging sage and onion in a human-sized chicken.Thanks for the programme.

tony gatwick
We all complain that our government does not listen to us; we all complain that this country is no longer free. What do we do? NOTHING! What kind of state have we reached when we have to resort to the power of comedy to tell the truth? MARK THOMAS will do that and in superb style, but I guess when we leave the truth telling to a comedian (all said a first class comedian) it tends to expose what an apathetic bunch of obedient consumer slobs we have become!WAKE UP BRITAINPRAISE THE THOMAS!!!

Simon, Cumbria
Incredibly funny!!! And a deadly serious subject- this peice of legislation is typical of the high-handed attitude of the Government, who think they can legislate us into silence. 2 questions: Where can I download this in MP3 format and where can I get one of those Victoria sponges?Keep up the good work!

andy - newport
Fantastic! Laughed all the way through, please do more stuff for Radio 4

Shaddy, Australian in Taiwan
My first experience of your comedy, and I loved it. It seems rough for the police, who came across as quite nice from sketch, that they have to police this law. Hope the humour of it all offers them some solace.

Elaine, Surrey
Brilliant show, I laughed till I cried and made eveyone in the family listen as well, where can I download a copy?

Crosby, Norfolk
This was the funniest thing I've heard in ages. Is it possible to have a download? I could do with one, as I would like to play some clips in a school assembly. I may even be able to rustle up some extra demonstrators after they have heard this show.

Mark, Edinburgh
Fantastic show - laughed all the way through!As in your earlier reply, I expect that anyone wearing a red poppy is unlikely to be arrested; but I wonder about a white peace poppy? (sounds a bit criminal to me!)

Zoe Short, Devon
Missed the second half on the radio so am listening again. Just as good- please a podcast so as to be able to share with friends?

Buffalo Bill London
Mark, you made my day. Haven't laughed so much in ages!!!

Bruce, UK
How can I get you nominated for a peerage without money changing hands?

Kaz, Macclesfield
I absolutely loved this programme. This insane law has really just been asking to be publicly mocked - thank you for doing so, and for holding the monthly demos. How marvellous that the police connived with you along the way! I hope they continue to do so.

John, New Jersey.
Fuggetaboutit.Oh, you Brits. All this talk about living in a fascist state. I'm an American. Enough said? Although I will admit that the cameras everywhere are a bit of a bother. I visit your lovely land every January for a couple of weeks -- damn few Americans around then. Have to ignore certain bodily irritations. Anyway, would like to join the protesting throng. How should I go about the process?

Matt, Battle

Allan Wirral
Just heard it on Listen again - with my 14 year old daughter who loved it. Seriously very funny . You've sent me to the Liberty website. I've emailed it to many friends , here and abroad.

Mark Scott, Wimborne, Dorset
Brilliant! If the authors of this legislation have any conscience, they should be suitably shame-faced.

Adam, Woking
I laughed out loud from start to end at the satire. And then felt very very worried when i realised it was for real. Excellent work.

********* London
I'm a polce officer, I know the guys you mentioned, I was in tears of laughter. Excellent, just excellent!

Bibi London
Thank goodness you are there with your wonderful humour in the face of such depressing times. Do you think it will effect a change? I hope so. I'm forwarding the link to Listen Again to as many people as I can think of. I'm also worryingly grateful to the BBC for letting you do this.

Colin, East Cambs
As all ways a great show.This country is going to the dogs

Tom, Newcastle
Thank heavens for Mark Thomas! The authoritarian tendencies of this current government are scary, but perhaps not as scary as our failure to put a stop to them. Not since the sixties have I heard such brilliant political satire.

Stu - Sevenoaks
I was at the recording in the audience. You should hear some of the stuff they didnt broadcast.Will be at next months mass lone demo demanding equal rights for Moths. Good luck with McDemo as well mark. Great work.

foghorn leghorn, io, saturn.
i'm a surrealist, no really i quack. am i correct in saying that there was a show previously that i missed? surely this is availiable somewhere on the internet, as the postage to where i am is a nightmare.

Steve Wilson, Herne Bay, Kent
Why not have sponsored multiple protests, 10p a protest to a suitable charity. Much better than sponsored running as there would be less risk to health and the further advantage of being a more sociable activity if your model were followed - placard caddy etc. Alternatively, what about "Rent a Protest" to help people like me (disabled) who would find protesting difficult - £10 for the first hour and £5 per hour there after. It works for me and I don't suppose that there is anything prohibiting money changing hands is there?

Stephen. Gt Doddington
Both the silly law and your response to it, makes you proud to be British, well done.

James O'Dwyer, Leeds
I would love to translate the programme into French, so I could share it with my friends in Brittany.Most French people I know would find the whole thing hilarious! Any chance of a transcript?

Karen, Japan
Genius, Mark. Keep up the good work. Granted, I have been out of the loop being in Japan, but I would have thought there would have been huge protests against this. It is a very scary law that needs to be got rid of quickly. Thanks for bringing our attention to it in a way that had me almost wetting myslef with laughing. Cheers!

kris Redhill
This was one of the best no infact it was the BEST show or documentry i have had the pleasure of listening too in my life so far please keap this up im sure i will join your team soon and hope that Radio 4 has the forsight to repeat this or least make an MP3 version available this law makes a joke of this countries leigal system well done. thanks !

T. Blair, Westminster
What an utter waste of license payers money. Does this Mark Thomas character not realise that we have to be tough on protests and on the causes of protests. Gordon will go ballistic when he gets back.

Nick Colford, Madrid
Fantastic. Great ideas, wonderfully developed, flawlessly written and achingly well delivered. A hoot!

Phil, Ayrshire
Delighted to catch the program and hope there's more where that came from soon. After all this authoritarian Government's giving you so much material to use in future shows. Long live the fraternizing with the thin blue line!!!

Reon van Wijk - London
Brilliant!!! It reminds me of why I came to live in Britain.How can I get my hands on this as a podcast or a permanant recording of some sort???

Neil, Wales
Mark, I got a load of funny looks from passers-by as I sat in my car listening to your show. I was stuck to the seat, annoyed, helpless and nearly sick with laughter. Fantastic, I haven't laughed so much in a long time.More.

Neill - Brighton
Thank you. Genius is a totally overused word - but - hey - this was genius!Now - BBC - why can we only get this programme for another 7 days?WE WANT DOWNLOADS NOW!!C ya at a future mass lone demo, 4 sure;-)

Deborah fox
Could I wear a t-shirt saying 'I'm not out for a walk, I'm just a protester'?

deborah, Trowbridge
In response to Ian Cunningham in Henley on Thames: open your ears and your mind, you owe it to your 18-month old.

Dave - Rotherham
Loved it. Listened twice, the scond online to illustrate to the wife why I stopped at a service station (as I couldn't drive whilst laughing) an dhence was late for tea

Steve, Gloucester
I must thank the goevernment for pasing the SOCPA bill, otehrwise I would not have just listened to the funniest peice of radio in sometime beating,even, ISIHAC, The Now Show and The News Quiz. Also, although wanred about the very strong langauage I did not notice it...possibly because I was in pain from laughing. Keep up the good work...we will soon wear them down.

Kate Mid Wales
What more can I add to all these comments - I was a serious hazard to traffic on the Severn Bridge and when a police car pulled in behind me I thought i was in serious trouble!!! Can we have a hazard warning in future? And yes, I want a copy too so that I can give it to everyone I know who missed it.

Don ,Grantham
Aboslutely brilliant. In comparsion shows how sourpuss "satirists" like Jeremy Hardy lack any real talent for humour

Tom Brighton
Absolute class, get the BBC to do an MP3 please pretty please.Funny as hell and a piece of legislation righly deserving of having the P*** taken...

Martin Quested, Leipzig
As a Brit living abroad I'm very scared about what's happening to my country. Please keep up your work, Mark, it's absolutely superb. However, I do agree with those who suggest that the strong language wasn't necessary. Your point is so good and your method so effective you could have managed it perfectly well without resorting to using strong language and thus potentially putting people off unnecessarily. Censorship? No, just finding a way to get your message heard as widely as possible.

Shirley, Pembrokeshire
Not only was this a brilliant expose of ridculous legislation - it was first class comedy; I haven't heard anything on a par with Mark Thomas since the days of 'That Was The Week That Was' - brilliant!

Roger Jackson, Stockport
Dear MarkYour programme last night was brilliant. It was the funniest thing I have heard for a long time and I just hope that the 'authorities' realised what fools they are shown to be. This act shows what a restrictive police state we now live in.

Mike Robinson - Milton Keynes
Best show I've heard on the radio in decades. I had to stop what I was doing as I could hardly control my laughter. Thank you.

Noel Chidwick, Edinburgh
By far the funniest on programme on radio for ages - and deadly serious too.

Gerard Marks
We listened to this and was doubled up with laughing so much. It was really great to demonstrate the in a typically British hummourous way the absurdity of the authoriation regime we now live in in Blairite Britain. Hey, but I supposed it is better than what happened in St Peter's Field, Manchester 1819. This is just a very subtle Riot Act.Can this be downloaded??

Hywel Williams, Wales
Simply outstanding. One of the funniest programmes I've listened to for a long time - yet one with a very serious point to make.I had to pull over in a layby to listen as I was laughing so much, I feared that it may dangerously affect my driving.

Nick Godwin, Edinburgh
I'm asking in connection with your advice about wasting police time. You see, I live in Edinburgh and I am very short of money and plan to hitch-hike down to London for my demo. However, supposing I don't manage to get a lift and so can't make it? Could I then get done for wasting police time? And also, how specific do I need to be about the time and date. As I'm hitching it might take me up to 3 days to get down there, so can I apply for a demo to be held sometime between one date and another date a week later say?

Ted, Harpenden
Mark, When you meet your maker, your friends will say of your sketch on demonstrations, "This was his finest hour. Well, finest half-hour anyway." You should be knitted, sorry, knighted. I laughed so much I nearly choked myself to death. At my age of 70, I just can't take that kind of punishment.

Julian - Portsmouth
Stunning show.I am aware that staging a protest where no protestors turn up could be deemed as wasting Police time.However do you need to 'touch base' with the Police when you arrive to demonstrate, or do they check in some other way.I only ask as I am concerned that if I organise a demonstration and am 'sick' on the day I could be in trouble ;)

Roger, Ickenham
Serious subject; gloriously funny. I would love a copy of the recording - where can they be obtained?

Jean - Plymouth
This programme is deserving of every Radio Prog award there is - not just because it was hilarious but to bring awareness of this travesty to a wider public and audience. Absolutely brilliant!!Thank you Mark.

David - Bristol
Like almost all the other correspondents I loved this and laughed lots. I thought the police emerged from your onslaught with reputation if anything enhanced. One got the feeling that they have little respect for the law; if so putting the police in that position is a worry. Some of the emailers have complained about the government. But government will always behave in an autocratic fashion so long as the present constitutional arrangements continue. I despair of the pusillanimity of members of parliament who repeatedly fail to do their job and stand up for our rights. PS. Shouldn’t the Defence of Surrealism banner have carried the phrase ‘This is not a banner’?

Tony Brown Lincoln
The best program on the BBC for years. I could have done without the swearing but I was laughing so much I couldn't be offended. This program must become a podcast and it should be broadcast every christmas instead of the queen's speech untill the law is changed. I would be interested in taking part in one ov your individual mass demonstrations to protest about the swearing on the BBC

Ash, Kent
Smart and very very funny. Just what we come to expect from Mark.

Bob Hitchcock Redditch
Just listened to the Parliament Square Protest show, what a masterpiece!I was laughing out loud at the way the stupid legislation was being implemented and the way you managed to poke perfectly legitimate fun at it.I sent the "listen again" link to British friends all over the world, they all loved it. Best comment from my mate in Bangkok, one word "Brilliant!"Keep it up.

Justin Pentecost Henley-on-Thames
You Bastard. I laughed so hard that I pulled a muscle in my chest that now makes it painfull to laugh. Regardless of the pain I have still listened again four times. I'm a very angry man with alot to demonstrate about .. The mind is working ..

Susan Elvidge, Bristol
I'm glad to see you've already had such a positive response and I want to add my 'Thank you'. I applauded at the end of your show, despite being home alone and fully realising the radio is not interactive and you would not hear me. But it filled me with hope and delight, so thank you.

Craig Devlin
Nice to see you back on radio it was one of the funniest bits of radio i've heard in ages. Can we not have it as a podcast please you nice radio four people

Samuel, London
If I wish to make a legitimate, peaceful protest I will jolly well do it wherever and whenever i Like. These so called politicians and their trained monkey police gimps get right up my hooter. Let's have more of this type of programming so that maybe the facsist state that we are turning into wont sink any deeper into the apethetic subconcious of the british public.Word.

Paul, Macclesfield
Brilliant. What happens if I ask the police for permission to hold a demonstration with no attendees?

Jeremy Pope
At last, an official opposition. As scary as it was hilarious.

Scott Stemp, Southampton
Please please please can this be on a podcast? Please? Do I need to apply for permission?

John Quinn
Could I propose that your programme be put forward for the best radio comedy of the year and for the best direct political action award if such a thing exists. Brilliantly constructed & genuinely laugh out loud funny.Keep up the good work.

Iain Dawson, Northants
Hilarious! And important. Very, very important. The idea that our lawmakers should not be disturbed by the people for whom they make laws is absurd. And the police escort in order to protest was the pinnacle. Not only does it show the irony, but should the police not be protecting us so that we can go about our legitimate business in safety ?

Verena, Paris
One of the best shows for a long time. But action is needed. It's no use just laughing about the brilliance of Mark Thomas, or even just staging private protests. How about some BBC programmes to give us a precise, step-by-step analysis of how democracy has been whittled away? How about a network of local associations of (right-minded) lawyers and public to resist these encroachments? With an umbrella organisation to coordinate efforts as they grow. Constant work to inform and rouse the public, and not just by protests--use your initiative as appropriate. Action now!

Sue from Bishop's Stortford
That was the most amusing, intelligent, inspiring, courageous,and wonderful programme I can remember hearing in the media. Thank you so much for your contribution to the world. I wish I could hear it again but my computer here at work doesnt have speakers and I dont have a computer at home. How can I listen again?

PJ, Kent
More swearing on Radio 4

Paul Burns, Chester
Brilliant programme on protesting. More from you Mark please- excellent.And when do you take over the Today programme- go on BBC it would be a riot (now there's a thought)!

Peter Devenhill, Wilts
The SOCPA show was by far the funniest thing I've heard in ages! Brilliant ideas - keep it up.

Chris, Cornwall
MarkNo question, but just applause for the funniest thing I have ever heard on radio; but also, given the subject matter, one of the most worrying - slowly but surely our rights and freedom are being eroded.

colin, calne wilts
This show is dangerous - I almost crashed the car last night both from anager about the stupidity of our government and then from tears of laughter. I might even have to protest against it.

David, Northampton
Yesterday's show was one of the funiest things I have heard in ages. Simply brilliant. Can I download a copy of the show anywhere?

V London
Absolutely brilliant show-loved it...

John Gallagher, Leyland, Lancashire
MarkI was driving home today and caught your show on Radio 4 by chance. A fantastic gig, but a bit dangerous for me to drive to - I was laughing so hard my eyeballs nearly popped out. I really must buy some of your work, when I have any money at all. I only wish I could afford to come to London and conduct my own silly protest.

Jo, Newbury
How ironic that the Government considers peaceful protest a serious organised crime. Very 1984

jed, Kingston
Mark. Can this be on podcast please! i want to spread the messages. Keep it up mate.

Gerard, London
PC McAnally sure hasn't! Mark, I think you're brilliant. TROLLS! WE WANT TROLLS!

Andy - London
Today's show had me in complete fits of laughter, so thanks for that.But the whole issue makes me furious. How can I help with a future mass demo?

Neil, Kettering
One of the funniest things I've listened to in years - well done Mark.

Dribbling Git - Yorkshire
Mark - You made me smile. You made me laugh. And then you almost made me weep! But then I laughed again. A breath of fresh air...aaaahhh. And then I started to get weepy again. I looked back at what we've lost and wonders why nobody has noticed its long and slow ponderous death. Once upon a time I thought I lived in a democracy.......I had a nightmare a while ago and woke up to find out that many of (if not our last remaining) civil liberties were abolished. Surely not??? Really???? My my... what a surprise.....Today was a good day - so Thank You

Give us more, we must have more of this, it's the best thing i've heard for weeks!

Paul Anthony, Ealing
I agree that Mark Thomas can be an annoying person; self righteous and politically correct in that 80's comedian style. He's also annoyingly energetic, annoyingly knowledgeable and often annoyingly right. And Like Brian Haw and others annoying indispensable in to a democracy.

Ian, Belfast
What an excellent programme - there couldn't have been a better way to highlight the issue, and at the same time provide radio material that was absolutely compelling. Well done.

Warren, Huntingdon
Mark,Congratulations, Brilliant!! Yet again you have managed to take the pomposity and offensive acts of this world and show there stupidity and general lack of concern for human rights with your brilliant humor. You obviously share the same anger as I do when confronted by the total lack of concern for human rights but you are able to keep us all laughing as you do it. Wish I could: Keep up the excellent work!!

Robin May - Cumbria
Hi MarkI've just driven back from a day delivering training in Cardiff. Apart from what has got to be the most beautiful rainbow I've ever witnessed - your show was the highlight of my journey!I rarely laugh out loud (sad - but true), but I was wiping away tears at one point.What leads me to write this, however, is not simply that I appreciated the show.What I want to acknowledge is your handling of the police involvement in your 'stories'. I think many comedians would have slated the police - easy target. I think you were able to laugh with them rather than at them, and I imagine PC MacNally (can't quite recall if I have the name correct) will have appreciated your show as much as I did...I certainly hope so.Well done for a great piece of work - I think you're representing much of what makes Britain Great :-)Kind regardsRobin

Toby Marshall-Andrew; Norfolk
Just listened to the show Mark; genuinely splendid. The bueracracy would make me seeth, if you didn't put such a perverse spin on it. I just feel sorry for poor PC McNally in all of it.

Steve - Wakefield
Bloody broud to be British!

Eliot, North Wales
March 29th of 2007, I fell in love, that was the GREATEST comedy feat I have heard in a loooooong time!! Please allow me to download to preserve it forever!

Steve Ayland
So, Andreas, do the Suffragettes annoy you? What about Ghandi? Martin Luther King? This is non-violent demonstrations against an unjust law. This is the basis of democracy. Please, if this annoys you, visit Burma.

Steve Ayland
So, Andreas, do the Suffragettes annoy you? What about Ghandi? Martin Luther King? This is non-violent demonstrations against an unjust law. This is the basis of democracy. Please, if this annoys you, visit Burma.

Jane, Cornwall
Mark You are a ray of light in a dark place. I would like to do some serious organised crime too. Do you know of any openings?

Kat, Essex
Hi Mark,Please could try and get doors that are push and have handled banned. They baffle me every time and surely the handle would be better placed on a pull door. It is obviously more environmentally friendly not to waste precious handles.Thanks! Keep up the good work!!

Peter McMurray, London Southampton
I just can't get the Police to arrest me in Parliament Square. They've stood behind me as I have gesticulated to cameras and loudly voiced my thoughts about this act and those that passed it. I can't even get David Cameron to reply to my letter asking if his party will repeal this part of the act and not replace it with somethingly similar. It seems the only way to get arrested is to be: a) a tourist, b) a woman, c) a journalist. I am a retired Army Officer, balding with a moustache. Maybe I should wear a frock and not look like I could give an arresting officer a damned good thrashing.

s. c. amsterdam
This was a remarkable program. My finest compliments to Mr. Thomas. And thank you, Radio 4.

Hilary in exeter
This is the best programme I have heard for A LONG TIME. BRILLIANT, mARK! lONG MAY YOU BE THE GRIT IN THE OYSTER... i LOVE THE IDEA OF DEMONSTRATING LEGALLY IN PARLIAMENT sQ. IT SHOWS WHAT A STUPID REGULATION THIS IS. I'm not sure why all that was in upper case- it wasn't meant to be and I'm too idle to change it.

Deborah, Trowbridge
Mark, your R4 piece tonight was brilliant - so many of the 6.30 slots are anodyne dross but I was crying with laughter and shouting with sympathetic indignation whilst listening to you tonight. We demand more Mark Thomas, fewer (R4 listener!!!) stupid laws. A well-placed kick up the backside of the Nanny State, well done you.

W Churchill
Thank you for letting me demonstrate.

Russ Greeno - Portsmouth
The government is trying it's best to outlaw legitimate demonstration of animal rights. With Tony Blair siding with the pharmaceutical companies. How can we get back our right to peaceful protest?

Slimpickins, Over here
P.S. I think others concerned about being mistaken for protesters would be interested in buying similar tee shirts.Would it be OK to hand out cards promoting them.Other items spring to mind. Perhaps walking stick users would like to attach notices to them with the words "this is not a placard, it's a walking stick".I wouldn't like to be seen to profit from such things, so perhaps a footnote to the effect that all profits would go to Liberty would be in order.

Joah Lipman, Nottingham
Hi Mark I'm only 15 but really admire your work. I was at your book signing in Nottingham but unfortunatly you had to leave before you could sign my copy :( oh well. Anyway couldn't you or some of your friends from As used on Nelson Mandela just take the government of Britain to court for something like slander for lieing about the Iraq war? I'm sure there is so much evidence you could fill say number 10? ;) Yours SincerelyJoah Lipman

Reverend C. Godden
Dear MarkI would like to know what l have to do to get permission to demoonstrate where do l get the paper work. How long before the date demo do l need to apply. Also what dates to you demonstrate and what day do you all apply. I have a very serious complaint regarding the British Consulate selling Visas after appling legal to Turkish people to come to England for a Two Week holiday. If you would like to contact me by phone regarding this please do so. You will not belive what they are doing.Reverend C. godden

Rachel, Hebden bridge
Fantastic - you are a bright star in a murky world!!

Moore, Lincoln
Mark -What sort of badge? MP name badges suggest they are the ones who know what they're on about. Police badges suggest the police have legitimate power. And as this is an obvious demonstration of power they should thus arrest themselves.

Angus Thomson, Thames Ditton
I listened enthralled tonight to your Radio Four programme. God bless you, your honour. Democracy needs you. And so do we.

Ian, Hull

Martin White.Hemel Hempstead,Herts
What does the law have to say about using a broken modern megaphone in a designated area? Also could anyone use an original metal cone? One more, could a politician speak in a designated area,spouting political aims?Great stuff Mark. 10/10

John Smith
I thought this show was fantastic. But one thing kept jumping into my mind -- did the police not complain about you wasting their time? After all, they might be fascists etc but they have some genuinely serious crimes to solve etc. I know that you have a serious point to make, but did this ever become an issue for you? How did you deal with it?

Pat: Kent
As a matter of interest, does this mean that an MP walking through Parliament Square with a poppy on armistice day needs a license, if so, is it possible to insist the police arrest such MP if he has not got one?

Neil Bonnaud, Tenby
I haven't laughed so much for ages.Just one teansy gripe about the BBC - the warning at the start of the program should not have been about the strong language - it should have been "Do not attempt to drive whilst listening to this program."

bub from brighton
Mark,Did you find out how the locations in the zone are differentiated. Can I have say 21 demos on different subjects by moving around parliament square alone? I wan't to break your record for creating police paperwork but with a more efficient method and less walking around. Please advise

Marcus, Cheshire
Excellent. Great to hear intelligent comedy again - this was worth the price of admision alone (subscription).Keep it up.

Phil Main Lancashire
Mark, you are a star mate

Will Tucker- Colchester
Well done Mark- i've just finished listening to your radio 4 piece- fantastic. See you on the 18th of April!

Slimpickins, Over here.
I have some concerns about SOCPA and would like to wander by one of your protests and pick your brains sometime. I'm a bit concerned that the police might mistake me for a protester though, so would it be a good idea to wear a tee-shirt with the slogan "This is not a protest, I'm just out for a walk" on it?Thanks for any advise you can give, these matters are very daunting for the layman.

Jo Lewitt in Bath, Somerset
I laughed so hard I cried listening to your serious crime show. I applaud your insight, passion and ability to articulate serious issues with such humour. Keep it up Mark.

Chris M
Simply Brilliant ! A wonderful view into the blatent stupidity of the act.

Steve Carnell, Ipswich
Hi Mark,I just wanted to say I have not laughed as much in years. Tears were rollind down my cheeks. I only hope it was all true. A pity it is not available in Listen again. I know lots of people who whould not have heard it and who should.Steve

trevor warren uk
wonderful show tonight,please let me know how i can annoy the hell out of Tony Blair etc. before they lead us all into damnation..or something

Henry Porter, London
Terrific programme - very witty. Well done.Henry Porter, The Observer

brendan stallard (atlanta)
I'm a retired (UK) copper and I laughed ALL the way through this programme.It was precisely HOW coppers move and think, and Mark captured it with grace and skill.While I was in office, sure I policed a whole lot of demos, good and bad, but the Blair government's heavy handed attempts to kill off public protest is wrong.Keep at it, Mark!

Stella, Tamworth
That was the most brilliant radio programme ever (except I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue, of course). What a travesty of a law. I am appearing in the House of Lords next month. I must look out my CND badge to wear on the way over.

peter - devon
that was fantastic - it is only a shame our great leader does not have any sense of irony

Andy Williamson, London
I have tears running down my face as I howl with laughter. They are of sorrow at the fact that the government of our country has made this programme possible and necessary, and fear for where it goes next.

Mark Thomas, Uxbridge
As ever, my illustrious name-sake has got it exactly right! This programme was an absolutely hilarious portrayal of an absolutely ridiculous denial of our rights - keep it up geezer!

Ian Cunningham, Henley on Thames
I have just had to turn the radio off because I am warned that this program contains "extremeky strong" lanuage. It's 6:30 pm for goodness sake even my 18 month old isn't in bed. What sad little people you and producers must be. The subject might be interesting but if you can't express yourself without resorting to bad language then you should get off our airwaves - preferably altogether but particularly in the early evening.

dave, london
could i moor a barge outside the houses of parliament, opposite their terrace, and protest there?

Rosa, Essex
Thank you Mark for all of your hard work. This law is nothing short of ridiculous, we have a long, proud tradition of protest and demonstration and now Blair is stamping all over it. It's appalling. Hopefully they will abolish it soon.

Ben, London
I like SOCPA. There is no way we could have come up with such an effective way to demonstrate for sorry state of democracy in this country. Lobbying the government has been a pointless act for ages, unless you happen to be an oil company or perhaps hunting buddies of a newspaper proprietor, so banning free speech outside parliament is arguably no big deal.

dave, london
In the 80s there were continous vigils outside the south african embassy and greenham common. would these have been outlawed by this legislation?buckingham palace or the GLA building)?

alex, london
does the act just cover demonstrations in parliament square or are other areas covered (eg outside buckingham palace or the GLA building)?

kyren, london
what steps do i need to take to organise a protest in Parliament Square?

I welcome the fact that someone has the time and inclination to draw attention to this ridiculaous situation - but where is the mainstream press in all of this?

Bedd Gelert
Okay, nothing to do with SOCPA, but tell you what - you insult me for being Welsh, and I will [pretend to] be offended and you could shop your self to the local rozzers, who will have to deal with it as a potential 'racist' incident...

catherine lewis - sheffield
This Act is a serious infringement on our right to legitimate protest and should be abolished forthwith. The police have better things to do.

Andreas, St Albans
Hi Mark, I'd just like to complain about you. Never in my life has one man made me so annoyed. Again and again and again you come up with these contrived and convoluted stunts, and again and again and again you manage to point out the incredibly simple, clear and brazen tactics used by jokers from the government to arms dealers. and every time i get so annoyed!!! and it's all your fault!!! keep up the good work - the AK47 show was fantastic.

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