Those coming from Central Asia, Bahrain, Qatar or Saudi Arabia to the Olympics, interested to see what life in a democracy feels like, will find it seems exactly like life at home in their dictatorship. 17,000 soldiers will be glowering over the venues, checking identity documents, stopping and searching. The mlitary will occupy residential buildings, be buzzing overhead, rolling down the streets and patrolling the river. There will be missiles on land, sea and air, though nobody knows what the threat is that this is supposed to counter.
What will make our dictatorship resident visitors feel especially at home is the contempt for the ordinary citizen. Not only will they have the military all over them and be subject to frequent stopping and questioning, they will be expected continually to get out of the way of their betters. Special VIP lanes on the road will allow officials to sweep by, while normal citizens will simply have to sit in gridlock and stew. Who cares? The military will stick missiles on your roof if they wish. What they are going to shoot down, and which bit of London it will land on, is not to be questioned.
Here in Ramsgate we are losing our regular train service to London completely for the duration. All the HS1 trains are being commandeered to run a shuttle service between Ebbsfleet and Stratford. 22 trains a day from Ramsgate are simply cancelled. Slow trains are available, but a journey normally 70 minutes will become – at the fastest possible – 2 hours and 35 minutes. A large number of commuters will simply be unable to get to work anything like on time, and have to spend door to door over seven hours a day in travelling as well as their working day. Nobody was consulted. Quite a few don’t yet know – there has been no determined effort to tell people. Leaflets are available in the ticket office if you ask for one.
But the leaflets might as well just say, “You are fucked, and we don’t care”.
The extra 3,500 military personnel it was today announced will be used at the games cover a shortfall in Group Four personnel. Group Four were providing 4,000 paid staff and 6,000 unpaid volunteers. It is the unpaid volunteer numbers which are short by 3,500.
Most people are not stupid. They may volunteer happily for sport or for charity, but to work for nothing to make tens of millions of pounds of profit for Group Four as it exploits them, plainly does not have universal appeal. Those 2,500 who have volunteered to work for nothing for G4S are the idiots in this story. How gullible can you be?
Bob Russell, MP for Colchester, today in parliament made the excellent point to Teresa May that Group Four (or G4S as they now call themselves) should not be employed because of their role in aiding and abetting Israel’s illegal activities in the West Bank and human rights abuse there. With breathtaking chutzpah Teresa May replied that it was this kind of valuable international experience that made Group Four the right company to provide security for the games.
Which brings me back to my point at the start. Those visiting from oppressive regimes will feel absolutely at home. That is the one and only thing you can trust Teresa May to ensure with grim efficiency.