Mark Field did nothing wrong

Any protester knows you cannot disrupt an event without consequences.

Frank Furedi

Topics Politics UK

I really do not understand why Mark Field was suspended as a Foreign Office minister for throwing out a female Greenpeace activist, Janet Barker, who ‘peacefully’ invaded and disrupted a private dinner. I also do not understand why Field bothered to apologise for doing what any responsible man or woman would have done in similar circumstances.

Many have claimed that Field’s behaviour dealt a blow to the right of peaceful protest. That’s a tendentious interpretation of the right to protest. People can protest peacefully in a democracy. But when they disrupt a meeting or an event, protesters cannot expect everyone else to sit by passively. Protesters need to know that they do not have the moral authority to force people who are their targets to simply put up with their behaviour. Stewards, bouncers and members of the audience are entitled to protect the integrity of their event and kick out people who are trying to ruin it.

I have been involved in numerous protests and have done my share of disrupting meetings. I and with my fellow protesters knew that we could get manhandled and that, at the very least, we were likely to get physically ejected. We never imagined that those who ejected us were somehow infringing on the right to protest. If we wanted to avoid any potential physical confrontation and just wanted to protest, we could have stayed outside and handed out leaflets.

Some argue that it was unacceptable for Mark Field, a man, to physically manhandle a female protester. In an ideal world there would have been a woman steward on site to eject a woman. But in the absence of such a steward, the alternative was to allow the protester to dominate and ruin the event or chuck her out. It is a testament to the passivity of members of the British establishment that no one else there felt a duty to react. Only one person got up and took the initiative.

No doubt Greenpeace assumed that if they used women to front the protest, then those in the audience would sit still, transfixed and paralysed. In our era of gender equality, it is a bit rich when supporters claim that it was wrong to treat a lady this way. Certainly, the hundreds of Suffragettes who struggled to win the vote for women would have been surprised by the demand that women protesters should be treated as if they were untouchable saints.

Frank Furedi’s How Fear Works: the Culture of Fear in the 21st Century is published by Bloomsbury Press.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics UK


Donald Duck

23rd June 2019 at 8:50 pm

Oh, dear someone came along and interrupted a cosy little middle-class gathering with perhaps a possibly more pressing issue of global climate change. How very plebeian and crass! Surely everybody knows that everything is hunky-dory and that everything is going spiffingly and these people come along and upset the cosy consensus. Shocking. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of Mr Furedi’s book and stay silently and unobtrusively in the background and be ignored.

There comes a stage in history where people have to start being unreasonable, and this is one of those moments. Being nice and respectful ain’t going to butter no parsnips. We’ve tried that and it leads nowhere.

The rage on that guy’s face as he manhandled the woman in question out of the gathering spoke volumes. How dare you upset our cosy little middle class apple-cart. He looked like the typical middle-class remainer as did the audience that spiked journalists pour such bile upon. The whole scene reminded me of the way black freedom riders were manhandled on buses and in restaurants in the 1960s.

David Redfern

28th June 2019 at 5:37 pm

“There comes a stage in history where people have to start being unreasonable, and this is one of those moments. Being nice and respectful ain’t going to butter no parsnips. We’ve tried that and it leads nowhere.”

What a joke. You don’t even see the irony.

The left are allowed to adopt whatever method they want to get their message across, but wo betide anyone on the right who adopts the same tactics.


23rd June 2019 at 4:56 pm

Did the Police arrest Mr Field – have the police charged Mr Johnson – why is it then that the papers are full of nothing else

Warren Alexander

23rd June 2019 at 2:16 pm

You sneak your way into a private event with the express purpose of causing disruption and then object to being physically challenged and thrown out. Congratulations to Mark Field. We need more politicians prepared to act against self-righteous lefties with an overwhelming sense of entitlement and the belief that they are immune to the consequences of their own actions.

gershwin gentile

23rd June 2019 at 1:10 pm

“In an ideal world there would have been a woman steward on site to eject a woman.”

“Gosh, lucky it was only some woman… Who knows who it could be next time.”

I recommend the last act of Ghostdog: Way of the Samurai to anyone interested in equality of the sexes.

christopher barnard

23rd June 2019 at 12:59 pm

Context Frank, context.

This lady is a Green protestor and therefore almost certainly middle class, progressive and liberal.

She shouldn’t be treated as if she was a person who brazenly reveals their fascism by openly voicing opinions which are disagreeable to the people of Islington and our university campuses, against whom all sorts of intimidation and thuggish behaviour is perfectly acceptable and to be applauded.

Walter Clarke

22nd June 2019 at 9:16 pm

I didn’t much like Mark Field’s actions, but he could not know whether the woman was carrying a weapon. She might have had a pepper spray, or some other substance. Not sorry the elite got disrupted, after all the rest of Londoners had to put up with Extinction Rebellion for weeks for no good reason, and then we have school children bunking off school to harangue us about climate change. About time the other half got some of the same.

Christopher Tyson

22nd June 2019 at 8:55 pm

So Dave Gilmour, to be fair creator of some of rocks greatest guitar solos, has found a hundred or so classic guitars under the bed, auctioned them of and raised around 17m for a environmental charity. Radiohead turned the tables on an on-line extortionist, organised a fire-sale of some old demos and raised millions for an environmental charity. On a different tack, we have man of the people U2 guitarist Edge being denied planning permission for a proposed 80m mansion, Sir Elton John attaining something close to deification, making Noel Gallagher’s 8m look modest by comparison. We live in a celebrity culture, most of us were raised on pop culture. The highest accolade the the liberal media can give to a the latest centrist political leader is ‘like a rock star’. And yet they are such downers on ‘populism’, It’s a case of their populism and ours. Pop stars are the aristocracy of today, they have money, titles, property, and access to world leaders, yet they continue to see themselves as radical, rebellious and countercultural. Yet it is we the people who are damned as populist. Environmentalism and Remain are not radical they are the establishment position. Having said this I’m sure spiked and Brexit would appreciate some celebrity sparkle and cash, how about it guys?

Hugh Roper

22nd June 2019 at 8:41 pm

Thank you, Spiked, for re-opening your blog to all comers. I am impressed by the magnanimity of Janet Barker, who has stated that she prefers to leave judgement on Mark Field’s thuggish behaviour to the court of public opinion. I would like to make it clear that I do not share her views on climate change, but I strongly support her right, and that of her colleagues, to actively communicate those views to those in a position of power. Well done, Janet!

Ian Wilson

22nd June 2019 at 7:30 pm

It’s the fact that no-one else did anything that sticks in my neck, biting Mr Field did was wring.

Winston Stanley

22nd June 2019 at 6:22 pm

Good on the police for letting them in. The government was happy to let Extinction Rebellion disrupt hundreds of thousands of people for a week who were trying to go about their everyday lives, stuck in traffic jams for 6 hours like anyone needs that. Oh dear, did the “grandees” have their posh dinner spoilt? What is good for the goose? No doubt they have plenty of occasions to stroke and to congratulate each other. Get over it.

Winston Stanley

22nd June 2019 at 6:40 pm

Yep , hundreds of thousands of ordinary people were disrupted by protestors in the road, who had no legal right to be there, and not a single ordinary person felt the need to grab up the women by the neck and to remove them. A million ordinary Londoners can turn the other cheek, but not Mark Field MP. Tory boy was not putting up with any nonsense at his grandee function. Bad show. It smacks of feudal disdain for the commoners, who deserve to be manhandled out of the way with their nuisance, a veritable land clearance.

David Redfern

28th June 2019 at 5:44 pm

What’s your DOB and address. I’ll be there for your party.

Winston Stanley

22nd June 2019 at 5:52 pm

Green is clearly the colour of everyday sanctity for ferias in Ordinary Time. She went parading up the aisle like a bishop with his crosier and we all supposed to bow as she passes, and to make the sign of the cross as we are sprinkled with the effusion of her holiness. Perhaps the guests should have invoked a hymn as she entered.

Sarcasm aside, I was not comfortable with his reaction and I do not take his explanation as said. He should be honest and admit that he thought that she was bang out of order and that he was not going to put up with any of her nonsense. Had he been drinking? Lets hope that no one feels the need to grab him up in public for his nonsense. Bad show.

James Knight

22nd June 2019 at 5:19 pm

The joke is she says she only wanted “a dialogue”. No, this was a stunt aimed at disruption where the disrupter got disrupted. The last thing greens want is a dialogue, many invest significant effort trying to shut down debate. Or the other claim that she was “just walking past”. Actually she gate-crashed. Then she said he was only one to react in that way suggesting he was the one with the problem. It is actually rather sad that only one person choose to intervene. If more people had got up, she could have been ejected with less physical contact.

In hindsight it looks like a slight over-reaction. But not as big an over-reaction as the sanctimonious response from Guardianistas having another divide by zero error because somebody “did something”.

JPM Culligan

22nd June 2019 at 6:49 pm

In reality she was rather lucky that Mark Field did not assume that she was a potential deadly threat, such as a suicide bomber. Lord knows what might have happened had the protester been brown-skinned.

Neil John

22nd June 2019 at 5:10 pm

Equality is a double edged sword, I thankfully no longer work the door, but the female of the species is often far more dangerous than the male, often acting as an agent provocateur egging on males to physical violence. She should be thankful it was a careful male that ejected her, most female security people are far less gentle!

Steve Roberts

22nd June 2019 at 4:50 pm

Furedi makes all the important points here, as does Ella Whelan on Sky news and Brendan O’Neill in the Spectator. Was the action by Field proportionate ? Not if one is playing a game of chess or looking at life through some abstract prism. This is life, contestation, not just in politics either, it often results in sometimes less sometimes more proportionality of response, nobody died or was severely assaulted or injured, sad to use this phrase but grow up and get over it, live to fight another day, be forewarned.

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