Subscribe RSS
Insecurity Mar 06

Alex Foster’s photo of queuing LibDems prompts me to comment on the bizarre security checks being carried out at party conference in Harrogate.

I was fortunate not to be caught up in any long delays, but I have a conspiratorial mind: I’m the sort of person who, while waiting to pass through the metal detector at the airport, can’t help wondering about the best way to get a bomb onto the plane. I therefore found myself pondering the logic of the system to which we were subjected when entering the conference centre.

I was asked to remove my coat, which was then examined by a security officer. I was asked if I had a mobile phone and to have it turned on. This was then also checked by security. And that was it. If my phone had actually been a detonator, I could have got round this stringentest of scans by claiming not to have one. If I wanted to get a pistol into the conference centre, I would merely have to have made sure to carry it in my trouser pocket and not my coat. A Richard Reid style shoe bomb would have gone undetected. No self-respecting terrorist would have been caught or deterred.

It’s possible the security checks were so good that this was all misdirection, and I was so enthralled and puzzled that I didn’t notice the hi-tech X-ray CCTV cameras giving me the twice over, but I think not. If we’re going to take security seriously, for our own safety, I can accept being slightly delayed so that it can be done thoroughly. Being checked so seriously, but so ineptly, though, is most off-putting.

I don’t know who came up with these procedures. I’d like to think that the Harrogate International Centre was concerned to protect itself and foisted them upon the party, because then the concern is why the HIC’s systems are so attrocious. The alternative is that the party needs to show the media that it takes itself seriously as the “real opposition”, and therefore has to act as if it considers itself a prime target for terrorism. Knowing, however, that it isn’t much of a target at all, it doesn’t matter if the security procedures are lax. I hope it’s the first explanation.

8 Responses

  1. 1
    Rob F 

    Conference security procedures are usually drawn up in conjunction with Special Branch. They’re usually the best that can be made of a bad lot, given that Special Branch judge we don’t need police security at the grade of Labour & the Conservatives.

  2. 2

    The idea that these were drawn up by the people responsible for protecting the country is pretty worrying.

  3. 3
    Rob F 

    I agree they’re a nonsense, but no more or less of a nonsense that Parliament’s security procedures!

  4. 4

    When I went through security at Portcullis House a couple of year’s ago, my mind similarly wandered to thinking about the best way to breach security. One very good way seemed to be to                                and                       .

  5. No longer sitting on the FE or the Finance and Admin Committee, I have no inside knowledge on this. But I do know that the extra security measures introduced at Blackpool were a) insisted upon by the police, b) constantly undermined by the police themselves (for example at the conference hotel they kept leaving the fire exit open so anyone could sneak in while insisting the front entrance should have full bag check) and c) they then denied they had insisted upon the extra security and thus forced the party to pay extra for the privilege.

    At the last FFAC meeting I attended, the view was that security should be scaled back drastically as it wasn’t achieving anything more than the illusion of security, at great expense. The final decision was the Conference Committee’s. Clearly this hasn’t happened.

  6. My source tells me not just that our ‘security’ measures are insisted on by the police, but that the party has to pay for them at enormous expense.

    Apparently because Labour are graded as a higher target, they get a far higher level of security – which qualifies for public funding.

    We lose all ways, really!

    Still, I’d rather we didn’t have the scary police state Labour do. We visited lovely friends in Brighton during their last conference and saw the huge blocks around the roads, including the one that a car hit and nearly smashed straight into our car. In fact, as the police don’t want to interact with any motorists as they might have to put down their machine guns and we might be terrorists, I had to get out myself and shift it from the middle of the road while several armed police surrounded us and glowered. Oh, and there were black-masked snipers thronging the roof of the Brighton Centre, which I remember doing more friendly interviews on the top of…

  7. 7
    Steve Guy 

    Worryingly, it was quite easy to bypass all of the security checks (such that they were) by entering via the cafeteria!

  8. 8

    Yes – I managed to inadvertently wander in to the Holiday Inn via the back door at one point.

    I do wonder though whether they are really expecting to stop terrorists or if they are just trying to put people off from less serious disorder.