How the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft


by Adam Ramsay    
12:29 pm - April 22nd 2011

      Share on Tumblr

Police in Bristol last night arrested a number of people who they say were squatting a building in Stokescroft. There has been a long running squat on Cheltenham Road in Stokescroft protesting against a new Tesco which I understand finally opened on Friday. It seems that the police were attempting to evict this squat.

But things don’t seem to have gone quite to plan. Hundreds of local residents got out of bed as soon as they heard what was happening, and came out to protest against the evictions.

But this isn’t a post about what happened at Stokescroft – I’m not there. We’ll try and get one from someone who is there soon, so look out for that.

But what I have seen is the police press release on the matter:

Full text:

Police last night (Thursday April 21) arrested four people following an operation in Cheltenham Road, Stokes Croft.

Acting on intelligence, officers detained offenders who had committed significant offences.

Officers rolled out well-rehearsed plans at 9.15pm to force entry into the building. They closed off Cheltenham Road to allow the operation to take place.

Police arrested three people on suspicion of public order offences and another person on suspicion of threats to cause criminal damage with intent to endanger life.

Police seized a number of items –including possible petrol bombs – from the property.

Supt Ian Wylie said: “There have been several significant incidents in this building during the past few days, which have caused serious concerns to police and local residents.

“The safety of the public is paramount in a situation of this kind and we took the decision to carry out a robust and swift operation, following intelligence received about the criminal intentions of those who were occupying the building,” said Supt Wylie.

“Following the operation, it is unfortunate a small minority gathered and began attacking officers with bottles and other items,” he added

There are 2 things in here that I think are particularly notable. F

Firstly, they say “officers detained offenders who had committed significant offences”.

In English law, famously, people are innocent until proven guilty. The police have no right to issue public statements declaring people to be guilty of a crime any more than I do. They can say that they are suspected of a crime, or that they are believed to have committed a crime. But by publicly stating that they are, they have defamed these people.

The second point is this: The police say

“Police seized a number of items – including possible petrol bombs”.

Now, I’m not there. It is, in theory, possible that someone was making a petrol bomb. However, given my experience of the political community in Stokescroft, I’d be amazed. Like the rest of Britain’s contemporary progressive protest movements, I’m almost certain they have no record of bomb making. But, of course, this claim, unlike the last, is much harder to object to in legal terms. What is a possible petrol bomb? Well, I don’t know how you make one. But I imagine that it involves petrol, a bottle, and a rag. These are the sorts of things people may well have around a squat.

And of course, the intention of both of these statements is not to pass the facts to the media and so the wider community. It is to smear.

If police PR teams were issuing press releases in the public interest, then they would state only the facts. But this release – like so much police press work before it – demonstrates clearly that there is a desire to smear these protesters before they have any chance to respond – even as they sit in police cells. By the time they are released, the media may well have moved on. They could well never get a chance to reply.

And of course, such smear campaigns are nothing new.
After the Heathrow climate camp, the Met claimed there were large numbers of injuries among police officers – implying that protesters had caused these.

But Freedom of Information requests later revealed that these injuries were almost all from bee stings, sun stroke, officers tripping up, or similar.

Similarly, at the most recent climate camp, Lothian and Borders police issued a press release – receiving wide coverage – implying that climate campers had intentionally split oil on a main road. It later transpired that not only was there no evidence of climate campers doing this, there was not even any evidence that an oil spill had taken place. It seems the police invented an incident in order to smear the camp. And they knew that, by the time the refutation had got out, it would be too late – the story would have moved on.

And I think this is interesting. Because we are used to talking about how riot police treat protesters differently from other crowds. But we don’t often talk about the way that police forces intentionally seek to use the media to destroy protest movements. And, while the former is political policing, the latter is just political.

It is not, in any way, the role of the police to smear protest movements, and it has nothing to do with dealing with any crime whatsoever. I’ll be submitting a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission about this release (as though that’ll do much good).


cross-posted from Bright Green Scotland

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Adam is a regular contributor. He also writes more frequently at: Bright Green Scotland.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Crime

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. Mary Billington

Bearing in mind the facts of violence, injury, damage and arson, it would be difficult for anyone to refer to the event accurately with out smearing these criminals.

The police, you and I are entirely free to say people have committed serious offences if they have done so.

“Presumption of innocence” is to do with the nature of the decision making process in court. It does not mean that people are innocent of crimes they have committed.

It’s not too hard to understand. The state in recent years has been co-opted by corporate interests. And the state’s new role, via the police has become protecting corporate interests against anyone who may dare to challenge them.

When viewed in that context, everything that has happened at protests like this makes perfect sense.

I know this area well.

First off, Plod trying to evict a squat on the Thursday night before the Friday bank holiday, on a street lined with pubs and bars is bonkers – someone should be busted back to the rank of constable for this cack-handed idea.

There’s a report on Bristol Indymedia about what happened – follow on the link.

http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/704197

A minor correction – it was after Kingsnorth, not Heathrow re: beestings/sunstroke etc.

A really nice piece Adam, highlighting what depressingly many of us now take for granted.

Hold on… the police say they found petrol-bombs. Are you seriously saying that they shouldnt have intervened, but should have let criminals burn down a property with people living above it? Or are you saying the police are lying about the petrol-bombs, in which case will you post an retraction and apology if it turns out there were petrol bombs there?

OP, Adam Ramsay: “What is a possible petrol bomb? Well, I don’t know how you make one. But I imagine that it involves petrol, a bottle, and a rag. These are the sorts of things people may well have around a squat.”

Adam, you are defending too hard and too early. It is absurd to claim that anyone would have petrol inside their home for normal purposes in sufficient quantity to construct a Molotov cocktail. Nobody uses petrol nowadays for anything legitimate other than fuelling an internal combustion engine. Possible exceptions are Arctic and Antarctic explorers. I have stripped down engines many times in my kitchen, but I have never had petrol in the house.

Having “discovered ingredients for a petrol bomb”, it is up to the police to make their case in court. In the meantime, it is wise to defer from speculation about whether such ingredients existed.

Just another example of the fascist police state cracking down on free minded thinkers. Excellent piece Adam!

A bit of local colour from a friend of mine’s Facebook status :

rioting in bristol last night… how fucking stupid are the police, they go in to evict bristol’s most famous squat at 8pm on hot sunny day, the eve of a 4 day weekend, in an area which is soley populated by pubs which generally serve the more alternative type of people. its almost as if they were asking for it… oh. you don’t think they were actually asking for it, do you?

Let me get this straight.

People in a squat (by definition, in someone else’s property without permission) decide that Tesco opening a store, with full planing approval by representatives of the local population – is a bad thing.

Thus setting fire to it, smashing it up, throwing stones at the police is entirely justified and it is the police at fault for trying to arrest people in the squat (there illegally, remember)

Even Kerry Twitter the local Labour MP supports this activity – or at least will not condemn the violence. Presumably, when the next riot trashes the benefits office she and the rest of the residents will take the same view?

Here is a more local view: http://www.countingcats.com/?p=9692

I hadn’t heard of this till I saw it on the news this evening, and there were at least a couple of people who threw glass bottles at the police. Which is pretty inexcusable as that could cause serious injury. I also saw people attacking and smashing the windows of the Tesco, which again, is pretty out of order – and you would expect the police to react to such destruction.
The police as they often do, may have gone in too hard and just hit people in the vicinity.
But activist squatters and the police are always going to have a strained relationship.

12. Daddy Mama

Police!
How dare you take action against such blatant criminal activity!
These are our Socialist brothers and sisters they have a right to throw bottles, make molotov cocktails and destroy a Tesco’s as it preaches capitalism!!!

Funny…I guess if the EDL decide to protest yet another mosque by breaking windows, throwing bottles and making molotov cocktails as it could preach violent bigotry and be used for terrorist acts **of which a number of other mosques have for a legal fact been guilty of** (RATHER more deadly than a Tesco) I’m sure you will be less critical of the Police doing anything then too.

I laugh at you.

11 daddy mama, well said

Tesco has recently produced its annual report. The illuminating insight is that Tesco is gradually losing out to its main UK rvials – Sainsbury and Morrisons:
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/04/15/uk-tesco-idUKTRE73E2WY20110415

The question is why? I used to shop regularly at a local Tesco Extra. But I don’t any more – I find shopping at Morrisons a far more congenial experience, the prices are competitive and I don’t need to get involved in regular weekly arguments because the prices I was charged at the checkouts didn’t match the prices posted on the shelves.

This looked good advice:

“Sir Terry Leahy, the outgoing chief executive of Tesco, has urged British businesses to take more risks, be more competitive and adopt a more ‘restless’ approach to tackling their rivals.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/yourbusiness/national-business-awards/8132911/Sir-Terry-Leahy-and-David-Cameron-urge-UK-businesses-to-be-braver.html

Had he followed it, I might have continued shopping at Tesco.

15. brizboi-ld

Max good you make some good points and Kerry McCarthy MP there, Twittering throughout, blaming police, being pinned up against a wall, solicitor & former Luton councillor!

16. Daddy Mama

And Bob’s post opens up a question….If they were protesting Morrison’s in the same way would it be okay for the Police to take action?

I mean if we’re discussing Police action based on ‘my favourite supermarket’ pointlessness.
Is Morrisons less ruthless and capitalist than Tesco’s?
Think not.

So back to the real question…**seeing as, for all their bad aspects, no supermarket has ever encouraged, helped or praised the murder of unbelievers** (not even Tesco)….

If the EDL decide to protest yet another mosque by breaking windows, throwing bottles and making molotov cocktails I’m sure you will just as critical of the Police doing something then too. Yes?

@19: “Is Morrisons less ruthless and capitalist than Tesco’s? Think not.”

All I can tell is that the Morrisons store I frequent maintains a much better standard of customer care which must cost it.

- I don’t need to have regular rows because the prices at the checkouts don’t match those posted on the shelves

- it became a lucky day if the lavatories worked in the Tesco store

- the Tesco in-store restaurant was a miserable facility compared with that in Morrisons

- the local Tesco Extra stores used to have lockable lockers for customer shopping trolleys while they ate in the restaurant but not any longer – the lockers in Morrisons are much in use.

If Morrisons are showing a dedication to ruthless capitalism, as compared with Tesco, I’ve much more content to be one of its regular victims. The fact is that Tesco is losing market share to Sainsbury and Morrisons and that suggests other customers are reacting in much the way I have and are switching over.

In one local high street, an Iceland frozen-food store opened right next door to a Tesco convenience store. It is very noticeable which has the higher customer volume.

And the off-topic and generally surreal ‘Morrisons’ advert continues!

Quite deranged.

19. dreamingspire

It does seem crass for Avon & Somerset Police to mount a raid in that particular area on a warm dry day just before a holiday weekend. And on its own the presence of a gallon of petrol in a house isn’t strange, particularly when one thinks of the type of work that the squatters might be doing (odd jobs such as gardening, for example, where a petrol driven strimmer is sometimes appropriate). But snippets of intelligence add up in risk assessment terms, and the unpleasant police press release in the aftermath does the Force no good at all.

Kerry McCarthy MP was outside her constituency when interviewed on TV – I hope that she had advised the local MP in advance (Stephen Williams, I think)…

Stokes Croft isn’t by any means all Tesco has certainly been getting it wrong in the area, although the Golden Hill site, where an old oak tree was needlessly chopped down (friends were part of the protest there), appears to be commercially successful. There is an unsuccessful small Tesco a mile further up the A38, and also two very busy Sainsbury’s Locals to the north – a Sainsbury’s Manager told me that they had outbid Tesco for the site just across the junction at the top of Cheltenham Rd.

@7: There is a long established excellent bike shop next door to the Stokes Croft Tesco, and restaurants rather than pubs – your Facebook friend was right to see a trend, but wrong on fact. And the same trend is seen elsewhere on the old linear shopping streets, although it is more generally a trend towards diverse service businesses and away from sellers of goods.

It does seem crass for Avon & Somerset Police to mount a raid in that particular area on a warm dry day just before a holiday weekend.

Quite, how terrible of the police. They should have left the suspects alone until, hmm, let’s look in the diary, mid-afternoon Tuesday 5 May? That would give the suspects two nice long weekends and some recovery time from the holidays.

@17: “Quite deranged.”

Naturally, anything which puts Tesco management in a more accurate setting relative to its market and its competitors gets dubbed “deranged”. That is predictable.

The mounting evidence shows that Tesco management is becoming increasingly high-handed in pursuit of profits. The evidence from indpendent market reports shows that Tesco is losing market share in Britain to its main rivals – Sainsbury and Morrisons. The intelligent response to that is to find out why? The standard response of Tesco management is to seek out additional sites to create more new Tesco stores in order to maintain market dominance while allowing the quality of its in-store service to deteriorate in order to save on store operating costs.

22. Mr S. Pill

@20

No, Bob, it’s just that in a topic about police tactics when dealing with/smearing protesters it’s quite annoying to read your whimsical reviews of high street supermarkets. I couldn’t give a flying one about your opinion of supermarket toilets. But fwiw the above poster saying that Morissons are just as bad is absolutely correct. They hide it slightly better by pretending to be more homely but they are just as grasping as Tesco and Asda et al.

On-topic: I think it’s standard procedure nowadays for the cops to defame/slander any form of political protest. No idea how to go about changing that attitude though – maybe a few MPs could raise it in the HoC or something.

@21: “No, Bob, it’s just that in a topic about police tactics when dealing with/smearing protesters it’s quite annoying to read your whimsical reviews of high street supermarkets.”

If you think extra especially hard about this with cold towels and so on you might just manage to reach the glaring fact that what occasioned this protest was the prospect of a new Tesco store.

The police behaviour is one aspect but what possibly motivated the scale of the local popular protest about the prospect of a new Tesco store is another.

It seems to me to fairly basic to inquire as to why the opening of a new local convenience store should provoke such protests. In my locality, to my knowledge, several new supermarket stores – such as Iceland, a Sainsbury local and a Coop – have opened up within the last year or so without motivating popular, violent protests. Why the difference seems a very obvious question to raise.

I trust that wasn’t too difficult but better rest.

24. Mr S. Pill

@22

Your attempt at sarcasm is as dull & tedious as your cut’n’paste links that you litter your comments with elsewhere. Yes I am fully aware that the prospect of a new Tesco was the cause of the protests – I just see little need for Bob B’s Supermarket Reviews when the topic at hand is police tactics.

@23: “Your attempt at sarcasm is as dull & tedious as your cut’n’paste links that you litter your comments with elsewhere. ”

Yup – I appreciate that frequent references to documented facts in independent sources is apt to irritate those with deeply embedded prejudices who have no wish to be disturbed by considering any other POV. Hard cheese.

IMO it could be more fruitful to consider why the prospect of a new Tesco store generated violent local protests when the opening of other new supermarket stores in other places passes with little comment, let alone a near riot.

26. gastro george

I used to live just around the corner, and this doesn’t surprise me at all. The area is quite “alternative” but being a bit inner-city is also a quite chipper about it. Almost all the local stores are exactly that – local stores. It was notable in the 80s riots that it was Lloyds, etc. that got torched while other (local) stores went untouched.

There’s been a big campaign against the opening of this Tesco branch – there are a couple more not so far away. Like in the 80s, moving in heavy-handed on a hot holiday evening is not the most sensible policing. Despite what some might think, policing (like running prisons) is a large percentage of common sense, and can only be done effectively with the cooperation of the residents.

For all the talk of Morrisons versus Tesco, there’s not much difference between them. But Tesco have a much bigger profile, and have a world view that seems to want to take over the retail world, so they attract more opposition. It’s as simple as that.

25
I agree, Tesco do have a bigger profile, and while market theory would suggest that consumers will welcome a price-war created by a Tesco presence, the opposite is the case in many areas where they are attempting to create more superstores. It just shows that consumers are influenced more than just by price and choice, sometimes moral choices (subjective I know) guide consumption.
And OT, in my neck of the woods, Morrisons are highly respected, could be that during the miner’s strike they banned any police presence on their premises and facilitated food collection for striking families in their stores.

@25: “For all the talk of Morrisons versus Tesco, there’s not much difference between them. But Tesco have a much bigger profile”

Tesco is reckoned to have about 30% of the relevant national retail market, which is usually rated to be a sufficiently dominant market position to distort competition, whereas Morrisons by sales is only the 4th largest supermarket chain – which I reckon makes them try harder to please customers. For all that and competition policy, there are frequent press reports of Tesco striving to open more new stores in Britain to boost its dominant position.

Most of the folk I know are fairly relaxed about their personal choice of supermarkets. They have their regular preferences but will switch according to passing convenience or in response to personal tips or adverts about promotions.

But a minority are strongly opposed to Tesco, with all it represents, while being mostly relaxed about rival chains. As someone who used to shop regularly at one of the largest Tesco Extra stores in Britain, I’m intrigued about what prompts such powerful hostile sentiments about shopping at Tesco stores. When I press questions on friends, sooner or later Lady Porter and Westminster Council get brought up – and I can’t trump that even if I were disposed to. Even past Conservative members of that council that I’ve met have views about Lady Porter.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/sleaze-scandal-strips-dame-shirley-porter-of-her-title-585946.html

We really do need more illumination on what prompted a near popular riot in response to the prospect of a new Tesco convenience store in a Britstol neighbourhood. As said, the recent advent of new supermarket stores in my locality attracted little comment.

This being Liberal Conspiracy, no doubt the OP is coming from the point of view of the squatters and the people who didn’t want this Tesco to open, and then being quite anti-police when something happens and a small riot ensues, with allegations flying all round and suggestions that the police behave not only heavy handedly – which they do often, but that they set out to smear and criminalise legitimate protest etc.

I think the problem lies in the nature of this kind of protest when it comes up against the kind of institution that police forces usually are. They are so ”square” that they just don’t get the alternative hippy squatter anti-capitalist lifestyles. And the kind of protest that thinks it should be allowed to go as far as doing a bit of ”symbolic” property damage and throw a few bottles, and still not have the police do much at all, as it really is only symbolic, and that those kind of protesters are not actually violent people who are out to cause injuries.

Our police have never got this and never will ….. and because that’s the case, I have to lay much of the blame with people who still do this provking kind of protest … and then want to go on about police brutality when the cops overreact, which they so often do.

Now whether our police need to be retrained out of this ”colonialist” mindset maybe something that’s required. I suspect that it was this overbearing police attitude to the chippy underclass of black Bristolians that caused there to be a ”natural antagonism” between black youth and the police in the St Paul’s area thirty years ago.

I’d like to hear why a small Tesco express had this kind of opposition to it.
It could have been simply boycotted, and peaceful pickets could have stood outside it handing out leaflets, rather than this violent direct action approach that is always going to end up in heavy police action.

30. Dick the Prick

Seems a bit pointless having a pop at Tesco when a few leaflets would have done but none of my business, really. If folks wanna use small shop-keepers then err..use ‘em.

These last few posts miss all the important issues at stake IMO.

There are still unresolved, entirely valid public issues at stake about whether Tesco should be allowed to create more stores in Britain in view of its market dominant position. This was a protest about a new Tesco store; other supermarkets were not a issue here. A little googling retrieves many press reports about public protests elsewhere concerning Tesco’s planning applications to create more new stores.

I’m not surprised the protestors have been smeared. It is in Tesco’s interest that the Bristol protestors be thoroughly discredited before someone brings up unwelcome questions of Tesco’s market dominance and makes a public issue of that – and refers to the protests elsewhere about outstanding Tesco planning applications. Beyond serious dispute, Tesco is a powerful operator. Last year, the company made £3bn in profits. Ex-dame Porter, at one time leader of Westminster City Council, is a major shareholder:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/shirley-porter-rich-flashy-and-corrupt-with-it-shes-nothing-like-a-dame-620265.html

Notice parallels with how the Metropolitan police initially dealt with the claims made about phone hacking by NOW journalists. After a short investigation and the successful prosecution and sentencing of a journalist and a free-lance private investigator for hacking royal phoneboxes, the Police investigation was soon wound down. There was nothing more to investigate, we were informed. This came much, much later – after the protests failed to die away: 91 victims and rising: Met police admits scale of phone hacking
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/apr/15/phone-hacking-91-victims-court

32. Bob Rocket

The heavy handedness of the Police trying to execute a warrant on a Thursday night evicting a group of people who would have nowhere to go until the social opened on Tuesday (4 days away) was an overtly political act. What did they expect ?

They have been squatting there for years, why now ?

Which officer released that press statement ?

Why, in this day and age of social media was the state allowed to broadcast their (uncorroborated) version of events without Twitter and Facebook exploding with realtime feet on the ground experiences.

Why weren’t the feet on the ground broadcasting their own (uncorroborated) version of events realtime ?

If you want followers, you have to lead.

Tesco already has 32 stores in Bristol. How many fucking more do they want?

The police totally overacted to what happened. It was a very stupid time to carry out their raid, when all the bars and pubs were full. Why not go in first thing in the morning. The fact that they had to bring in police from Wales to deal with the riot, they caused , showed that they had no idea what they were doing.

Once again the police show themselves to be the private army of corporations. Many of which pay no tax to pay for their services.

“Tesco already has 32 stores in Bristol. How many fucking more do they want?”

To maintain market dominance, Tesco needs to ensure other supermarket chains are kept out of any attractive sites coming up in towns and cities so Tesco steps in smartly with a bid for almost any site feasible as a location for a supermarket becoming available. If my assessment of Tesco’s market dominance strategy is broadly accurate, enough will never be enough. Try googling to see just how many other public protests about Tesco planning applications are underway elsewhere.

35. Mr S. Pill

@ Nick [post 8]

I call bullshit. I used to live in that area and there are plenty of food shops. There’s a Sainsbury’s about 5-10 minutes away (if that). There’s also a Co-Op and another Tescos further up that road, along with all the local shops people are worried will go out of business.

I find it interesting that the libertarians on here (you and BacklashUK are the ones I tend to notice) are always the ones coming out to defend the police. I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent about you doing so, but it’s just interesting, especially as they the violent arm of the state, and they have got involved in sketchy PR whitewash attempts multiple times in the past.

@35: “I used to live in that area and there are plenty of food shops. There’s a Sainsbury’s about 5-10 minutes away (if that).”

I’ve lived in the same place in a London borough for 20+ years. In that time, butchers and green grocers have disappeared completely from my local high street. It’s an instructive exercise to do occasional audits on the varieties of shops which are flourishing on high streets.

The numbers of charity shops has burgeoned during the last decade – I’ve nothing against charity shops but I doubt there would be as many if viable commercial tenants could be found to take on the shops. Has anyone counted up the numbers of closed and vacant shops in high streets and shopping centres or shops with prominent “To Let” signs posted?

EDIT: Sorry, in my post at 35 I meant ukliberty, not BacklashUK.

@35

Just to be clear, my views are not those of Backlash but it looks like that wasn’t the point you were trying to make. My personal view is that the police have a job, to protect people from physical harm and damage to their property. When they overstep that role, through arresting people for expressing their views or using drugs, then I oppose what they do (while realising that many individual police officers have little choice but to follow their policies). There might well be better ways of providing for public protection than the police organised by the state but while they exist, they have a role to perform.

When it comes to harm to people or damage to property, though, then everyone has a reasonable claim to police protection, including behemoths like Tesco. Allowing, or encouraging, the police to be selective in who they decide to aid will set a VERY bad precedent, one that will doubtless harm more vulnerable people and groups in the long run.

40. dreamingspire

Long article in Bristol Evening Post yesterday (Saturday), along with many very interesting comments:
http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/TOLD/article-3482105-detail/article.html

And also, among others:
http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/Undefined-Headline/article-3482108-detail/article.html

(For those who do not know the BEP these days, it now publishes in the early morning.)

I’m inclined to agree with Nick, Damon etc. The police may have been heavy handed, and there may be legitimate criticisms to make of Tesco. But I don’t see why a vocal minority should impose its views on others – I live just round the corner from a new small Tesco in Cambridge which was the focus of similar complaints when it was first mooted. I ended up signing a ‘yes’ petition, because I was so irritated by smug trendy types telling me where I should shop. Our more local shops seem to be thriving, Tesco or no Tesco, and in fact I choose to shop in them more often than not. I think some people have a bee in their bonnet about Tesco which is out of all proportion to its shortcomings in relation to other supermarkets – all supermarkets are out to make money, otherwise they would be doing a great disservice to their shareholders. (I suppose Waitrose is rather different, admittedly.)

@40: “I think some people have a bee in their bonnet about Tesco which is out of all proportion to its shortcomings in relation to other supermarkets”

I don’t accept that for the following reasons:

From a press report last December: “Tesco wins 30.7% of the market against 30.6% last year”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/dec/07/tesco-market-share-sales

A 25% market share is usually regarded as the benchmark indicating a potential for (exploitative) market dominance depending on how the remaining 75% share is distributed among competitors.

In 2006, the OFT referred the UK “grocery market” to the Competition Commission for its consideration: OFT The Grocery Market (May 2006)
http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/reports/comp_policy/oft845.pdf

A selection of the reasons cited there for the referral:

- There are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the land holdings of the large supermarket multiples may reinforce their existing market position in some local areas.

- There is evidence to suggest that the buyer power of the big supermarkets has increased since 2000, and that the differential between suppliers’ prices to large supermarkets compared with those to wholesalers and buying groups has risen.

- national market concentration in the grocery sector is growing, and is relatively high in comparison with other countries

- market concentration at a local level limits the choice available to consumers in some areas.

The Wiki entry for Tesco reports that it is the third largest global supermarket chain in sales after Wal-Mart (US) and Carrefour (France), and the second largest in terms of profits after Wal-Mart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesco

Simply as a matter of routine prudence in public policy, there are sufficient prima facie grounds for maintaining watchful scrutiny of Tesco for the reasons given by the OFT.

Living in a London borough and dependent on public transport, I’m in the fortunate position of being able to shop at stores of any of the big four chains and I do sometimes switch about between them. But I doubt how easy that is for most shoppers living in other places.

@34: An excellent, timely discovery. There is much to be said for that social science research guideline: Follow the money.

With public spending cuts, I think we should expect to find many more examples like that.

In years to come, I wonder how the UK will fare on the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International:
http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010

Thomas,

I find it interesting that the libertarians on here (you and BacklashUK are the ones I tend to notice) are always the ones coming out to defend the police.

I criticise / ‘defend’ the police / protesters when I think it’s deserved.

I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent about you doing so, but it’s just interesting, especially as they the violent arm of the state, and they have got involved in sketchy PR whitewash attempts multiple times in the past.

Some of which I have criticised; this for example.

Bob B – your points seem perfectly rational – but I think a lot of anti-Tesco feeling is less well thought through, and manifests itself in unwelcome, rather bullying (and sometimes illegal) ways.

Seems like at least one person has pleaded guilty to possessing a petrol bomb

http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/704216

Maybe not such a smear after all?

46. Charlieman

@44 T cat: “Maybe not such a smear after all?”

The police should not have made the claims that they did. I construct my argument on the basis that the police and prosecuting service believed that arrests were necessary and performed them duly. After the arrests were performed, the police and prosecuting service are required to shut up. Whatever they think is for the courts to determine.

“A 25% market share is usually regarded as the benchmark indicating a potential for (exploitative) market dominance depending on how the remaining 75% share is distributed among competitors.”

I can’t see that as anything other than arbitrary. It is not just the actual market share that companies have to worry about but the potential market share (possible entrants into the market). If the company is using political contacts to trip competitors over and raise barriers to entry, then that will be a problem.

In this instance, I think it is our sclerotic land use planning system that accidentally (more than anything deliberately malfeasant) allows Tesco to be somewhat more dominant than it otherwise would be, since new entrants have to content with so much bureaucracy when they want to open a competing store.

In any case, I regard this as an up-town problem. Food distribution has been getting more and more effective thanks to market innovations in recent years and all this is a little scuffle who gets to profit most from it. Already, we have all benefitted.

@46: “Arbitary”

I didn’t pluck the figure of 25% out of thin air. Hence:

“In the UK, mergers are exempt from scrutiny if the turnover of the firm being taken over is £70m or less and the combined firms will have no more than 25% market share.”
http://www.regulation.org.uk/mergers.shtml

“In order to qualify for investigation by the OFT, a merger must meet all three of the following criteria:

- the combined businesses supply (or acquire) at least 25 per cent of a particular product or service in the UK (or in a substantial part of the UK), and the merger results in an increase in the share of supply or consumption.”
http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/about_us/

The OFT was sufficiently concerned about the extent and character of competition in the “UK Grocery Market” to initiate a referral to the Competition Commission – this was the final report in 2008 of the Commission’s investigation:
http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/rep_pub/reports/2008/fulltext/538.pdf

For convenience of readers here, this was the official DTI/BIS summary of the report’s conclusions and recommendations:
http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/business-law/competition-matters/market-studies/cc-market-investigation-on-the-uk-supply-of-groceries

The lead item in that summary was this: “firstly that a large number of grocery retailers were highly concentrated leading to consumer detriment through poorer retail offers”

Readers can doubtless follow other items in the summary for themselves but this particular recommended remedy does connect with the thread discussion about events in Bristol:

“a recommendation to government to introduce a competition test into the planning system”

By reports in the thread there are already many Tesco stores established in Bristol so it is pertinent to inquire whether additional stores would reinforce the local market dominance of Tesco to an unacceptable extent.

49. Russ Taylor

Is it true that Fortnum & Mason is owned by the Garfield Weston Foundation? Are they not the 14th largest charitable foundation in the world? If so, I am a bit confused! Also, are we protesting against these big companies because they break the law and avoid tax, or do they act within the law? Also, do these companies that act within the law (such as Tesco) force us to shop in their stores, or do over 90% of us use supermarkets because they offer huge choice, convenience and value for money? Please advise as I am very confused.

@48: “Also, do these companies that act within the law (such as Tesco) force us to shop in their stores, or do over 90% of us use supermarkets because they offer huge choice, convenience and value for money?”

The Office of Fair Trading was sufficiently concerned in 2006 about the extent to which supermarkets in Britain do, in fact, offer “choice, convenience and value for money” that it referred the UK Grocery Market to the Competition Commission for investigation. The outcome of the ensuing investigation in April 2008 is accessible via links shown @47.

A quick route for readers to the basic findings and recommended remedies of the investigation is via the official summary of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills:
http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/business-law/competition-matters/market-studies/cc-market-investigation-on-the-uk-supply-of-groceries

What matters to most shoppers is how much accessible choice they have to compare prices, promotions and the quality of customer care between the competing supermarket chains – I’m fortunate in that I can reach by public transport stores of each of the big four chains but I doubt how easy that is for most folk in other places. The managements of the respective chains are well aware of this and therefore strive to achieve a presence in popular and neighbourhood shopping centres – possibly to the extent of pre-emptive acquisition of sites with planning approval to deny access of competitors to local markets.

One continuing public policy concern is local market dominance of a particular supermarket chain in towns and cities to the extent that shoppers there effectively have little readily accessible choice between the competing chains.

The Competition Commission proposed that the extent of local dominance should become a matter for consideration when local authorities grant planning approvals – an aspect of “localism”, which the current government says it is committed to promoting. We shall see.

A little recap for any devoted followers of Adam Smith here on the continuing need for an active competition policy applied to supermarket chains:

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary.”
[Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations; (1776), Book 1, Chapter 10, Part 2] or p.111 in this link:
http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/adam-smith/Wealth-Nations.pdf

Remember this news report from 2007?

Supermarket firms Sainsbury’s and Asda have admitted that they were part of a dairy price-fixing group that earned about £270m extra from shoppers.

The supermarkets, along with a number of dairy firms, have agreed to pay fines totalling some £116m after an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) probe.

Cases against Tesco and Morrisons will continue after no deal was struck.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7132108.stm

And this from last year?

OFT levies £225m fine for cigarette price fixing
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/16/oft-levies-225m-for-cigarette-price-manipulation

52. Mr S. Pill

@50

You don’t have to look back that far, this from last week http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13064928 “The consumer products giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have been fined 315m euros (£280m, $456m) for fixing washing powder prices in eight European countries.”

British supermarkets are best !

Really? Try this:

According to UBS [a Swiss bank], food prices in Britain are rising at an annual rate of 4.9pc, compared with 3.6pc in Germany, a eurozone average of 1.8pc and a US increase of 1.5pc.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8353432/Supermarkets-are-raising-prices-faster-than-inflation-says-UBS.html

This thread is meant to be about the police and the locals who acted the way they did.
I’d like to have heard a bit more of people defending the anti-Tesco activists and why it was such a hot issue for them. And whether this form of activism is the future or whether it’s actually rather tired, old hat and cliché-ridden, even though it gives the appearence of being very contemporary.
It’s my suspicion that it is rather tired and cliché-ridden and it would have been interesting to look into this a bit more.
I have often said things like this on LC, and it seems that my comments criticising modern protest movements would get deleted by a moderator before they were picked up and people were willing to look in that direction.

If you don’t like a local Tesco, it would have been a great site to present your politics to the general public in the area. In a peaceful and calm manner over time. All this squatting and direct action stuff reminds me too much of the stupid black block people who ruin protests all over Europe.

Personally, I’ve little knowledge of the local issues in Bristol but there can be – as the Competition Commission concluded – often issues of local market dominance by a particular supermarket chain which have the effect of reducing shopper choice as well as abating competitive pressures on stores to deliver good deals for consumers in their localities.

We are regularly fed the PR mantra that the supermarkets to a splendid job in delivering a wonderful shopping experience for British consumers at competitive prices.

The finding of the Competition Commission have deconstructed those claims and the examples of price-fixing – which are challenging and costly to prove – show that competition is certainly not as lively as it is so often claimed to be – and should be.

I’m keeping in mind that proposal of the Competition Commission that existing local market dominance of supermarket chains should become a substantive matter for consideration when local authorities process planning applications and make recommendations to their planning committees..

Tesco news update Tuesday evening:

Tesco is to remove hundreds of council bottle banks and recycling bins in its supermarket car parks, denying local authorities of millions of pounds of revenue.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8474989/Tesco-takes-over-500-council-recycling-centres.html

As one commentator put it, this is pure corporate greed.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  2. Ellie Mae O'Hagan

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  3. Simon HB

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  4. Jonathan Davis

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  5. Patrick Kingsley

    Were there really petrol bombs in Bristol? http://bit.ly/gn730B #StokesCroft (via @libcon)

  6. Derek Bryant

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  7. Lanark

    RT @PatrickKingsley: Were there really petrol bombs in Bristol? http://bit.ly/gn730B #StokesCroft (via @libcon)

  8. steve conway

    http://t.co/iOqVfMG via @libcon I suggest the police officer on BBC news read the third sentence of police "literature"!!

  9. steve conway

    How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/iOqVfMG via @libcon

  10. steve conway

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  11. Aaron Peters

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  12. Gabriel Balfe

    RT @PatrickKingsley: Were there really petrol bombs in Bristol? http://bit.ly/gn730B #StokesCroft (via @libcon)

  13. James Tanner

    How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/dY1S74K via @libcon

  14. the_no

    Please read this #ukuncut > RT @libcon How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  15. Rufus Mildmay

    RT @libcon: The police trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B Again they effortlessly achieve crassness!

  16. Mark

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  17. Clint David Samuel

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  18. Vegan Panda

    RT @stevibaldi: http://t.co/iOqVfMG via @libcon I suggest the police officer on BBC news read the third sentence of police "literature"!!

  19. Joseph O'Brien

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  20. sunny hundal

    Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  21. AdamRamsay

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  22. Nemesis Republic

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  23. Kieran Toms

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  24. Paris Gourtsoyannis

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  25. Matthew Houlihan

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  26. sianberry

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  27. Amster

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  28. DavidB (db)

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  29. Ramzy

    Extremely important article by @AdamRamsay about the police's media smearing of protestors in #stokescroft last night http://bit.ly/gn730B

  30. Danny James

    How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/FCPDrDC via @libcon

  31. Gus Baker

    As Stokes Croft resident want to say community is peaceful and progressive. This is good from Adam Ramsey http://bit.ly/gn730B

  32. Will Best

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  33. The G

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  34. Anthony McGarr

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  35. Joseph O'Brien

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  36. Mochasin

    RT @PatrickKingsley: Were there really petrol bombs in Bristol? http://bit.ly/gn730B #StokesCroft (via @libcon)

  37. Mike Mantin

    RT @sunny_hundal: Worrying: @AdamRamsay shows how the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  38. Sarah Waldron

    RT @MissEllieMae RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  39. Luke Denne

    Very sceptical of the police account of Stokes Croft events last night. Great analysis via @libcon http://bit.ly/h1ej8i

  40. Sam Jones

    RT @lukedenne: Very sceptical of the police account of Stokes Croft events last night. Great analysis via @libcon http://bit.ly/h1ej8i

  41. Ian 'Cat' Vincent

    How the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://j.mp/dU255j

  42. atomboy

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  43. ^_^

    Worthwhile points on police PR smear tactics #stokescroft http://bit.ly/h1ej8i

  44. Wayne Myers

    Liberal Conspiracy on police smears in #stokescroft: http://bit.ly/f90GJH

  45. Andrew Tindall

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  46. mackarias

    RT @SlicedMind: Worthwhile points on police PR smear tactics #stokescroft http://bit.ly/h1ej8i

  47. Zahid Raja

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  48. chris star

    How The Police Are Trying To Smear Protesters…
    http://t.co/MZEm1Jl
    #stokescroft #demo2011 #ammonia #posspetrolbomb

  49. Thomas Kemp

    How the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://t.co/6I9BE9v via @libcon

  50. Vegan Panda

    RT @unitonehifi: How The Police Are Trying To Smear Protesters…
    http://t.co/MZEm1Jl
    #stokescroft #demo2011 #ammonia #posspetrolbomb

  51. Philip Ralph

    RT @tomgk90: How the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://t.co/6I9BE9v via @libcon

  52. alan edwards

    How the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/g4odmY

  53. Tim Hunt

    Poice smears in Bristol http://su.pr/303ibx

  54. bryan

    How the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/CDpGlUj via @libcon

  55. Rosie Williams

    RT @libcon: How the police are trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  56. Daniel Pitt

    RT @libcon: How the police is trying to smear protesters in Bristol #stokescroft http://bit.ly/gn730B

  57. Dani Ahrens

    #thoughtcrime arrests : Lond http://bit.ly/iPuzzx, Bton http://bit.ly/l010nQ, Bristol http://bit.ly/mBHmvt & Cambridge http://bit.ly/km4E75





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.