Why we need Lush’s Spycop campaign
The shop front campaign by Lush cosmetics has opened up a major public debate about the role of spycops and the history of political policing over the last fifty years.
While Lush have focused their campaign on spycops and worked closely with the women whose lives were ruined by the deception of the undercover officers in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), there is a bigger picture which links to modern day protests, such as those communities opposing fracking. Lush have run many successful social justice and animal welfare campaigns over the years.
Indeed, it is their connection with campaigners who have exposed the abuse of animals which gives them a link to the spycop saga. The SDS targeted such campaigners in the 1980s and 1990s. I myself was put on the Met Police's Domestic Extremist database when an elected politician sitting on the Met's own Police authority. I was overseeing the Met's performance while they were spying on me for over a decade. All at the taxpayer's expense.
With a lot of the groups that the police targeted, their ‘fringe’ concerns have become a mainstream minimum standard. Public opinion in Britain has shifted a lot as a result of the work those campaigners did and subsequent regulations have improved the welfare of animals. The campaigning and the improvements are undoubtedly connected, so why were spycops taking sides?
Other major organizations targeted by campaigners who were spied upon include McDonalds, who have recently spent millions making all kinds of ethical improvements in order to try to redeem their damaged reputation.
One of the famous McLibel campaigners was Helen Steel, who is also one of the women who uncovered the whole spycop deception. Indeed, a fellow campaigner of hers, who wrote the McLibel leaflet that put her in court, was an undercover officer.
Helen wasn’t a terrorist, nor a threat to the state. She was a threat to the interests of companies doing the wrong thing. The fact that a multi-national company like McDonald's now has to work hard at doing the right thing to clean up its act is because of the efforts of people like Helen. There was a huge number of deaths and injuries in the construction industry in the 1980s and ‘90s, which became a focus for a generation of working class trade unionists in a variety of trades.
There are allegations that undercover police supplied information to private blacklisting companies. I have heard awful stories about the impact on these trade unionists and their families of being unable to find work for year and years. Of men uprooting their families to the USA in order to work their trade.
Yet it was this pressure from workers and trade unionists which forced, much of the construction industry to cleaned up its act, to the point where as a result of this pressure from within, for example, there wasn’t a single death during the rush to get everything ready for the 2012 Olympics. Rather than criticizing Lush for taking a stand, I think it would be good if we celebrated the success of so many of the campaigns that the police have spied upon. Sadly this success has been in spite of the State’s interference, rather than as a result of sound leadership.
Lush’s exposure of the spycops’ wrongs can only lead to better, more transparent policing and justice for the survivors.
Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, is a life peer and the Green Party’s sole representative in the House of Lords. She represented the Green Party in the London Assembly from 2000-2016. Despite being an elected representative, she was also spied on for a number of years and tracked on the police’s controversial ‘domestic extremists’ database.