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Mark Field’s rage acts as a litmus test for our divided times

3 11 0
21.06.2019

They came wearing red evening dresses and sashes, like something from a bygone age of suffragette protests. Or perhaps that should be suffragists, the more peaceful wing of the movement. For the climate crisis campaigners who set out to disrupt the chancellor’s annual Mansion House speech to the City had done all they could to look unthreatening, knowing that politicians are understandably jumpy about personal security nowadays. The protest was female-led, Greenpeace explained, in the hope of keeping it calm.

Some hope. The police are investigating precisely what happened when protester Janet Barker walked behind the Conservative MP Mark Field, apparently heading towards the top table holding the great and good. But film of Field leaping up and grappling with her, before frog-marching her out with a hand around her neck, has gone viral for good reason. Whatever the police investigation concludes, it is hard to think of a more toxic image of Conservatism than an angry-looking man in black tie manhandling a woman away from a fancy banquet. Brute male force versus plucky female resistance; cosy privileged club versus outsider somewhere she wasn’t invited. No wonder we can’t stop watching and re-watching it.

It arguably says something about Field that of all the diners she passes, he is the only one to shove back his chair. But the public reaction to what he did speaks volumes, too. To pick a side in this argument is to place yourself quite clearly on a spectrum running from those who are naturally at ease with conventional authority, through to those with good reason to fear it.

So many women will watch that footage of Barker being shoved against a wall, and instinctively wince. You don’t need to have felt the sharp edge of a man’s temper to be afraid of it, and there is something viscerally........

© The Guardian