Custard: the weapon of choice for protestors

The BBC news website last week carried a fantastic headline: ‘Police are investigating Lord Mandelson custard-throwing incident.’ This is not something you see every day and certainly an occurrence to be relished. Leila Deen, an environmentalist and anti-poverty campaigner, had confronted Mandelson outside his hotel and brought his face into contact with a certain quantity of green custard as he was about to leave for a summit on carbon emissions.

When the laughter at the video dies down, it becomes apparent that Ms Deen, who is a member of the Plane Stupid campaigning group, targeted Mandelson because of his support for a new runway at Heathrow. She has also been involved in protests against other high-profile figures, such as Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon. She is complaining that critics of the runway plans have been excluded from the democratic process and this was a “last resort” against someone who is not held accountable to the public.

However, far more extraordinary than the attack itself is the hyperbole surrounding it. Despite Lord Mandelson’s sense of humour about the incident and the fact that he has implored people not to overreact, people have come out and condemned the assailant left, right and centre. John Prescott, that notorious lover of rational responses who is famous for repeatedly punching a protestor who threw an egg at him in 2001, called for Ms Deen to be arrested for her “totally unacceptable” actions.

The Boar is of the opinion that perhaps people should lighten up about this whole incident. While the issues at stake may be of a serious nature, in truth the environmental group has almost certainly done no measurable good to its campaign, and Mandelson is hardly going to be scarred for life from one cupful of custard to the face. When Jeremy Clarkson was pied in the face by protestor Rebecca Lush in 2005, he took it in stride, saying she had a “good shot” – whatever you may think of the man, he came off quite well out of the incident. What those who have condemned the custard incident have done is made sure that the stuffy reputation of ministers is maintained.

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