Apologies for not blogging about last week's Stop the War Coalition march / demonstration (see this BBC report) This was noteworthy for the threatened abuse of the Sessional Order by the Metropolitan Police, which is supposed to ensure the safe passage and attendance of MPs and Peers when Parliament is back from its extended holidays.
The law under which these Sessional Orders are issued (almost the very first piece of business which gets rubber stamped without any debate or amendment at the start of each new Session of Parliament) dates back to 1839 and the Chartist riots in the early 19th Century.
Given the underground tunnels from Westminster Tube Station, from Portcullis House and from the underground Car Parks, ensuring that MPs and Peers can get in to the Palace of Westminster is much easier than in 1839, and previous large marches or demonstrations which have filled Parliament Square and the surrounding streets have had no effect on the ability of Parliament to continue functioning as normal.
It would be an evil day if demonstrators or rioters could manipulate the outcome of a vote in Parliament, by physically preventing their political opponents from attending a Vote or debate.
In the end, the Police and the Government seem to have relented, and not abused this legacy law to disrupt the latest StWC march, possibly because of the low turnout for a rather extremist call for immediate withdrawal of US and British troops from Iraq, regardless of the civil war which would result from such an action.
There did seem to be one person at least who was arrested in Parliament Square itself, but not, apparently under SOCPA.
Our previously expressed fears about the stupidity of Ken Livingstone's temporary fence around Parliament Square Gardens was illustrated by the fact that SWtC demonstrators partially dismantled it.
If there had been any sort of violent counter-demonstration, then it seems inevitable that the sections of this fence would have been used as weapons or missiles against the Police or other demonstrators.
If there had been a larger crowd of people in Parliament Square, the fence could have been a Health and Safety hazard, simply due to crowd pressure, and its inevitable obstruction of first aid personnel.