The Grand Hotel, Brighton
The Grand Hotel, Brighton

At 3am on October 12 1984 a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army exploded at the Grand Hotel, Brighton. The target was then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her ministers. It failed to kill her or any ministers, but five people were killed, including Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry. Several people, including the wife of MP Norman Tebbit, were left permanently disabled. Standing outside, as dawn broke over Brighton seafront, Margaret Thatcher famously said, “This is the morning I was not meant to see.” The IRA replied with a sinister message: “We only have to be lucky once, you have to be lucky every time.”

The bomb failed to change the political landscape. All it did was make the policing of party political conferences a nightmare for everyone. OPERATION OTTER is the name of the security operation for the policing of these conferences in Brighton. In the words of Assistant Chief Constable, Robin Merrett, the Gold commander for this year’s conference security, “When a conference of the ruling political party takes place, effectively government is moved to the conference location. So for the next four days Brighton is the seat of Government. We are responsible for its safety.”

Deliveries Screening Tent
Deliveries Screening Tent

I was among a privileged group of people, mostly police officers from other counties who will be hosting such conferences soon, taken backstage around all the different areas involved in the security process. These included the Control Room at Brighton Central Police Station, the Vehicle HQ and canteen at the Territorial Army HQ, the security screening area, on the edge of the city centre, and the Conference Centre itself. Planning for the event began over a year ago, and the security searches commenced in June. No vehicles are allowed to make deliveries to the Conference Centre – all have to come to the Deliveries Screening Tent where they unload, the goods are screened – food, drinks, everything – and then loaded into Police trucks and delivered by the police Nothing, absolutely nothing, is left to chance. When Peter Mandelson turned up and his security badge did not register on the swipe card, even he had to wait a considerable time before being cleared to enter.

Major operations like this often prompt new ideas, and the tiny motorized Police scooter/cycle pictured below is currently undergoing trials. Had a scary moment when I started racing off at an alarming speed towards the horizon – or rather a brick wall with a lot of expensive metal parked in front of it….!

World's Smallest Police Car
PJ Test Drives The World’s Smallest Police Car

Come Back
Help! Where Are The Brakes! Oi! Come Back!

Siren and Flashing Lights
It Even Has A Siren And Blue Flashing Lights!

So, nice one IRA. Just like those who would blow up planes, and have now caused the infuriating airport security we have to put up with, no political goals have been achieved. Decent human beings have long proved their resilience and ability to deal with and rise above the hatred shown by warped minds. That is one of the things that has always given me great faith for the future of the human race.

Seaview, Brighton
The View Maggie Thatcher Wasn’t Meant To See