Hunt is on for the “Inside Man”

Eight people were held by the Serjeant-at-Arms and handed over to the police last night, including Otis Ferry, Brian Ferry’s son, the country’s youngest hunt master who is said to have masterminded the operation. The police and the Serjeant-at-Arms, eager to find a scapegoat for yesterday’s security breach, are looking for the Inside Man who assisted the protestors to gain entry and probably guided or advised them how to get through the labyrinth of corridors and stairwells to reach the Commons chamber around the back of the speakers chair, thereby avoiding security. Michael Martin, the Speaker, told MPs last night that the intruders had probably been assisted by a passholder. They used a forged letter to enter the Palace of Westminster. Among a pile of discarded contractors’ clothes a letter was found containing an invitation to a meeting at the Commons. It bore the forged signatures of Sir Peter Tapsell, the Conservative MP, and Kerry Pollard, the Labour MP.

1: Pro-hunting demonstration takes place in Parliament Square distracting police with smoke bombs.

2: Police cordon to block-off Houses of Parliament

3: Scuffles involving police and small numbers of protesters break out

4: Four protesters enter Commons from ‘no’ voting lobby running alongside chamber

5: One protester enters chamber from separate door to same voting lobby

The theories:

  • A broken cardswipe machine is said to be the weak spot that allowed pro-hunt demonstrators to achieve the most serious breach of Commons security in living memory.
  • They were possibly part of a wider group of pro-hunting activists who had an appointment with their constituency MP.
  • They could have told police guarding the building they were on their way to one of the select committee hearings being held yesterday afternoon.
  • Police are investigating the theory that they were carrying a forged invitation to one of the meetings that they briefly attended.
  • Some of the men were dressed in suits and others in workmen’s overalls to avoid raising suspicion since there are building works being carried out by contractors. Some say that the men had worn hard-hats and fluorescent vests, but police found seven sets of discarded suit jackets and shirts in a stairwell leading from the public committee corridor to the one behind the Speaker’s Chair.
The Questions
  • Police Checkpoints – To reach the committee corridor, which runs the length of the building, they had to pass two police checkpoints – how?
  • The Broken Card Swipe Door –Sabotage a la Mission Impossible, or luck?
  • How on earth can eight, possibly nine men, five wearing T-shirts saying “Fcuk the ban” get into the Chamber unchallenged?
It was the third significant security breach in six months after two men scaled Big Ben in a protest to mark the Iraq war in March, in May flour bombs were thrown at the Prime Minister. That was the most serious breach of Commons security in 20 years, this must be the worst since King Charles I tried to arrest MPs on the floor of the Chamber. Modesty prevents me mentioning a rather more ambitious plot to blow up the Chamber with gunpowder.

The Bill, which was supported by 356 votes to 166, goes to the Lords today and some time over the next two months will be forced on to the statute book under the procedures of the Parliament Act. The protestors are being held at a south London police station, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

UPDATE : Simon Hoggart’s sketch in the Guardian captures the moment.
UPDATE: England polo player Luke Tomlinson, 26, a close friend of Prince Harry, was among those arrested.
UPDATE: Otis Ferry had told a BBC reporter the group planned to dress as builders and gain access using a forged letter from an MP.



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