Clarke clashes with peaceniks

11th April 2003 at 01:00
"We weren't exactly a mob: there were three OAPs, three teachers and two computer programmers. I have got orange hair, admittedly, but it is in quite a classic cut," says Jenny Smith, a 43-year-old computer programmer from Brighton.

Smith's 0.15 seconds of fame beckoned last week when she joined an anti-war picket outside Portslade infants school near Brighton, where Education Secretary Charles Clarke was opening a new wing.

Smith's motley crew attempted to block the gates when Mr Clarke left in a car driven by the local MP Ivor Caplin. Accounts of what then happened are wildly divergent.

Mr Caplin is insistent that his car was stationary as a retired police officer quietly moved Smith and her companions on.

She has a more dramatic story to tell, claiming Clarke had his head in his hands as Caplin drove towards the crowd: "It was my Tiananmen Square moment - the car was pushing forward and I could feel my knees buckling." Whatever the truth of events, and Smith emerged unhurt, the Diary is thankful that we didn't see the first "friendly fire" casualties on the home front.

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