What does the Mark Field incident mean for the event industry?
MP Mark Field has been suspended as a Foreign Office minister after grabbing a climate change protester at a black-tie dinner in London.
The footage of Field pushing Greenpeace activist Janet Barker up against a column, grabbing her by the neck and marching her away has been widely circulated, leading to widespread condemnation and calls for his sacking.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said that Theresa May had seen the clip and “found it very concerning”. It’s hard to disagree with this assessment.
Police are investigating reports of assault made against Field – and the incident also throws up all kinds of questions for event organisers.
Firstly, how did it happen in the first place? Barker was part of a group of Greenpeace activists that disrupted Chancellor Philip Hammond’s annual Mansion House speech on the economy. The protesters were dressed in suits and red dresses and sashes with “climate emergency” written on them.
Barker told the BBC that staff at the venue did not ask them for any identification documents before allowing them in. She said that more than 40 people tried to get in but a few were locked out when the security staff realised what was happening.
For such a high profile event, it does sound as if there are questions to be answered over how the activists gained entry to the Mansion House speech.
Secondly, what should an event organiser do if a delegate starts behaving violently?
Field told ITV News that he had “instinctively reacted” when the protester approached as he was “genuinely worried she might have been armed”.
Clearly, he thought his actions were justified. But the reaction to the incident has shown that a large amount of people would disagree with him. As an event organiser, what would you have done with a delegate who had taken security matters into his own hands in such a way?
Protesters and intruders at political events are not uncommon. Just last month a heckler stormed the podium at the launch of Esther McVey’s leadership bid to angrily berate the audience, while comedian Simon Brodkin was able to evade security to hand Theresa May her P45 at the Conservative Party conference in 2017.
If you do have an unexpected disturbance at an event, is there a set series of guidelines you have to follow? Or is it simply a case of reacting in the moment to events as they occur?
Field has apologised to Barker and said he regrets confronting her. But the incident has also given our industry some real food for thought.
What did you make of the incident? What can the industry learn from it? Let us know your thoughts on firstname.lastname@example.org