Tory pundit and protester scuffle on Brighton seafront outside Labour conference during ex-spin doctor TV interview (From The Argus)
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Tory pundit and protester scuffle on Brighton seafront outside Labour conference during ex-spin doctor TV interview
10:06am Tuesday 24th September 2013 in News
WITH VIDEO: Verbal battles over Damian McBride's memoirs at the Labour conference escalated into actual fisticuffs today, as the ex-spin doctor's publisher stepped in to stop a protester disrupting the publicity drive for his controversial memoirs.
Iain Dale, of Biteback Publishing, was involved in a scuffle with the man on the Brighton seafront in an effort to stop him appearing on screen behind McBride during a series of media interviews.
The protester - a familiar face outside party conferences, where he regularly appears with banners opposing smoking or nuclear energy - managed to get himself into shot as Mr McBride spoke to ITV1's Daybreak.
But Mr Dale decided to take action, grabbing the man's rucksack and physically hauling him out of the way of the cameras, and the pair grappled on the pavement as Mr McBride's interview continued.
The barking of the protester's dog - which eagerly joined in the commotion - could be heard by TV viewers as the struggle continued.
But the terrier - carrying placards reading "No Nukes" on its back - failed to live up to the loyalty expected from dogs, jumping up and biting its owner on the rear.
The protester doggedly attempted to make the best of the situation, holding up his banner reading "No Nukes - Radio Active Dust Cancer Epidemic" to photographers who were busy recording the scrap.
After a few moments, the pair separated and dusted themselves down, and the protester went back to trying to edge his way into view of the cameras.
Sussex-based Matt Freestone was the cameraman filming the ITV video. He told The Argus: "It was all a bit surreal and certainly not how I'd imagined my morning to pan out.
"Of course, with photographers and TV crews from other networks there, the irony was that I was the only cameraman not to get pictures of the scuffle as I was live on Mr McBride at the time!"
Writing on his blog, Mr Dale - also a broadcaster on LBC 97.3 radio -
joked: "I knew I shouldn't have had three Weetabix this morning."
He said he had seen the man holding his placard behind Mr McBride and distracting from his live TV interview.
"I did what any self-respecting publisher would do - got out of the car, ran across, got him in an armlock and pulled him out of the shot," he said.
"He started resisting and we ended up in an unseemly tumble on the ground. I was conscious of the photographers and other cameramen who were present filming the whole thing, but I was determined this idiot shouldn't disrupt what was an important interview for my author.
"I am someone who runs a mile from any form of physical confrontation normally, but I never understand why broadcasters seem to accept without question that someone with a placard or a loud voice should disrupt this sort of interview.
"Anyone who has seen the pictures and video can see that there was no real violence. I certainly didn't hurt the guy. He threw a punch at me but missed, and the only injury was when the man's dog bit him on the bum."
He added: "In some ways I have committed the cardinal sin of becoming the story myself, rather than my author, and I regret that. But do I regret that I stepped in to protect my author? No, I do not.
"One of the snappers afterwards said to me that I did what they had all been dying to do for years, as he regularly interferes with their professional work.
"Everyone has an inalienable right to protest, but no one has a right to make a continual nuisance of themselves and interrupt interviews like that."
The protester was Stuart Holmes, a pensioner from Manchester, who is in his 30th year as a fixture outside party conference venues.
He said that when he spotted the cameras, he assumed they were for party leader Ed Miliband whom he was keen to confront after being "totally blanked" by him at the TUC conference in Bournemouth.
Mr Holmes - who was surprised to be told the interview with Mr McBride was being broadcast live - insisted that the ex-spin doctor saw his placard and appeared "happy with it".
"I was not ruining the interview, I was just in the background. I was not saying anything," he said, after being spoken to outside the conference centre by Sussex Police officers.
"Then this giant of a guy turned up and grabbed hold of me. I struggled free and in the process we ended up on the floor. Someone chucked my hat over the top and I had to go down and get it."
Mr Holmes - whose dog is also named Stuart - said he would be discussing with his solicitors next month whether he should take legal action over the incident but he thought it unlikely.
"I'm a bit reluctant, I'll think it over," he said, adding that he needed good relations with the media to get his message across about "the potential destruction of the planet" and global health risks posed by nuclear power - and especially the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
"Nobody got injured - well, he might have a few bruises," he added.
Click on the picture below to see a video of the fight, filmed by the BBC's Nick Sutton.
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