NEWPORT’S NATO HELL(O)
Imagine the scene at NATO HQ in Brussels last year. Around the table sit the great and the good (plus one or two rogues) with their laptops open in front of them, looking at maps of various NATO countries as they decide where the 2014 NATO Conference should be held.
London? In September? Could be raining and still full of late-summer tourists.
Paris? Too many French people and not far enough away from HQ to claim those lovely travel expenses.
Rome? Wa-hey! All that pasta, wine and La Dolce Vita? Nope. Nowhere secure enough, since The Pope refuses to move out of the Vatican into a B & B for the duration.
Then! A Eureka moment! Many of the assembled group are golf fans and remember the 2010 Ryder Cup was held in a luxury hotel somewhere in Wales.
What was it called?“The Kilted Manhole”? Look it up. The building was surrounded by golf links so there’s plenty of space to park tanks, jeeps, helicopters, missiles, police cars, riot vehicles…and a burger van. Plus, we can get 18 holes in before breakfast. Book it, boys!
And so it came to pass that the 2014 NATO conference was held at the Celtic Manor Hotel, Newport.
Around here we felt little of its impact, although I did hear The Obamas were chauffered down to Swansea Market and bought five quids worth of cockles and a dozen Welsh cakes. But during the conference and for a week before, with 9,500 extra coppers on duty, it seems Newport resembled a Police State. If you’ve visited Newport recently you might think that’s a much better state than it’s usually in, but I have friends there and wouldn’t like to upset them. So if they’re reading this, they’d better stop now.
A group of anti-Nato protesters set up a peace camp in Tredegar Park and it didn’t take long for nearby residents to complain about the noise. You can only listen to “Kumbaya” sung badly by ageing hippies, accompanied by a battered three-string guitar, seventeen times before dialling 999. A music historian recently discovered a second verse of “Kumbaya”. I’ll update you when I find out more.
There were protest marches through the city. But Newport’s been there for hundreds of years, so there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Many were protesting because they didn’t like NATO. Apart from one confused bloke who didn’t like Dorothy’s dog in “The Wizard Of Oz”.
Fourteen miles of fencing were placed around the hotel. But the delegates still managed to get out. In fact they went to Cardiff, where the castle was surrounded by more fencing. Did anyone responsible for conference security realise that a castle is a secure fortress with high walls, designed to keep out invaders? Putting a ten-foot fence around it seems as pointless as making a bread sandwich.
I’m not saying it’s the next NATO conference location, but yesterday, several men in dark suits, with military buzz-cuts and a bad attitude, were seen wandering around Tregaron