Revenge Ritual

Ginny, the administrator, raised her eyebrows behind Jake’s back while most of the other researchers smiled back at her. All except Denise, who hadn’t forgiven Kate for taking her place as Head of the South West office, and who gave her a disapproving look, ‘We were just checking out the local news coverage of the demonstrations.’

Jake started the video again and said, ‘The Home Office is concerned that the demos are escalating and becoming more violent. Of course it might be an everyday happening in London, but here in sunny Sidmouth it’s the last thing you’d expect.’

Some of the team glanced at Kate, identifying her with the London comment. Kate was about to say that a visit from Father Christmas in May was the last thing she’d expect. But the sight of the Sidmouth Esplanade packed with demonstrators, some charging at the few police officers, was surprising. ‘When did all this happen?’

‘Yesterday, when you were enjoying yourself in the Stakis St Ermine Hotel.’ Jake replied. ‘Three police hurt and a two year old crushed in the crowd had to be taken to hospital. Local officers didn’t recognise many of the demonstrators. Think they’ve been bussed in to cause trouble, but if you listen to some of the interviews, there is plenty of local antagonism to immigrant labour. It started with taxi drivers. Now most of the anger is directed against the migrant labourers bought in to build Ladram Heights New Town.’

Jake increased the volume and the sounds of protest filled the office again.

‘Local jobs for local people.’

‘Gangs must go.’

‘Give us back our countryside.’

‘Surely it’s just a one off?’ Kate said, moving closer for a better view. The demonstrators were mainly young women with children holding balloons with slogans. If it was happening in Balham High Street nobody would take any notice.

‘Look at those women.’ Denise interrupted, ‘What an earth are they thinking taking children on demonstrations?’

‘That’s what we’re going to find out,’ Jake replied, turning the video off, ‘and no, Kate, it’s not a one off. There are daily demonstrations all across the West Country, anywhere with a high migrant population. But the worst area is Ladram Heights.’ Jake was on a roll now, ‘However, the good news for us is that the demonstrators are bringing some new business our way. The Government are desperate to stop this kind of thing. If it spreads it’s going to cripple the tourist industry. The Home Office want to know who or what is behind the disorder. They want us to look into what’s causing it and find a way of stopping it before it goes viral.’ He paused to look hard at Kate, who was thinking about what Jake had said about Ladram Heights and wondering if Elaine Pierce employed any migrant labour. ‘CCR have been given the contract because one of us has done some outstanding work in the area of community relations. The Government is insisting that we do the research and that Kate leads it.’

Everyone looked at Kate as Jake said, ‘You grew up round here didn’t you Kate? You know the area.’

‘Well, I haven’t lived here since 2005. I don’t mind helping to gather some information but don’t forget I’m off to the States in a couple of weeks.’

Jake was passing her one of the familiar red box files that CCR used for new research contracts. ‘You’ll do more than that, Kate. You’ll be leading the contract, scoping the problem, identifying research subjects, dealing with PR – not to mention managing the team, allocating workloads, monitoring progress and attending weekly meetings at The Home Office.’


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