Page last updated at 07:44 GMT, Monday, 7 April 2008 08:44 UK

Jowell defends torch parade role

Gordon Brown, Tessa Jowell and Denise Lewis
Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis carried the torch to Downing St

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has said the protests during the Olympic torch's London procession were a "good thing".

They showed that "free expression and demonstration" were part of the workings of a democracy, she added.

She also said receiving the torch at Downing Street was not an endorsement of China's human rights record.

The 31-mile parade was heavily policed with frequent scuffles with protesters and an attempt to snatch the flame from ex-Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown had come under some pressure not to take part from pro-Tibet protesters and some MPs.

The leader of the UK's third largest party, Lib Dem Nick Clegg, said it was "wholly inappropriate" for Mr Brown to take part in the ceremony.

Beijing will host this year's Olympics but there have been calls for a boycott of the games, over events in Tibet.

Boycott call

Mr Brown has already resisted calls to boycott the opening ceremony of the games.

On Sunday he looked on as Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis carried the torch through Downing Street's gates.

It's wholly inappropriate that Gordon Brown is participating in this torch bearing ceremony today
Nick Clegg

But Mr Clegg told the BBC on Sunday it was a "mistake" for Mr Brown to be involved with the torch ceremony and Britain had to be clear with the Chinese authorities that they needed to "play by the rules".

"The cornerstone of those international rules is that we all respect those fundamental human rights to which we, the British, have always attached a great deal of significance," he said.

"And that's why it's wholly inappropriate that Gordon Brown is participating in this torch bearing ceremony today."

Former Labour minister Kate Hoey told the BBC the passage of the torch through London was a "complete farce" and said Gordon Brown had been "very, very mild" with China over its actions in Tibet.

Conservative leader David Cameron told Sky News: "I suppose the pictures tell a story which is that people in our country do have a right to peacefully protest - and that is absolutely right and people who feel they want to protest should feel able to do so, but they shouldn't break the law."


SEE ALSO
Redgrave receives pleas on Tibet
03 Apr 08 |  Olympics
Jail for Chinese rights activist
03 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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