Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tom Brake talks sense on responding to violent demonstrations

A pattern has become established in British politics over the past 20 years. Every time there is a terrorist outrage or an outbreak of serious public disorder parliament rushes to give the police new powers.

Those powers are hardly used afterwards, but that does not stop further powers being given to the police the next time there is a terrorist outrage or an outbreak of serious public disorder.

This process seems to be taking place in the wake of the violence in London on Saturday. The Independent quotes Theresa May speaking in the Commons yesterday:
"Just as the police review their operational tactics, so the Home Office will review the powers available to the police. I have asked the police whether they need further powers to prevent violence before it occurs. I am willing to consider powers which would ban known hooligans from rallies and marches and I will look into the powers the police already have to force the removal of face-coverings and balaclavas.

"If the police need more help to do their work, I will not hesitate in granting it to them,"
At least Tom Brake is talking sense. The co-chair of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary policy committee on home affairs, justice and equalities, said:
"We must not have a knee-jerk reaction to what happened. "Clearly there was a small minority who were out to cause trouble. We need to look in detail into whether the police have sufficient powers to tackle that, or whether they can be deployed differently to ensure such violent scenes don't happen again."
You will not be surprised to learn that Labour takes a different view:
The Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, who has summoned Bob Broadhurst, commander of the Met, to appear before the committee today, called for "bold and radical" measures, but added: "What we need is a big and open conversation with the police, giving them whatever they need to police... effectively."
You would hope that the "big and open conversation" would be with the public. But the danger is that Labour - embarrassed by the violence after the demonstration and toying with the idea of outflanking the Coalition from the right - will demand more draconian action than Theresa May currently envisages.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

There was a very puzzling interview on TV with a senior police officer. The interviewer was puzzled about why the police had said that they will behave differently if, on the day of the Royal Wedding, the same "anarchists" come out and do the same things that they did last weekend. The police officer explained that Royal Wedding day will come under the heading of security, while the weekend march and rally came under some other kind of operational heading.
A deliberately smashed shop window or ATM is a smashed window or ATM, and we expect police to step in immediately, every time, because a criminal act is taking place, but it seems that we have silo mentality in the police as elsewhere.