Arming the police would be a terrible mistake

Posted on September 19, 2012

Yesterday’s news from Manchester was monstrous – two police officers, Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, were apparently lured to a house by a false 999 call, and then brutally murdered in a gun and grenade attack.

Any decent person would be horrified at this crime. These were two officers who worked to protect people, were not carrying any weapons with which to shoot back and were, it seems, killed in cold blood.

Inevitably, a debate has started about whether it could have been prevented. Just as inevitably, there are now calls for all police officers to be armed as a matter of course. This has been a perennial topic for debate throughout the history of the British police, which remains one of the few forces in the world whose officers do not routinely carry guns.

It’s understandable why such proposals are being put forward. Civilised people will always feel revulsion at the idea of people being shot without the ability to shoot back. However, giving the police guns would be a terrible mistake.

For a start, we should consider the Manchester case that reignited the debate. The full facts are not yet known – indeed we may well not know more until (or unless) more is reported at a trial or an inquest. There is no guarantee whatsoever, though, that had PCs Hughes and Bone been carrying guns the outcome would have been any different. In the United States, where law enforcement officers carry guns every day, there have been 33 fatalities this year already.

What we do know is that the alleged killer, Dale Cregan, was out on bail at the time, having been questioned on suspicion of involvement in at least one previous murder. It seems the system lost track of him and he disappeared, only to resurface in this horrific way.

There is always an emotional challenge in cases like this. The heartbreaking detail and personal photographs that are spread across the newspapers make us want to do something to prevent it happening again. The photos we don’t see, though, are those of the people who would die accidentally if the police were armed. We should force ourselves to remember them – those who are alive today precisely because the police don’t have guns – when making any decision.

This is not a flight of fancy, or a supposition based on guesswork. Where police forces arm all their officers, innocent people get shot.

Take, for example, the Empire State Building shooting last month. A gunman murdered a former colleague in the street, and when police in turn shot him they also wounded nine passers-by who were caught in the crossfire.

Or consider the case of Renaldo Cuevas, a shop worker who was accidentally shot by a police officer two weeks ago while trying to escape from a robbery at the bodega in the Bronx where he worked.

These cases weren’t down to malice, and I’m not spinning any conspiracy theories – but through pure accident, confusion or other factors, innocent civilians were wounded or killed.

The killings of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were a disgusting crime, and we should look at how they could have been avoided (by asking how Cregan was able to go on the run while on bail over an extremely serious crime, perhaps) – but if we rush into arming the police, other innocents will die as a result. That would not be a fitting memorial.

Aidan Burley attack teacher fights in gutter, gets dirty

Posted on February 10, 2012

The problem with fighting in the gutter is that everyone tends to get covered in muck.

So it is with the latest set-to around Aidan Burley, the MP who became notorious for attending a stag do where someone wore a Nazi costume.

This week, a schoolkid on a trip to Auschwitz tweeted:

aiden burley seen texting and dozing whilst listening to an concentration camp survivor #torynazi?

Burley denied dozing or being disrespectful, a position that was given quite a bit of credibility by a statement from Dr James Smith, the Director of the Holocaust Centre, who sat next to him at the talk in question.

Something seemed a little fishy, particularly given that teenagers on school trips aren’t normally that big on recognising backbench Tory MPs, so perhaps it wasn’t a huge surprise that the teacher leading the group of school children turned out to be a Labour councillor, Suzannah Reeves. According to PoliticsHome it was she who recognised Burley and “confronted” him.

The problem for Councillor Reeves (other than the appalling grammar of her pupils) is that she’s not exactly in a position to preach about controversies involving alleged anti-semitism.

As well as being a teacher and a Labour councillor, she’s also the Chair of Governors at Parrs Wood High School. Only last week, she and the school’s Headmaster were called to a meeting with Jewish community leaders angry that the school was hosting an event run by a Hamas-linked charity, Human Appeal International, listed by the US State Department as being linked to terrorism.

The school has since had to cancel the event, which was particularly embarassing given previous controversies over a pupil’s skewed perspectives on the Middle East.

Now, I’m sure Cllr Reeves isn’t anti-semitic in any way, the school trip she was running shows that she must have an understanding of the importance of Holocaust education, and there’s no suggestion she personally played any part in organising the HAI event.

But should she really be attacking Aidan Burley when the school she is meant to Govern has drawn the attention Department of Education’s extremism experts due to agreeing to host an event for a charity which is linked to funding Hamas, an anti-semitic terrorist movement dedicated to destroying Israel?

My point is simply this – perhaps the gutter isn’t the best place to fight, if you want to stay clean.

Unlikely lookalikes – Harry Cole and Seb Coe

Posted on October 06, 2011

One of the Party Conference season’s favourite sports is blagging – by hook or by crook getting into private parties and receptions to which only the great and the good are invited. Each conference has its legends of truly heroic blags, but possibly the most impressive in conference history occurred earlier this week in Manchester.

Guido Fawkes’ mini-Guido and News Editor Harry Cole decided to try to walk brazenly into the Telegraph’s star-studded bash in the Midland Hotel despite not being on the guestlist. He was promptly flagged down by the security on the door,  leading to the following exchange:

Security: ‘Scuse me, what’s your name?
Cole: Harry Cole
Security (consulting guestlist): Lord Coe?
Cole: Err, yes…

And in he strolled – no longer Harry Cole, twenty-something blogger and gossip-monger of note, but newly ennobled as 55-year-old Sebastian Coe, Knight of the British Empire, Baron Coe of Ranmore, Olympic Gold medallist and Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the 2012 Olympic Games.

An impressive blag which will be hard for anyone to top. If you still doubt it, compare the two gentlemen in question:

Harry Cole                                                                                                                           Seb Coe






CrashBangWallace at Conservative Party Conference

Posted on September 30, 2011

If you’re going to Conservative Party Conference in Manchester (and you haven’t had enough of my opinions through this site), I’ll be speaking at two fringe meetings:

“Should social media be controlled by the state?”
Sunday 2nd October, 10.35am:
I’ll be chairing this panel discussion with Robert Halfon MP, Christian May of Media Intelligence Partners and Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute. In the aftermath of the riots, it was suggested that Government should be able to control and even close down social networks like Twitter – what are the threats to free speech, how does this threat impact on the explosion of online freedom, and could it even be done?

“The case for Fair Fuel”
Sunday 2nd October, 1pm:
I will be speaking alongside Robert Halfon MP about his campaign to bring down fuel prices for motorists in the UK – one for petrolheads, tax cutters and anyone interested in revitalising the British economy and helping ordinary motorists go about their business.

Both of these events are being held in the excellent Freedom Zone, run by The Freedom Association, in Bridgewater Hall (click for a map). The Zone is the home of free speech at Conference and increasingly recognised as the venue for the real fringe where ideas, principles and policies are debated and fought over. It’s well worth a visit and is outside the secure zone, just round the corner from the main Conference venue, so you don’t need a conference pass to get in. Conference delegates, the media and anyone else in the Manchester area who is interested in freedom are all welcome. Click here for the full timetable of Freedom Zone events.

I’ll be round and about at various other events – if you fancy a pint at any point, it’s probably best to tweet at me at @wallaceME

I’ll also be on the lookout for good stories, gossip and exclusives from the conference bearpit so watch this space for the latest news – and if you hear of anything good, let me know!

Wallace in LabourLand – hopefully I won’t get shot

Posted on September 27, 2010

I’m always open to new experiences – but today I’m taking that a step further normal. Yes, this is the first time I will ever have been inside a Labour Party Conference. It’ll be an interesting safari in a strange, left wing land which I’m not accustomed to – for obvious reasons.

I’ve got only two concerns about how the day is going to go.

The first is how people might react when they find out I used to work at the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Suffice to say that as a libertarian, low spending, tax-cutter who loathes political correctness, my work at the TPA might not have made me the most popular person in some quarters. In a way I’m quite looking forward to seeing how wide (and/or extreme) a range of responses I can get.

The second concern is that going by past experience the police might try to shoot me. The first time I went anywhere near Labour Conference – collecting signatures against ID cards outside the conference centre in Brighton in 2005 – it ended up with five policemen carting me off under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Hopefully the police in Manchester won’t be trying to outdo their Brighton colleagues. I’m a bit surprised they’ve actually given me a pass – maybe Walter Wolfgang and I will bump into each other and reminisce.

I’ll be live-tweeting my adventures in LabourLand with the hashtag #WheresWallace Wish me luck!