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.
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
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.
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