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Showing posts with label Metropolitan Police. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Metropolitan Police. Show all posts

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London riots (also gay and honours system)


I have a very personal interest in the London riots - a member of my family lives in a London borough, and has already experienced the fringe of the riots. I am certain that many Scots share the same concerns, and do not regard the sufferings of Londoners with detachment.

Let me say straight off what any objective observer would say faced with the media reports of the riots - they are examples of entirely unjustifiable criminal behaviour by large numbers of mainly young people, exacerbated by the presence of adult agitators from outside the boroughs involved, with an agenda that has little relationship to the concerns of the residents of the areas affected. They have in effect attacked their own people, their own communities and damaged their own amenities and environment.

Those convicted of looting, criminal behaviour, violence against people, the police and property, including arson that endangered life and rendered families homeless, should be punished with the full rigour of the law. 

But let me also say that the perceptions of those who actually live in the areas affected, and who may themselves have been victims of the riots, arson and looting, are shaped by their real first hand experiences as well as the media reports they too are exposed to. They are able to compare the presentation of reality by the media with reality itself, and their experiences include not just the riots themselves, but what preceded them.

Compared with their perceptions, those of detached armchair theorists, including myself, are of strictly limited value. They must be listened to vary carefully indeed, because what they have experienced and suffered may come to all our streets and our very doorsteps.


The reflex response of most commentators has been to condemn the violence: a few irresponsible ones have defended it. (I had acrimonious exchange with one of them, an anarchist, on Twitter yesterday.)

A few indescribably crass individuals have thought it a subject for comedy, and I have had words with them too.

Accepting that unequivocal condemnation of violence and criminality is necessary in a society that claims to be civilised and espouse the rule of law does not mean, however, that comment must stop there. Regrettably, that is just where it has stopped with many commentators, especially politicians, seeming to feel that they have discharged their public duty by condemning the violence, but feeling no equal responsibility to identify, examine and analyse the location of the violence, the timing, the triggers and the root causes.

In fact, it is worse than that, with many senior politicians - and the police - denying that there are root causes, or indeed that any explanation need be sought, other than an outbreak of opportunistic violence and criminality.

THE FACTS - such as they are …

Last Thursday, the Metropolitan police surrounded a minicab and shot and killed an occupant of the cab, Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old London black. (His race may be relevant.)

The police initially said that they had returned fire after Duggan shot at them, and that one of his bullets hit a police radio. Duggan was armed, apparently with a starter pistol modified to fire live bullets.

It is now understood (The Times, today and other newspaper reports) that he did not shoot before an officer shot him twice, once in the chest and once in the arm. On bullet passed through his arm and hit the police radio, and there are ballistic reports that support this, although the police were refusing to confirm this.

The police clearly had information that led them to pursue him, and that must have included the likelihood - or certainty - that he was armed, since the police were armed. Two explanations present themselves - the police surrounded the car believing he was armed, and either saw him in possession of a firearm which they believed he was about to use, or shot him in the belief that he was armed and was likely to use a firearm.

The family of the dead man demanded an explanation from the police, and the response did not satisfy them. They then mounted a demonstration at Tottenham police station that escalated into violence, under circumstances that are unclear and disputed, and subsequently extend to rioting that included young people and adults who were not from the area. The rioting then extended to many other areas of London, and now have repeated themselves in other English cities.

This is about as much as can be said with certainty on what was undoubtedly the trigger for the riots: it does not explain them.

What can also be said with chilling certainty is that the police failed anticipate, prevent or control the riots. The British Press today contains unprecedented headlines, of which The Times is probably typical - Mobs rule as police surrender streets. From a tabloid, this could be dismissed as sensationalism or exaggeration - from the Times - and others - it is a sober statement of fact.


Here are some other facts, which many politicians would have you believe are irrelevant. I don’t.

The UK Parliament is in its extended summer recess.

The millionaire Prime Minister and the millionaire Deputy Prime Minister were both on expensive holidays

The UK has recently experienced a bank collapse caused  by the rampant greed, irresponsibility and gambling of obscenely rich bankers, who continue to reward themselves on a grand scale for their failure at the expense of the taxpayer.

The UK has recently experienced large scale abuse of expenses by its elected representatives and its unelected Lord, some of which was criminal and resulted in imprisonment of the offenders.

The UK has recently experienced a major scandal involving the press (News International and News Corp) that has involved the police, the highest offices of Government and the highest echelons of the Metropolitan Police, resulting in the resignation of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and an Assistant Commissioner, the resignation and subsequent arrest and prosecution of the Prime Minister’s closest adviser, David Coulson, the arrest and prosecution of senior employees of News International, the arrest of the former head of News International, who was also a close friend and neighbour of the Prime Minister, the closure of one of  Britain’s oldest newspaper, The News of the World.

There is serious international financial crisis that threatens global collapse of the financial system, and the UK has draconian cuts to public expenditure and public services by the Coalition Government, a declining growth rate, unemployment, declining real incomes and rising prices of essential such as food and power, and it is virtually impossible for young people to get a foot on the housing ladder.

The government that cannot control what is happening on the streets of its capital city - on its own doorstep - has just emerged from one illegal, morally repugnant, and financially ruinous war - Iraq - and is still engaged in another even longer running conflict, Afghanistan.

The UK Government, its politicians, many of its media commentators and the police claim that none of this is relevant to the sudden collapse of law and order among deprived communities, and an apparent total loss of respect for the rule of law and the values of an ordered society among young people, especially young urban blacks.

I believe it is blindingly, blatantly and obviously relevant.


A high proportion of crime in the UK today stems from the trade in illegal drugs. (The trigger event, the Tottenham shooting, may well have related to the drugs trade.) The so-called war on drugs has failed and is failing in the UK and in every country in the world because the criminalisation of drug use is the core problem, not the solution, as was conclusively proved by Prohibition in the United States, the criminal legacy of which live on in organised crime.

The legalisation of drug use, accompanied by licensing and control of distribution and providing full professional support to those addicted to them would, at one stroke, reduce crime and free huge resources for other purposes - policing, medical and social.

This is the truth that dare not speak its name, because of a craven failure of nerve by politicians and the empty, destructive moralising of much of organised religion in Britain.


Last night’s Newsnight Scotland offered a platform to John Mason, MSP to explain his position on his motion on gay marriage, and produced a Green MSP, Alison Johnstone, in what the producers presumably hoped would be a balancing viewpoint in the discussion.

As is increasingly the case with Newsnight Scotland, the analysis piece that preceded the discussion, presented by Julie Peacock, actually shed some light on the controversy. The discussion, chaired by Raymond Buchanan, was an exercise in utter feebleness, with John Mason becoming nearly invisible in his projection of sweet reasonableness, one which was swallowed whole by the affable Alison Johnstone, who smiled winningly and appeared infinitely relieved that she didn’t have to engage in any real debate.

I award Newsnight Scotland four stars on the quality of the analysis piece, and one star on their choice of panellists. Raymond Buchanan did what he could with such unpromising material, which was very little.

The central issue, which is the nature of the marriage contract and the legal requirements under Scots Law of solemnisation of a marriage, legal or civil, and the role of organised religion and competing religious sects in this was not explored at all.


The Scotsman and the Herald continue to distort the debate by exaggeration, omission of facts, and biased simplification, and in the process, fail to ask the fundamental questions, most of which I have supplied gratis to them, and some of which have been answered by the SNP. Virtually none of the essential content of the SNP’s detailed press release have been reported by either newspaper.

Long may your circulation decline, Scotsman and Herald - God knows why I pay £1.75 a day to prop it up.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hackergate - Delegation and abdication

Yesterday’s select committee enquiries revealed rather more than most media commentators seemed to think, and that perhaps says a lot about the nature of press and media comment in the UK today.

There were many fulsome tributes paid to the reputation and integrity of those on the receiving end of the interrogation, especially the senior police officers, tributes that came mainly from themselves. I use the word fulsome in its correct meaning as excessive, cloying or insincere, not in the sense used by our semi-literate journalists and media pundits. I must invoke Shakespeare yet again: Hamlet asks his mother the Queen how she likes the play, to which Gertrude replies “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”, using protest in the contemporary sense of affirm or profess.

My experience of true integrity in my life is that no man or woman of integrity ever asserts their own integrity - they demonstrate it by their actions and leave it to others to judge it.

The other fascinating aspect of the two enquiries was the way in which those being interrogated chose to interpret their managerial roles, especially in relation to decision-making, delegation and the acceptance of assurances. Without exception, they appeared to adopt instinctively -and perhaps unwittingly - what I call analogously, and with no suggestion whatsoever of criminality, some of the Mafia Godfather principles of management.

The Seven Godfather Principles of management are designed as a firewall against accountability or responsibility for personal actions to an external authority. They are not, of course, the actual operating practices or principles of Mafia Dons and capi de regime - they are designed for external perception and consumption only. They are -


1. I believe implicitly everything I am told by my subordinates and professional advisers, and never feel any requirement to check, cross check or verify the veracity of what I am told.

2. I delegate responsibility absolutely and completely, and any failure by the person to whom I delegate is entirely down to them, not to me.

3. I never monitor employee performance or compliance with policy or procedural directives, but I punish failure instantly when it is pointed out to me by third parties, or events leave me no choice but to recognise it. I am never, ever reluctant to blame others for failure.

4. I ensure, by whatever means possible, that I am never told anything that in any way could call my decision-making into question at a later date, or make me accountable or responsible for the actions of a subordinate.

5. When receiving advice to aid my decision-making, I require a single recommended course of action for me to take, even if the adviser has identified a range of options. I dislike intensely having to choose between a range of options, because such a choice would make me responsible, instead of the adviser.

6. I always recognise as mine decisions that produce successful outcomes. I never recognise as mine decisions that produce unsuccessful outcomes - they were, effectively, the decisions of my advisers, which I accepted because I had no choice but to do so, because I trusted the adviser absolutely and uncritically.

7. My memory is strangely and bafflingly selective - I have total recall, usually backed up by detailed documentation and contemporaneous notes, of anything that supports my decisions and my integrity, but I am frequently unable to recall matters that could call my decisions or integrity into question, I never take contemporaneous notes on such matters, and documents relating to them unaccountably disappear.


Since none of those appearing before the committee were criminals, and indeed, were people of the highest probity, reputation and integrity - we have their unequivocal word for it - we must accept that the apparent adoption of some of the above principles - inferred from their answers to questions - actually  did reflect their true management behaviour and operating principles, or at least that of some of them.

But this leads me, at least, to the inevitable conclusion that, if they actually did operate in this way, they would have be grossly incompetent and unfit for the high offices they occupy, since the Godfather Principles set out above are a denial of all modern management standards of competence and accountability.

I am therefore faced with the paradox that, if I am to retain faith on the police and in the Press, neither explanation satisfies me.

Even more worrying is that David Cameron and his government appears to either want us to believe that they are operating under such principles, or worse still, actually are …

Since most journalists and media commentators are direct professional contributors, and with few exceptions, have never managed large-scale operations, we can expect little insight from them on such arcane matters - as they used to say in the auld Glesca, “they couldnae run a menage …”

I await today’s Parliamentary debate with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Coulson, Murdoch, News of the World – a threat to our democracy?

I plan to say something more substantial on this worrying topic, based on the terrifying revelations in Channel Four’s recent Dispatches programme, but meanwhile, Question Time had some highly relevant exchanges on the matter.

I noted the irony that Max Mosley – whose political opinions I respect – took on the News of the World and won over his private life, in marked contrast to poor Tommy and Gail Sheridan, who took them on and won what looks like being a Pyrrhic victory, and a very short-lived one at that. Whatever the truth of the Sheridan affair, he appears not to have helped himself or his loyal wife by the way he handled it.

Whatever he did or didn’t do, my sympathies lie with him and Gail, not with the News of the World.

His political career is in ruins, and that small, but sometimes worthy and idealistic segment of the voice of working people is wrecked along with him. With friends like Tommy had, who needs enemies?

But there always appears to be that Achilles Heel in extreme left politics. It’s sad …

Apropos Mosley and Sheridan, I am reminded of the remark of an American boss of mine once when someone commented on the sexual pecadilloes of a colleague - "Well, Pete, the best guys always have trouble keeping their pecker in their pants ...". He probably reprised that opinion when President Bill Clinton was having some little local difficulties.