Bruce Anderson: A crisis of law, liberty and order

Visitors from Pakistan need to be closely, though courteously, regulated

Share
Related Topics

There is a danger that we will be distracted by trivia. While it is outrageous that Gordon Brown's Downing St has become a sewage farm at least the Blairites spun with style – this should not be allowed to obscure far graver developments. Over the past few days, it has become apparent that we are facing a crisis, of law, liberty and order. There has been an intellectual breakdown, abetting a failure of leadership. As a result, we have increased our vulnerability, in a dangerous world.

Even so, there should be praise where it is due. Over the past few years, the security services have performed magnificently. We know about the foiled plots which led to prosecutions. But a great deal goes on in the terrorist undergrowth, which never receives publicity. This country is fortunate that when we need outstanding public servants to deal with terrorism, the secret services are providing them. Yet their qualities are no excuse for adding to their difficulties.

In coping with external threats, Britain starts with an advantage which has served us so well over the centuries. We are an island. Now, however, we have a government which seems to have decided that our island status is unfair to our enemies, who must he helped to fight us on a more equal footing. Pakistan is one of the most troubled regions on earth. There are many brave Pakistanis who take risks that should fill us with awe in order to stand with the West against terrorism. Thus far, alas, their courage has not won its due reward in successes. Despite their efforts, Pakistan is still ideally designed to give asylum to those who hate the West and who bend all their energies to find a way of striking at us.

So it should only require five minutes' thought and a modicum of common sense to conclude that visitors from Pakistan need to be closely, though courteously, regulated. But five minutes is a long time, and we have a government which regards common sense as politically incorrect. Over the past four years, 42,000 Pakistani students have been admitted to Britain. That is an absurdly high number. It would be equally absurd to claim that these are 42,000 potential terrorists, though they will include quite a few thousand potential illegal immigrants. But in allowing such a large number of "students" to come here, we are forfeiting the protection which we could receive from geography, reinforced by a tough-minded immigration policy.

There would be a price. In less hazardous times, it would be desirable to allow a lot of foreigners to study here, as long as the facilities existed and the students were bona fide. One would hope that the youngsters returned home with fond memories of the UK, which should bring dividends in future diplomatic and trading links. But we live in hazardous times. The first priority has to be counter-terrorism. That means more vetting and fewer students. Let us hope that the day will come when the controls can be relaxed; let us not delude ourselves as to the imminence of that event.

In a fallen world, it will never be possible to reconcile the exigencies of order and the claims of liberty. Those who are temperamentally on the side of order must remember that we seek an ordered society so that we can enjoy our liberties in safety. Those who are all for rights and freedoms should acknowledge that with the exception of the right to life, no right is more important than the right to order, and that in its absence, no rights could be enjoyed securely, including the right to life. The debate will continue, without ever providing policy-makers with the luxury of a clear conclusion.

But some issues can be resolved. It is difficult to police large demonstrations, especially when many protestors are set on violence. That said, nothing justifies the collective punishment of innocent adults. Yet in recent years, the Metropolitan Police decided to do just that, by preventing law-abiding citizens who found themselves in the vicinity of a demonstration from going about their business. Through no fault of their own, such persons could be "kettled": penned up for several hours, however late they were for a meeting, however much they were bursting for a pee.

This is outrageous. If kettling the innocent is not already an imprisonable offence, it must become one. Every rational person should sympathise with the Met's problems, but every wise copper ought to recognise that there is a near-crisis of public confidence in the policing of London. The new Commissioner was appointed to provide leadership, raise standards, improve morale and restore confidence. He does not have long. The treatment of Mr Tomlinson will have made him aware of the problems he faces, for it was far worse than the Menezes affair, where the policemen involved had reason to think that they were dealing with a terrorist. But there is one common feature. In both cases, the police's initial statements were wholly misleading; in the Tomlinson case, deliberately so. It is a bad business when we cannot trust a police spokesman's word.

Nor is pedestrian kettling the only problem on the streets. Last Tuesday, a few thousand Tamils decided to block the roads around Parliament. This caused chaos, which was presumably the intention. While one can understand the Tamils' feelings, their very intensity has blinded them to two crucial considerations. First, about one in a hundred thousand of the British public is aware of events in Sri Lanka and traffic jams will neither alter that nor arouse sympathy for the Tamils' case. Second, that the taxpayers of London have the right to use their streets without being kettled in their cars. The Tamils ought to be allowed to make their point in ways which do not disrupt London life. What is wrong with handing out literature and offering briefings to passers-by who have time for a chat? On Tuesday, the police should have freed the streets. Instead, they shirked their duty.

It does not help that they have the worst possible Home Secretary. Even under a Prime Minister who exalted Damian McBride, you simply cannot have a Home Secretary who is ridiculed and despised. At least McPoison had the decency to resign.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor