There can be few criticisms of the police “Run, hide and tell” video which informs the public how to react in the event of a terrorist attack by “active shooters”. What the public were not told is how long it could take for a police armed response unit to get to the scene of a massacre.
The British government has been painfully slow to react to events in Europe and across the world. The Mumbai and Nairobi massacres should have been a huge wake-up call. Instead, doubtless to the amazement of foreign ministers responsible for their own national security, the UK government effectively continued to cut numbers of British police officers and, amazingly, numbers of armed police, under the guise of police reform.
It took the deaths of 130 innocents in Paris for this government to realise that the cuts could not continue at such a rate (although continue they will). There will be belated attempts to recruit additional armed officers but this cannot be done overnight. There is however another looming problem, namely that after the arrest by the IPCC of the police officer who shot dead Jermaine Baker, volunteers for firearms duties may be increasingly difficult to obtain. David Cameron’s vague promise to look at the law will cut little ice with armed police if the officer concerned is charged and convicted.
Indeed the likes of David Cameron and Theresa May, held responsible by officers for this debacle, could well find their own armed protection police teams melting away as individuals hand back their firearms authorisations in order to protect their own welfare and that of their families together with their livelihoods.
(Metropolitan Police, retired), London W7
Before this year’s prosecution for the death of Azelle Rodney, the last firearms officer to face a court was in 1998. Since then there have been 40 other men and one woman shot dead by police marksmen (source: Inquest). No other marksman has faced prosecution.
The Metropolitan Police faced a corporate prosecution for health and safety breaches in connection with the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, when it was fined.
Just how burdensome does the Prime Minister think this is (“Cameron orders review of legal protection for armed police”, 21 December), how much freer from oversight does he want the police to be, and will he beef up the powers and resources of the Independent Police Complaints Commission so that it can command police co-operation and public confidence?
Side-splitting rebuke for the Labour right
Mark Steel’s side-splitting offerings should carry a health warning (“So you’d never hear a Blairite insulting a political rival, then?”, 18 December); I daren’t read his column in public places lest I, too, “lose control of my organs” and am carried off gibbering in a strait-jacket.
As Mark might have said in a less humorous moment, Labour’s right wing forgets that the degree of bullying infecting the modern Conservative Party makes anything emanating from the Labour left look like a Quaker meeting. Pretty much everyone has now seen through the Establishment and the Labour right’s lamentable attempts to demonise and undermine Corbyn on the most painfully laboured of pretexts. Even their more brain-dead functionaries might soon twig that their disreputable anti-Corbyn propaganda offensive is now comprehensively backfiring. Anyone hearing the audience sentiment on BBC 1’s Question Time in Bath several weeks ago, for example, could be forgiven for concluding that Corbyn is our greatest living national hero.
One wonders whether an injection of withering Steel-esque humour might just be the final missing piece in the Corbynista jigsaw. Time to appoint him to your core team, Jeremy?
Dr Richard House
In response to Mr Shaw-Parker’s Corbyn-paean today (21 December):
Three cheers now for David
His message could scarcely
So let’s kick out the Right
And let in some light
On a world growing darker
Yet another concert hall for London
How many more theatres and concert halls does London need? When I read about yet another “landmark” Centre for Music in London (report, 17 December), I almost choked on my black pudding.
There are theatres, museums, exhibition venues, concert halls, cultural centres and galleries all over the country closing because of lack of funding. We attend the exquisite Theatre by the Lake in Keswick on a regular basis, the journey to which is now 55 miles each way instead of 26 miles because a large section of the A591, the main arterial road through the Lake District, was washed away by recent floods. We have no date as yet when it will be repaired but clearly money is no object when it comes to Simon Rattle’s grandiose ideas.
Bowness on Windermere
The proposal to allow a major donor to name the new concert hall for London is fraught with risk. Whoever came up with this idea didn’t consider the possibility of the egotistical Donald Trump moving to the front of the donor queue.
The religion that bred humanism
Your editorial on the appointment of Shappi Khorsandi as the new president of the British Humanist Association presents her as a “Voice for the Godless” (15 December) The truth is more subtle. Humanism, and the modern secular state in which it flourishes, is not so much an alternative to religion as the consequence of one particular religion: Christianity.
This religion has been called “the religion of the exit from religion” because for centuries it has been incubating a transformation of our understanding of the world and belief. Not only has this been the matrix of our scientific/secular understanding of the world but, perhaps more important, it has affirmed the significance of the individual moral agent with rights in law (Magna Carta is an early example), giving rise to a humanitarian ethic.
As part of this process, “God” is understood to be not only expressed in human form – the Christmas story – but the product of humanity’s poetic consciousness and symbol of the ultimate values we hold.
It is this “post-Christian” space that the majority of people in this country now occupy, even if they are not sure how they came to be there or how to describe it. It is also prophetic – “a voice in the wilderness” – as it points to the future for all belief systems.
I was interested to read John Williams’ justification for Church of England representation in Parliament (letter, 8 December), this being that it has “presence everywhere”. Well so does Starbucks. Can we expect to see a few baristas in the House as a matter of course?
Europe’s longest ethnic cleansing
In 1840 the chief government relief officer for Scotland noted: “The aim of the Highland landlords is the extermination of the people.”
No action was taken by Westminster because many of the evicting landlords were sitting members in the House of Commons or the House of Lords – Lord MacDonald, the Marquis of Stafford (Duke of Sutherland) and Sir James Matheson along with others (Section 2, 16 December).
The Highland Clearances is probably the longest period of ethnic cleansing in Europe, lasting over 120 years, from 1784 when the Duke of Athol evicted the population of Glen Tilt, Perthshire, until 1903 when Lady Gordon Cathcart was jamming the holds of fetid emigrant ships with men, women and children from Uist and Barra.
While Highlanders and Islanders were being evicted from the land, their sons were fighting and dying for the greater glory of the British state that was destroying their Gaelic language, culture and families.
Donald J MacLeod
A match with no winner
As a lifelong Norwich City fan, I turned to your page-long report of Saturday’s Manchester United-Norwich fixture (21 December) with a keen sense of anticipation. Here, I told myself, I would find a lavish account of the skill and determination with which my conspicuously under-funded heroes had seen off a team supposedly worth a quarter of a billion pounds.
Alas, Norwich’s contribution to the match rated exactly half a sentence. A sense of balance on the part of your sports reporters would be appreciated.
D J Taylor
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