The streets of London burned during the riots of 2011, so the decision by Tory mayor Boris Johnson to close ten of the capital’s fire stations and then propose to invest in water cannons in the same week seems perverse in the extreme.
Given that the trigger for that summer’s flaming disruption was the shooting of Mark Duggan, it also seems rather tactless that the announcement of this proposal coincides with the end of the inquest into his death – an inquest which conclusively proved, yet again, that the British establishment is never called to account for its misdeeds and that, ultimately, no-one is held responsible [see also the parliamentary expenses scandal, the phone hacking scandal and any of the various banking scandals].
The inquest, in case you missed it, found that Mark Duggan was killed lawfully. Obviously, this was entirely the correct conclusion to draw, just so long as we are happy that unarmed suspects can be shot, rather than arrested. There seems to be a body of thought on this which feels that “if you live by the sword, you die by the sword,” but that’s not justice, it’s vigilantism. We have a long-established judicial process in this country whereby people have to be proved to be guilty of something, rather than just executed on the balance of probability. This isn’t the USA, you know.
Of course, the central issue of the Mark Duggan case, as with the Andrew Mitchell/Stephen Lawrence/Ian Tomlinson cases, was a simple question: can the Metropolitan Police be relied upon to tell the truth? Tragically, the answer to that turned out to be ‘no’ – officers colluded while they drew up their statements and the story evolved from returning-fire to he-threw-his-gun-over-a-fence-twenty-feet-away-without-anybody-seeing-him-do-it. The problem with this isn’t so much that people lied – individuals panic and embellish or misrepresent the truth all the time – it’s that the force closed ranks, choosing to back each other rather than to back the uniform and what it stands for. The police do a difficult, dangerous and largely thankless job, but they absolutely must be beyond reproach because if they can’t be trusted implicitly then they lose all public standing and moral authority, and then what are they for?
So anyway, following on from that debatable judgement, and in the face of ever-deepening cuts and yet-harsher austerity measures, we are now being asked to bankroll equipment (at a budget-busting £1.3 million per unit) for the sole purpose of disbanding public disturbances – silencing and dispersing, for example, those who would protest against corruption and injustice.
One can only wonder at the political ideology at work here. Let’s just consider that again for a moment:
- Essential public services are being stripped back and closed.
- Public money is being used to purchase weapons to turn against our citizens, so as to quell voices of dissent and protest.
It looks to me like someone’s preparing for another five years in office… Meanwhile, what will happen to our democracy and freedom when the people are denied a voice? Perhaps it’s time to re-brand UK PLC as UK HMP.