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Boris and the cannnon. June 13, 2014

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in British Politics, Justice.

I get all the implications of Boris’ water cannon. It is deadly serious. A grim prelude to future containment and management of crisis, but another part of me remembers 2011 and the riots.

The response then was hugely significant, unfortunately a lot of it was overshadowed with inevitable questions of ‘why’ and white people waving brooms around Clapham but behind the Hogan Howe dawn-raid photo-ops there were all night courts sittings, industrial style, condemning teenagers to prison in minutes. There was plenty talk of reaching out to communities but some very draconian business went on in the days and months that followed.

Throughout the riots though there were several headlines about the police preparing and ‘ready’ to use plastic-bullets but not a shot was fired. In the end, even the London’s Met decided it was a step too far. I loved the line about consent in the Guardian report shortly after.

What stopped them was not the concerns – considerable as they were – about the repercussions of ending 180 years of policing by consent – but the sheer tactical difficulties of using officers carrying baton rounds against a fast-moving group of rioters. In the beat of a moment the police pulled back.

Smart policing perhaps, we wouldn’t have had a good word to say if they had opened fire but the reluctance mirrored a real and wider sentiment about unprecedented new departures in ol’Blighty. The fighting is traditionally done on someone else’s beaches, dear boy. Out of sight at least.

In twiwbmlt last year, I mentioned a song by Ranking Ann about introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, a response to the Brixton riots two years earlier. We hear a run through her own experience with the police but when it comes outlining new powers, – detention, searches, surveillance and effect on liberties –  she makes specific reference to what they already have in Northern Ireland, they are now bringing in here.

Ireland has a very long history of policing firsts but even knowing this and the reasons, it does feel a bit odd watching reaction to Boris’ new toys while who knows how many well-worked cannon look forward to another long summer in Belfast. London is still different, still centre of empire at heart. Worryingly for other UK residents, where most official trends still begin. While we’re on subject of beaches, Churchill is to feature on the new pound note along side that other famous line – “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”. Surely another grim prelude for the cannon and all who face it.


1. Michael Carley - June 13, 2014

Nick Cohen likes to quote a friend of his who says that you should always keep an eye on what the government does to foreigners: it’s what they want to do you.

For these purposes, Northern Ireland is abroad.


WorldbyStorm - June 13, 2014

Very true. It’s odd isn’t it re Cohen, so right on so much but so dismally wrong on other issues


Michael Carley - June 13, 2014

Very good on domestic issues, civil liberties, the failings of the left to put forward a serious alternative economic and social programme, but his judgement falls apart when he lifts his eyes to look abroad.


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