Over the last week, the regard in which the police are held by the British people has increased significantly. So has public understanding about the main role of the police - retaining public order, and by whatever force is needed. We all hope the police can defend us and our property without using excessive force, but if needs be force must be used. Because we have not felt for many years that our way of life has been threatened by the sort of thuggish criminal behaviour we saw last week, we have become complacent. We are not complacent now, and have a much clearer idea of what the police are for. They are what stands between us and Hobbsian anarchy.
But none of this means that the police are beyond questioning. And while operational matters are entirely for the police, there is a role for politicians in questioning, in taking an opinion on performance, and in developing overall strategic direction. After all, we pass the laws. The police cannot be a law unto themselves. Its the politicians responsible for the police that have to stand before public scrutiny. Not sure that every senior policeman gets this. Reading today's press has strengthened my support for the introduction of elected police commissioners. Accountability matters.
Two other issues bother me as well. Firstly all this conjecture about Bill Bratton - and I've no idea whether he would want to run the Met or whether anyone would want him to. But it seems illogical to me to limit the application list to just British police personnel. I cannot think of a single reason why this should be. We want the best person available to take on what is one of the most difficult jobs in the country. And in my opinion, it doesn't matter where they come from.
And finally, there's the matter of police funding. I do not like reducing police funding, just as I do not like reducing defence spending, or education funding, or charity support, or S4C spending etc., etc.. (Maybe I'd support transferring the massive subsidies for onshore wind farms though) We have a huge deficit and threatening debts, and we have a credible deficit reduction plan, which has made the UK a 'safe haven' and kept our borrowing costs very low. Any backsliding under pressure will cause huge damage to our credibility with the international markets. Its just not going to happen. The price would be too high. I know that this is not a popular view at the moment, but as it was last week, and it is for everyone else, it comes down to a question of operational priorities for the police. And they must have the support of politicians to deliver on their priorities. Which is why I think MPs should be making a point of emphasising how much they value the police at the moment. Its a tough time for them.