Saturday, 13 August 2011

Everything we need to know

One of the emerging pieces of news over the weekend is that having flown in to save his nation, our Dave is to go one step further by hiring former New York and Los Angeles police commissioner, William Bratton as an adviser.

As someone who has done a bit more than the usual cursory reading of Bratton I am something of a fan of what was achieved under his leadership.  I should therefore welcome his appointment but I have real reservations about this one as I am fearful that his appointment is pure window dressing on the part of Cameron.  Cameron at the moment is posturing as tough talking politician looking to grab the problem by the scruff of the neck and asking Bratton to be an adviser would underscore that to those who don't spend any time scratching the surface on their news.  Here's a few reasons why I think this might not go anywhere.

Cameron isn't exactly without form on window dressing politics.  It doesn't take me to list all the times he has made out he will take a tough line on something only to water it down.  Bratton will have some tough uncompromising views that is going to attract attacks from a liberal press who say anything they don't agree with as extreme.  Cameron is not one to stand and make an argument when challenged on things.  He has been prone to the odd volte face when he comes up against a bit of resistance from those areas of the press that would still criticise him if he did everything they ever asked. I expect Bratton to be on a tight lead and to have much of what he says watered down.  I would not be surprised if he quits the role quite soon when he finds that Cameron has little appetite to implement his recommendations.

Another reason I believe that Cameron is engaging in pure window dressing  is that what Bratton advocates is not rocket science.  His ideas are well published and the background to his thinking can be found anywhere.  Much of it is probably already known to most coppers and many of them may well agree with his approach.  You don't actually need Bratton to come and advise you, any level headed British Officer could well do that and I recall they once had one in Ray Mallon (although I'm not sure where he ended up).

What it really needs is a willingness to follow through on his thinking and suggestions.  That would take an act of political will.  If his ideas were already well documented and were apparently so well thought of by Cameron it is a fair question to ask where the hell are they?  Why aren't they already being employed? The problems we saw come to a head over the last week have been coming for a long time, they were as obvious as the day is long.  It was a question of when, not if this would come to a head.  In fact many commentators pointed to employing Bratton's tactics over the past few years to solve the problem.  So if they didn't want them then, what makes us think we'll get them now.

The final problem is one that many have already alluded to in looking back at the riots.  The issues surrounding the lawlessness are many but one often overlooked issue is the system.  To have an impact you have to have executive control over the system.  Bratton's success was due in part to the fact that he had control over one aspect of the system.  If he ordered it, it happened because he had executive powers in his role. Here he has no such powers having been ruled out of applying for the top job at the Met.  The result is that the role is likely to go to a careerist and won't be what often gets referred to as a Copper's Copper.  In this respect, Bratton's chances of influence have been cut off at both knees and have had both arms tied behind their backs.

I hope I'm wrong on this.  I hope to swallow my words along with some humble pie but I doubt I will.

I suspect Cameron knows all of these points that I have raised and by going down this line in the full knowledge of them will demonstrate this is all about window dressing for his own sake.

1 comment:

  1. "What it really needs is a willingness to follow through on his thinking and suggestions. That would take an act of political will."

    On the basis that Cameron appears as not knowing whether he is coming or going and therefore his thinking is somewhat questionable, I would suggest it must be impossible to have any political will?

    As you rightly point out Cameron has 'history' in saying one thing and doing another - and he is renowned for 'sound-bite' politics. This latest statement is no more than an attempt to sidetrack the public and calm the masses, so the matter can then be shelved.