Sir Ian Blair makes sense
Sir Ian surprised me, along with quite a few others I imagine, by calling for a fresh public debate on policing strategy, in his Dimbleby lecture. Policing here was meant in the broad sense of the word: from the "glamorous" fight against terrorism to the "mundane" battle with anti-social behaviour in all its guises. In short, Sir Ian says that policing is too important to leave it to police chiefs. Too right...
Cynics will argue that this is an exercise in damage control after the disastrous 90 days vote in the Commons or even a bold move to get his head of the chopping block in relation to the shooting of Mr De Menenez and the related inquiry which is likely to be damaging for Sir Ian. I reserve judgement on these points.
I think most of us would welcome such a debate. In Britain we face quite a dilemma. On the one hand we have a unique police force, over 90% unarmed, on the other hand we do face a very serious terrorist threat. I certainly agree with Sir Ian that there is the potential for attacks that would be far more damaging than the tube attacks. Our complex infrastructure of chemical manufacturing, gas transportation and public transport (to name but three potential targets) leaves us open to terrorist scenarios of truly nightmarish proportions.
So we need to balance the need for more effective high-end policing with the fact that we don't want to change our society altogether.
But how such a debate is to be conducted is not very clear: ours is not a direct democracy.
Last but not least, we need to consider one of the most effective (as well as inexpensive) terrorism counter-measures: changing our foreign policy, with regards to the Middle East in general and our presence in Iraq in particular.
Guardian Leader comment.
Keywords: police, Sir Ian Blair, terrorism, anti-terrorism, Iraq