Priti Patel vs College of Policing

Is the Home Secretary seizing the political initiative before she’s forced to?

There are two likely reasons for the Home Secretary’s announcement that The College of Policing Hate Crime guidance is about to get a review. Either, she’s had a heads up from the The Court of Appeal (the ruling in my case is imminent) or she’s been through her personal archives and realised that it can only be a matter of time before a hate archaeologist digs up her flippant endorsement of gardening. According to ethnobotanist James Wong, gardening is the pastime of supremacists and Patel’s failure to call out the racial undertones of say, growing a sprout is precisely the type of hate which the guidance was designed to combat. In the absence of common sense, Priti is taking evasive action.

Common sense is an interesting commodity, not much loved by our current crop of chief constables. Take my nemesis, the Chief Constable of Humberside. He is a copper’s cop who still throws in the odd shift amongst the donkey fights and bar brawls that are the mainstay of a day out in Cleethorpes; on his rest days, he pulls on the Humberside cricket whites and takes up position in the slips. In other words, he’s a common or garden Englishman, except where it comes to the issue of common sense. He doesn’t believe in it.

I know this because he told me over a coffee as he apologised for that time when PC Gul turned up at my place of work to “check my thinking.” If you recall, the force claimed that thought policing plays a vital role in the fight against crimes of the future, which leads one to consider the existence of precog units, in which community cohesion officers lay naked in a bath of water with electrodes attached to their helmets, in the fight against Maya Forstater.

“Why didn’t someone up the chain of command apply some common sense?” I asked the Chief Constable, gleefully prodding the cadaver of Humberside’s failed defence. I anticipated his answer to be that lessons had been learned and that we should bury our differences over a slice of sponge cake.

Like smoking Gauloise between the jambon beurre and cherry clafoutis, guidance is un-British

What I did not anticipate was this: “Common sense is not an appropriate tool for a police officer because common sense leads to unpredictable outcomes. What we need is more guidance”

I reminded The Chief Constable that most people do not rely on guidance to not behave like the Stasi, the Cheka and the Gestapo, which was the High Court’s damning characterisation of Humberside’s actions.  The argument did not move him.

“The trouble with common sense is that it is not so common” is the epithet of the naysayer. Those that genuinely believe this are perhaps better suited to a life beyond our shores, given that Britain’s entire legal system is predicated on the commonality of sense, the embodiment of which finds its expression in  common law. Put simply, this means we are free to think, speak and do up the point where the law says no.

Like smoking Gauloise between the jambon beurre and cherry clafoutis, there is something incredibly un-British about guidance. Presented as a compendium of  permissions and instructions, it plays the expansionist part of that small man, Napoleon, whilst casting the public as a devoted Josephine. Failure to swoon becomes an act of gross misconduct. This is why guidance is fundamentally treasonous to the British principle of freedom.

Of course, there are specific situations where common sense must give sway to dictation, such as when administering Novocaine to a heart bypass patient, or when the engines blow up on an Airbus. “In an emergency, just apply common sense” fails to cut the mustard, regardless of how un-British that may seem.

Situational specifics aside, common sense and common law have served the public well.  But like bog snorkelling or rolling cheese down Cooper’s Hill, we have to practise the art of common sense or risk losing it forever.  In its place will be guidance, which will inevitably ban snorkelling in bogs and cheese rolling on the grounds that these are dangerous acts of white supremacy and probably connected to the slave trade.

The knotweed is already present, everywhere choking the joy out of life in the name of safety or progress or diversity or inclusion or some such other piffle. It has not entirely destroyed common law; just rendered it rare as a penny farthing.

There is a type of individual who, possessed of insufficient brains to be a Strasbourg lawyer, finds their métier in Human Resources

Last month in Batley, West Yorkshire, a teacher was hounded from his post for showing a cartoon of Mohammad to a class whilst discussing the limits of religious tolerance. Rather than doing that very British thing of encouraging critical thought by protecting free expression, colleagues, employers and the union joined with the mob to throw the teacher under the bus.  By way of justification for their cowardice, his employers insisted that the teacher had used “unapproved materials”. 

I can think of nothing more likely to stifle the joy of learning, and the thrill of teaching, than materials dictated by guidance. Think about it. Of all the resources that exist in this world, the self appointed mediators of knowledge have reduced the suite of wonder to an abysmal snapshot of pre-approved imagery, standing as gatekeepers against the heretics who would smuggle into the classroom the contraband of critical thought — a copy of Magna Carta, perhaps, or the script from a Carry On film. This will not do. The smuggler must be hung, the heretic burned. Human Resources provide guidance for both.

One of the problems with guidance is that it does exactly the opposite of what it says on the tin. The educationalists of Batley claim that guidance exists to promote the safeguarding of children when, in actual fact, it exists solely to safeguard a dominant ideology. In the cookie cutter factory of education, free thought is viewed as a mouse amongst the cake mix. guidance provides the trap.

There is a type of individual who, possessed of insufficient brains to be a Strasbourg lawyer, finds their métier in Human Resources. Here, they can indulge a passion for bullying people into mundane predictability whilst calling themselves Champions of Unlocked Potential or other such deceptively pretentious crap. (For the record, I was thrown off a Professional Human Resources course by Lincoln University for saying precisely that). Guidance is the cuckoo in the nest, replacing law with sacred edicts, the transgression of any number of which can land an individual with a gross misconduct charge. Become a trans ally. Wear a rainbow lanyard. Denounce Laurence Fox. The power to remove the means of making a mortgage repayment is quite the motivator in terms of generating compliance.

The power to remove the means of making a mortgage repayment is quite the motivator in terms of generating compliance

It is with some relief, then, that hope came this week from that most unexpected of places — Her Majesty’s policing inspectorate. It seems that our police have been tuning into the Prime Minister’s televised sermons and failing to distinguish law from guidance from a singing top hat.

I quote from the report:

It is essential that the police are seen to be enforcing the criminal law and not appearing to act as the coercive agents of ministers. The model of British policing is very different from those found in authoritarian countries.

In this regard, at least, Chief Constable Freeman is to be commended over his colleagues of similar rank, Humberside having proudly come bottom in the league table of Covid fines.  This did not occur because the good folk of Humberside live in Stepford-on-Sea, but because Lee Freeman’s instincts were those of any right minded Englishman: Like it or not, he had an outbreak of common sense. Let’s hope the condition is catching.

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