The Last Bastion of Free Speech

Article originally published in Police Oracle following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris – republished here for wider enjoyment

AlfieMoore_NakedStun_photoby_IdilSukan_DrawHQ_03The recent tragic events in Paris have made me think about free speech. What’s appropriate or not? When does something become offensive? When does it become incitement?

This has started a great debate which I think was summed up beautifully in Frankie Boyle’s tweet: ‘Glad everyone’s celebrating free speech in Trafalgar Square, and not in Parliament Square where they’d be arrested’.

It’s often said that ‘comedy is the last bastion of free speech’. I don’t know about that as there surely has to be limits in what can be said and published but I feel fortunate that even as a cop I’m allowed to flex my satirical muscles. I think it’s a positive thing and I think it’s a healthy reflection of our society. So here’s my personal take on a few issues close to my heart.

Credit where credit’s due

2015 started with a very popular award – “Arise Sir Thomas Philip Winsor” sayeth the Queen “Now go out there and inspect my constabulary, quick sharp, as I’ve heard morale is a bit patchy”

I like the Queen but I’ve worked for her for 18 years and she’s never brought cream cakes in on either one of her birthdays.

Between you and me I heard a strong rumour that it was a straight toss-up between me and Tom Winsor for a knighthood but he just sneaked it on charisma. I’d rather that Captain Birds Eye had been honoured for Services to Findustry – at least he’s entitled to wear his uniform.

Sir Tom is of course leader of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), who are a bit like a police version of Ofsted and a lot like the Terracotta Army, inasmuch as, loads of them turn up at once, they all look alike and they don’t really serve any useful purpose.

Humour is very subjective but I would invite Sir Tom to grade the above gag as outstanding, good, requires improvement, or inadequate using the new PEEL assessment.

Sir Robert Peel’s mantra was “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime”. Whereas Theresa May’s apparent mantra is “The test of Coalition efficiency is the absence of police”.

I’ve heard that Sir Tom never visits Robert Peel’s resting place in Westminster Abbey as he has a secret fear that Sir Robert will jump out of his grave and punch him on the nose. To save any possible embarrassment it will be one of the 1:5 crimes not recorded that day. Which is a shame as dead people are good value for clearing up loads of old jobs.

Former Home Office minister Norman Baker was reported in as saying that “Politicians are stupid to claim credit for falling crime”- that’s one of those rare sentences that could have been accurately stopped after the first three words.

Norman Baker used to work with Theresa May until one day he acted way above his station by putting his hand up and asking if he was allowed to speak. They eventually had a big bust up after Mr Baker sat her down and tried to gently explain that May Day wasn’t a bank holiday to celebrate her. Mrs May was fuming, and after three minutes on the naughty step Norman was sent home – permanently.

The only reason that she’s not Dame Theresa (yet) is that staff at the palace feel it will be really embarrassing when she starts talking down to the Queen and telling her how to hold the sword properly.

I’ve always struggled to remember names and I often get Theresa May confused with Mother Teresa. The way I remember it is that one is ‘the Angel of Calcutta’ and the other is the police budget cutter.

Free speech isn’t free

Here’s a top tip Home Secretary – the police are in clear and present danger on the streets of this country. Not a good time to reduce pay and pension entitlements.

Every experienced cop in this country will tell you that a substantial police presence in your neighbourhood is far more effective at cutting terrorism than a snooper’s charter. This is the worse time in history to cut police budgets and drag neighbourhood officers off the streets.

Why aren’t you listening? Is it because you think you know best?

No offence but any chance we can try a ‘direct entry’ Home Secretary next time? I think I’d rather have a bit less experience and a bit more common sense.



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