I’m in Westminster today where MPs have been recalled in the wake of the rioting which has hit parts of England.
I’ve had a lot of quizzical looks and jokes from fellow journalists and MPs about the role of Welsh MPs in all this. After all there’s been no rioting in any of our towns and cities and yet the majority of MPs from Wales were here, many of them cutting short holidays to do so.
So was it any more than just a determination to have their say? Not according to Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd who told me that ‘you can’t just cut yourself away from it all’ and that the lessons which need to be learned from what’s happened need to be learned in Wales as much as in England.
Primarily, as far as he’s concerned, that means finding a way to reintroduce respect from young people and for young people. But more urgently, it means not cutting police budgets nor officer numbers.
I was saying about a month ago (to the Police Federation conference) that the government should rethink its plans or risk mob violence and anarchy on the streets. I regret to say we’re beginning to see it already.
And that’s echoed by the Shadow Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, who told me,
Nobody I’ve spoken to in Wales can understand how 1000 police officers can lose their jobs as a result of government cuts. Everyone accepts there needs to be efficiencies, but to reduce police numbers at a time like this … lacks common sense.
Monmouth MP David Davies has more intimate knowledge of the situation than most. As a special constable he spent last night on the streets of Lewisham.
He was angry about those politicians criticising police officers for holding back and not using enough force on the rioters.
I believe force needs to be met with force. Officers are telling me they’re not physically afraid, but they are afraid of the consequences of using force.
And his criticism extends even to his own party leader, David Cameron, who today promised robust policing.
What robust policing will mean is an officer drawing a baton on someone, looking aggressive and … if necessary striking them. Politicians of all parties have let the police down. They’ve complained when they use force and containment (sometimes known as kettling). And these same politicians are criticising the police for holding back. Officers have been doing exactly what the politicians asked them for.