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Boris Johnson’s decision to buy water cannons is misguided and bizarre

o-TURKEY-WATER-CANNON-facebookWhat is Boris Johnson frightened of – apart from losing the Tory party leadership (for which he is a racing certainty loser already)? He says he needs to be ready for trouble on the streets in the summer. But there’s not the slightest evidence for this – more’s the pity considering what Tory austerity has viciously (and unnecessarily) imposed on ordinary people and particularly the poorest.

Is this the normal Tory hankering after suppressing protest in all its forms? He says he can get them on the cheap by buying 3 German secondhand water cannons. But that doesn’t justify the principle of this development which has national implications. Furthermore every other argument tells against the rashness and folly of this decision.

These 30-tonne water cannon are classified as a ‘less lethal’ weapon, not a non-lethal one, because water cannon can kill. Moreover Germany, from which they are being bought, is phasing out this model precisely because it is not safe. It is these considerations that have prompted an internal government inquiry into whether it is sensible or necessary to go down this route. That inquiry is still on-going in the Home Office, but Johnson has jumped the gun (so to speak) and preempted Theresa May’s decision.

Then there is the question of what use they will actually be and how exactly they will be deployed. They would have been of little or no use in countering the riots in August 2011 since these were diffuse, highly fragmented, flexible and mobile. The only real use would be if a fairly rigid phalanx of protesters were drawn up facing police lines. But even the anti-G20 riots in 2009 were not of this kind.

There is a balance to be drawn between the police duty to maintain law and order on the one hand and the right of free assembly and for peaceful protesting subject to proportionate policing. This latest foolish decision by Johnson tips the balance far too much in one direction – towards oppressive control.

Moreover it could well be challenged under the human rights act. And the decision to allow the use of these cannons by the Met, by far the biggest police force, symbolizes the national implementation of a method of policing for which the police themselves are diffident, but which registers a step towards violent control techniques which are alien to British policing, unnecessary and without obvious practical use, and will not command political consent.

9 Comments

  1. John reid says:

    Very well said, the only thing I question was the last line ,policing by consent, has always puzzled me, unfortunately more than half the country support the death penalty,for murder, so if we went with consent,it would have been unfortunately been re introduced.

  2. swatantra says:

    Peaceful protest, yes, but no to ugly riots and rampaging. Thats where innocent people get hurt. Thats where water cannons will come in. May put out a few fires as well like in Tottenham. People with dodgy hearts should be advised to stay away and protest by proxy.

  3. David Ellis says:

    If we could live by consent we would not need police.

    Boris shows the ruling class’s intent to prosecute the class struggle with utter ruthlessness. We don’t need the water cannons now but we will after a few more years of redistributing the wealth from poor to rich so better get the water cannons now. Pity our side and as ruthlessly class conscious as Bozza and his Etonian school mates.

  4. John reid says:

    David ,I think consent means 51% of the public, if there were 49% of the public being criminals! the. We’d still have police hy consent, also what makes on person feel that there’s a couple of exceptions to the rules of the land, doesn’t mean that thhe wouldn’t support 99.9% of the law! say a cancer sufferer too! someone liking S and M porn, regarding your view re distribution of wealth from poor to the rich, as people who pay 45% tax redistribute it! it’s not redistribution! it’s distribution in the first place, of all the money in the Kand !do those who earn enough to gave to pay 45% tax, do thhe deserve it, redistribution of wealth too the poor, was achieved by selling council homes, and lower income tax, but higher VAT. When did high tax rates on the poor cause them to riot?

    1. Robert says:

      well said John mind you I’ve no idea what the hell your saying.

      Did higher tax rates on the poor cause them to riot, well how far back shall we go mate, because the answer to that is yes…

  5. John reid says:

    O.k Robert, so labour having 40% tax lower rate in the 70’s caused ,the 2011 burglaries?, er I mean riots.

  6. Robert says:

    John your a fool mate so please stop proving it..

  7. John reid says:

    We’re not mates, I wouldn’t do anything to prove to you, that you have to result to personal abuse, when you lose the debate, I will not be blogging here, but you can go back to praising Plaid Cymru on labour list.

  8. Robert says:

    John goodbye Pal, I’m sure the other site your on the New labour progress sites will ignore you as most do. As an ex Police office and a Labour party secretary you view on the history of the labour party and your love affair with Progress and new labour, your best to go back to Progress sites.

    I’m sure the Blair-ites will love to see you back or not.

    At least Plaid are a left of center party me old mate , I’m sure the Tories would love to have you they are a boring lot who would enjoy a smile.

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