Melanie McDonagh

Have the police completely lost the plot today?

Have the police completely lost the plot today?
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Is it something to do with Theresa May’s departure as Home Secretary, or are the police completely losing it? The first extraordinary circumstance today is that police have advised Angela Eagle, until yesterday, a Labour leadership candidate, that she should no longer hold constituency surgeries – you know, that regular point of contact between MPs and the people they were elected by and for whom they work. Presumably this is because someone lobbed a brick through the window of her constituency office, possibly inflamed by her standing against the leader or maybe just revolted by her pink fuchsia jackets.

Now, Miss Eagle is irritating in any number of ways, but this strikes me as an outrage. If Wallasey, her base, were properly policed, the onus would be on the brick throwers to stop, because the police would be on their case. Instead, it’s Miss Eagle who has to suspend what should be her routine modus operandi as an MP. There are several lessons from the Jo Cox murder but one of them isn’t that MPs shouldn’t actually be able to meet their constituents.

The other really weird bit of police behaviour was the reaction today to the attempted abduction – at the very least – of a soldier in Norfolk outside an air base yesterday. The serviceman was jogging around the perimeter of the base before a man of 'Middle Eastern appearance' tried to grab him; when he fought him off, another man, armed with a knife, emerged from the back of the car to have a go at him too. If you too are thinking hard right now about the murder of the unfortunate Lee Rigby, well there’s a reason. But the police response has been to emphasise that they are discounting nothing, that there are a number of plausible hypotheses they have to consider including theft and non-terrorist abduction (really?) and that terrorism is only one of several possible motivations. Meanwhile, they tell servicemen at the base that they should avoid drawing attention to their military status by not wearing uniform in public.

At the risk of impinging on the copyright of Rod Liddle here, is there anyone other than the police, and possibly the BBC, who did not immediately assume that what we’re looking at here is an attack by an Islamist nutter on a soldier as an act of solidarity with IS? It was the same response when the 'Afghan' (actually, probably Pakistani) teenager attacked people on a German train with an axe the other day. The very first response of the BBC was to assure us that it was unlikely that the attack was religiously motivated. Really? We have, have we not, something of a pattern here… Lee Rigby, Nice attacks, 'Afghan' attack, Paris attacks, Brussels attacks etc etc… all with one thing in common. Back in the Eighties it would have been a fair bet that a bomb attack on soldiers in Britain would have been carried out by the IRA, by Irishmen or women. I don’t recall any fastidiousness back then about saying so.

But to return to Norfolk: why should army personnel be obliged to go around in civilian dress for fear of being knifed by an Islamist extremist? Isn’t it the job of the police outside the base, and the Army inside it, to ensure that if anyone has to mind their manners it’s the IS-fanciers? Who are they afraid of? If I were Amber Rudd, new Home Secretary, I’d be calling in the police, and not for beer and sandwiches.