There was an item on the local London TV news early last night about a bunch of cooks who, when confronted by a bunch of crooks, defended themselves, their restaurant and their diners. Yes, here is the story, from earlier in the month, at the time of those riots. Remember them?
Chefs and waiters leapt to the defence of members of the public enjoying an evening at The Ledbury, an upmarket restaurant in Notting Hill, London.
Thugs and rioters armed with bats and wearing hooded tops forced their way into the two star restaurant before demanding diners hand over their wallets and wedding rings.
But staff and others fought back with kitchen tools before leading customers into the wine cellar for protection.
Later in the evening, the looters returned, and the diners were ushered by the staff to the safety of the downstairs wine cellar. Which seems like a craven retreat, and in a way it was. But the personal cash and valuables of the diners were what the looters were after, and they were again thwarted.
The significance of the TV coverage I saw this evening wasn’t just that all this happened, but that the TV coverage was so sympathetic to the restaurant staff for doing what they did. The Ledbury (which I had never heard of until now) has apparently won some kind of vote of excellence for its food, organised by a restaurant guide, and the general atmosphere radiating from my TV was: hurrah! Good for them, and the perfect excuse to tell the story, again, of those heroic deeds by the heroic Ledbury staff a few weeks ago.
A few further thoughts occur to me. They are going to have a very hard time disarming people who cook for a living. Better yet, incorrigible optimist that I am, I sense that the penny may at least be starting to drop that the Police can’t be everywhere.
I wrote a piece here at the time of the riots, in which I regretted the way that all the Police could say at the time of the riots was for honest citizens to stay off the streets and not get involved and generally keep their heads down and not behave as these restaurant guys did. The thinking of the Police being that if members of the mere public confronted rioters, how would the Police know who to arrest? But the defence of civilisation against barbarism cannot be organised merely to make like convenient for the Police. Battle must be joined, and the footsoldiers in this battle are, or ought to be, us. If that complicates things for the Police, tough.
I don’t blame the Police for the wetness of their public pronouncements at the time of the riots. They have to take their lead from the politicians, and I don’t think most of us would want it any other way. Nor, more fundamentally, do I blame the Police for the fact that they can’t be everywhere. If the Police were able to be everywhere, they would have to exist in numbers so huge that they would themselves constitute a huge threat to the rest of us, to say nothing of a huge drain on all of our resources. “More bobbies on the beat” just cannot be the answer, and if this little spot of TV coverage is anything to go by, that notion may finally be getting around.
The essence of the crime problem in the UK is not an insufficiency of police; it is a whole crop of utterly wrong assumptions about how we, the public, should, that is to say should not respond, and not be allowed to respond, and should be disarmed to the point where we are helpless to respond, to criminals. We, not the Police, are in the front line of this thing. We should not be urged to flee the field. We should be positively encouraged to go into battle, no matter how much this may complicate the paperwork that the Police then have to trudge through after we have done our bit. There is nothing wrong with us taking the law into our own hands. On the contrary, the more of us do this, the better. Taking the law into our own hands, and enforcing it, is good. This should not be confused with taking the law into our own hands and breaking it, by becoming criminals ourselves. It should not be a crime to defend one’s own person and property, as forcefully as will achieve this.
In particular, those looters who, after their first attack had been beaten back, returned to the Ledbury should then have been ambushed and arrested, with whatever degree of force would have done the job, regardless of whether any mere Police were present or not. For that to have happened would require a transformation in the attitude of our rulers to the rights of the public when confronting criminals. The sooner such a transformation occurs the better.
Those riots, I am now more and more convinced, did us all a favour. By dramatising the lawless state of Britain, and dramatising it in London, in places like fancy restaurants patronised by people with wallets and adornments seriously worth stealing rather than just in a few already-underclass-dominated housing estates, the riots created a set of circumstance where the only answer for our rulers was for them to start thinking along the lines I expound in this posting. And if members of the public are heroes when they square up to rioters and looters, why are they not heroes when they confront criminals of the more usual sort, by similar means and in accordance with similar principles? Exactly the same principles apply to small skirmishes between the public and those who would prey upon them as apply to riot control. Again, when it comes to preventing crime, the Police cannot be everywhere, and it is daft to imagine that they ever could or should be.
If the transformation I seek does occur, one of the reasons will surely be that the politicians have now run out of our money, with which to pay even the policemen that they now employ. They are even now cutting Police numbers. Fine by me. As I say, Police numbers are absolutely not the point. The point is the rules that we are allowed to play by, by which I mean fight by, against the criminals. (Just imagine how very differently that riot would have turned out if we here in London enjoyed the blessings of concealed carry laws.)
If you are a regular reader of Samizdata, then you will have read similar arguments to these many times before here. I do not apologise for the repetition. If important ideas are to be spread effectively, they have to stated not just the once, but again and again and again.