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Praising the defenders of the Ledbury (again)

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.

25 comments to Praising the defenders of the Ledbury (again)

  • Rob H

    I think most people have always loved the “have a go hero” stories.

    This isn’t new. The press have also supported them, or been afraid to criticise them.

    Remeber the Glaswegian who apprehended the Airport car crash bomber? They even win awards.

    I wonder if a postive attitude or sense of optimism would not be better directed into action than a rather pathetic “things will be alright in the end” attitude. Forming local neighbourhood patrols, creating and building comunities that don’t need or ask for the States help.

    “There is no difference between a pessimist who says “Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,” and an optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.” Either way nothing happens”.

    Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia.

  • bloke in spain

    Yes, thoroughly endorse your views on ‘concealed carry.
    It might also encourage a greater deal of politeness from the police when they deal with the public. A practice that seems to have almost disappeared

  • Vinegar Joe

    The State has been telling us for decades to sit back and allow the experts take care of the criminals. 911 was direct result of this thinking.

  • anon

    I disagree. What we have is two-tier law.

    If a mundane person defends his home he is a vigilante. If the staff of a luvvies’ hangout threaten trespassers with knives, they are heroes.

    If some criminal burgles 300 homes a year in a council estate he is a victim, but if he tries to rob luvvies in a trend part of town, he gets jailed.

    It’s like being in a mealy-mouthed sanctimonious version of Brazil in a bad decade. Except at least the death squads were good at killing criminals, the Met is not.

  • PeterT

    Great post. I don’t think Anon’s comment is right. People are sick of it across the board.

    I’ve been to the Ledbury and the staff were excellent (food pretty good..but I didn’t think it was amazing). Its a 2 star michelin restaurant.

  • the other rob

    Vinegar Joe is correct. The irony, of course, is that the reason we’ll never have another 9/11 is nothing to do with the pointless, expensive and degrading security theatre at airports. Rather it’s a direct result of the demonstrated willingness of air passengers to take “vigilante” action when another such situation appears to be developing.

    Having moved from England to Texas, where I and most of my friends carry concealed firearms at (almost) all times, it’s inconceivable that anything like recent events in England could happen here.

    What strikes me though is that, to native Texans, the true reasons for the rioting in England are equally inconceivable. They keep insisting that the rioters must have had a cause. “They’re just scum” doesn’t cut it as an explanation. Likewise, when I’m asked “What do they want?” my reply “A free flat screen TV” is taken as a joke, until I explain.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    A couple of questions for the Brits here.

    From the article linked:

    The kitchen staff at the Ledbury went beyond their call of duty by rushing up from the kitchen with rolling pins, fry baskets, and other dangerous kitchen tools and scared off the looters.

    The Samizdatistas here seem to make the assumption [and having grown up working in restaurants, I do too] that the implements of destruction included knives. Is there any indication of such, and would the lack of specificity be due to the PC aversion to the evils of “knife crime”?

    Second, this happened a few weeks ago. How long does your Crown Prosecution Service [I think that is the right name] have to decide whether or not to charge the “dangerous criminals” who, well defended their customers [and incidentally themselves, a cardinal sin that] from robbery and assault by real criminals. I suspect to them, the important issue is keeping an absolute monopoly on the legal use of force. Being a non-trusting sort, I think it likely that they will wait till this blows over and then charge the restaurant staff. Comments?

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Simon Jester

    Any time I hear people – especially the police – mouthing that repulsive sentiment, “the public should not take the law into their own hands”, I wish I had a copy of Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles engraved on a slab of rock, so that I could whack them round the head with it. In particular, this principle:

    Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

  • Simon Jester

    Arrrgh! Smited (smote?), for citing Bobby’s nine principles!

  • PersonFromPorlock

    What strikes me though is that, to native Texans, the true reasons for the rioting in England are equally inconceivable. They keep insisting that the rioters must have had a cause. “They’re just scum” doesn’t cut it as an explanation. Likewise, when I’m asked “What do they want?” my reply “A free flat screen TV” is taken as a joke, until I explain.

    Posted by the other rob at September 2, 2011 06:29 PM

    Think of it as ‘shopping with menaces’.

  • Stephen Willmer

    Subotai, the window for a charging decision depends on the offence alleged. It ranges from six months to an indefinite period.

    As to charging the staff when all this has blown over, I’m not so sure. Whilst I share many generally dystopian analyses of contemporary British civil society and of the role played therein by the official organs of law and order, there are several barriers to charging.

    One, evidence. Likely to be CCTV and/or witness statements. The quality of CCTV is now high, when the cameras work and are pointed in the right direction. Which is not that often. Statements? MAybe, if the clientele are willing to stiff their protectors (or didn’t realise that in providing statements that is what they were doing).

    Two, there has to be a realistic prospect of conviction in order to prosecute and, say what you like about my fellow Britons’ penchant for craven obeisance to our masters’ claims as to what is good for us, i cannot imagine a jury or magistrates’ bench giving the time of day to such a prosecution (caveat: these things are always fact-specific).

    Three, even were the public mood other than I suggest, I think the law in most cases would come to the aid of the defenders. In recent notorious cases (farmer Tony Martin springs to mind), the problem is not with what the law allows it’s with what a nannified, enervated jury will countenance as legitimate self-defence

  • Craig

    Things are, by no means, wonderful over here in the U.S., but, trust me, we are many who are gladdened by outbreaks of self-reliance in the U.K..

  • Harry Schell

    Lived in TX for 14 years, have a carry permit from there that allows me to carry concealed in 24 other states. I was also stalked for 14 months as one of a group, by a guy who firebombed one man’s car, sent me an incendiary device in the mail, showed up on people’s doorsteps and made multiple threats of retribution for his problems. I understand police protection very well.

    There is no way police can “control” crime. Any cop claiming he does then is responsible for the crime that does exist, but this irony is rarely pointed out to them. Peel’s quote fits well with TX and my experience. In my part of CA the cops only trust themselves and criminals to carry concealed. The rest of us are too dodgy, unless we have connections to the poltical class.

    Sean Penn, with his anger management and drug issues, got a carry permit in San Francisco. He probably would have been unable to get a permit in TX at that point in his life. Some animals are more equal than other animals.

    My prayer for the UK is that the average person is finally fed up with muddling through. With 50% of the population on some form of welfare, this is going to be a hard transition. When the government(s) own your doctor, your lodgings, any mobility greater than your feet or a bicycle, and there is no alternative to these monopolies…you are a slave. Nobody collects you to work the fields or hunts you down if you run from the plantation. There are no fields and where is there to run to?

    Functionally, people in this situation have little or no more liberty or social/economic mobility than a black slave on a plantation in Alabama in 1845. In fact, one could argue that life is even now less productive, at least the slaves in Alabama worked the land and did something with their days. A lot of people on welfare don’t even have that.

    It takes a lot for slaves to rebel, and throw off the chains. Pick the messiness and risks of freedom and independence for the promise of a daily crust. My country largely came to be because of people who chose that stoney path, first to leave their homes for a New World and an uncertain voyage across a huge pond, no weather radar, no Internet, DVD’s or iPods. Lousy food, if they had enough.

    It can be done. The political mandarins have to be put in their place as part of the bargain, but it can be done. the mandarins need dependence to justify their positions and compensations, so there is a classic “whose rice bowl is going to break” confrontation coming.

    It can be done, and if there is always to be an England, it must be.

  • m2p

    Nothing has changed from the riots and nothing will.

    As usual after such shocking events, we had two or three days of moral clarity where you could get away with saying things that normally you can’t – like pointing out how many people live lives of amoral spoon-fed incontinent idleness.

    Then we had the essential moment – known as “the Gitmo moment” – providing a cause around which confused lefties could rally (in this case the harmless but poorly expressed mutterings of a TV historian).

    The next step is to draw ludicrous moral equivalences – burning down shops and killing people is, apparently, no worse than wearing a dinner jacket and getting drunk, or fiddling expenses. I don’t often agree with David Cameron but it was good to see him having a pop on that point at the BBC.

    Finally you just keep repeating idiocies about how rioters were “deprived” and bringing it all back to “inequality” and such notions. It doesn’t matter how stupid it is if you say it often enough.

    This is just how it works. In a few months I bet you’ll be able to call it the Tottenham Spring. We’ll “reach out”, we’ll open some youth clubs, our policing will become even more limp-wristed, vendors of steel shutters will do well, and small shopkeepers will, bit by bit, give up to take up lives of amoral spoon-fed incontinent idleness.

  • Rich Rostrom

    They are going to have a very hard time disarming people who cook for a living.

    Reminds me of a line from Robert Heinlein’s novel Job:

    “That was his mistake. Pull a knife on a cook in his own kitchen?”

  • Kristopher

    Outlaws are now a privileged class. Embrace outlawry.

    Put on the hoodie, and buy or make an unlawful handgun. Do not admit to committing self-defense, ever.

    If you have to off some punk in self-defense, claim you wanted a wide-screen TV.

    Seriously … what are the cops going to do? If they can’t thwart rioting, then they certainly don’t have time to take your gun.

  • Kim du Toit

    “the defence of civilisation against barbarism cannot be organised merely to make life convenient for the Police”

    …and THAT should have been Quote Of The Day.

  • Paul Marks

    Harry Schell.

    The terrible thing is that the British people (or the decent ones) already think they have acted againt an out-of-control Welfare State.

    The British (or many of the British) voted Conservative with the intention of rolling back the out of control state.

    But they (we) got Cameron/Clegg, and I assure you that if it was just Cameron things would be little different (blaiming Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, a term that means exactly the same in British politics as it would in American politics, avoids the real issue).

    The real problem is that Mr Cameron (and friends) are just as much a part of the establishment as Mr Clegg (and friends) – they are all dominated by certain ideas, and these ideas (this view of the world) is just flat wrong. So talk of reducing government spending (and taxes and regulations and…..) was always going to be empty of real content.

    The British people rise up against statism? They think they already have – and they will be told by the elite (such as John Gray on the BBC) that this revolt (this “capitalism”) is the source of all bad things.

    And some of the British people will lose faith in freedom (not seeing that the politicians who claim to stand for it, do not) and join the ranks of the Comrades with Ed Miliband and co.

    Historians (if there are any in the future) may reflect that Britain lost its last chance for survival when Mrs Thatcher was betrayed back in 1990 – Mrs Thatcher had her faults (many of them), but the lady really did want to save the country and understood that the out of control size of government was the basic problem – no political leader since then has (certainly not Mr C.).

    However, some historians may point at the Conservative party leadership election that brought Mr Cameron to power.

    David Davis has his faults (again – many of them), but (like Mrs Thatcher before him) he does grasp the basic nature of the problem.

    But Davis lost Cameron won – and that, I am afraid, is that.

    There can be no pro freedom general election result – because (in the presentation of the education system and the media) there already has been one (and it is failing).

    By the way – in American history, Ronald Reagan occupies the same role that Mrs Thatcher occupies in British history.

    A political leader who, in spite of all their failings, has some grasp of the basic nature of the problem.

    I wonder of Rick Perry (and some others) occupy the place in American history that David Davis occupies in British history.

    Still even if Rick Perry (or Michelle B. or …..) manage to defeat “Mitt” Romney and get the nomination, and then manage to defeat Comrade Barack Obama and become President of the United States……

    They may still FAIL in office.

    Just as a Prime Minister David Davis might still have FAILED.

    But at least it would have been interesting (in a nonChinese sense – or perhaps in a Chinese sense) as at least there would have been a chance, something to hope for (even it was the torture of false hope).

    As things have turned out the British situation is actually boring – we are just waiting for further decline.

    There is no way to prevent it (in policy terms there is – but in political terms it is not possible now) not even if decline turns into collapse.

    And as for nondemocratic alternatives.

    A restored monarchy or a military dictatorship?


    And what makes people think that the Queen (and so on) is not dominated by the same ideology as the rest of the establishment?

    I am reminded of something Mark Steyn said…..

    That one of most depressing moments in his life was listening the Queen’s Christmas broadcast – when he finally understood that the lady actually believed all this “Progressive” (and “PC”) nonsense.

  • J

    “Having moved from England to Texas, where I and most of my friends carry concealed firearms at (almost) all times”

    The trouble is concealed (or for that matter, non-concealed) carry is not enough. Another thing Texas has, which is at least as important, is a legal environment in which you can kill an assailant without warning or attempt to retreat, and cannot be prosecuted or sued for doing so.

    The right to stop an assailant, including with deadly force if necessary, is a human right; governments should not be permitted to restrict it.

  • RetiredE9

    I’m so very, very sorry to have to say this. I love England and the English and, let’s be clear about this, it was only the English who suffered this horrific tragedy.
    You are doomed and doomed by your own hand. You (“the Public”) have knuckled under so many times to the authorities that you no longer even have the most basic human right; self-defense.

    An entire country of citizens who are persecuted and prosecuted for defending themselves against attacks; the mind reels.

    I have lived in the UK for more than ten years and have worked closely with law enforcement and have watched, appalled, at the demands of “the Public” that the “Public” be disarmed and protected. Well, you got one part of that solution right, you were disarmed.

    You’ve invited the current situation onto yourselves. You demanded that all guns be banned, hell, even in television shows the police tell citizens they aren’t permitted to defend themselves if attacked!!!

    It’s your fault “Public” you demanded this and you got it.

    Why the hell are you complaining about it?????
    You are doomed and the only alternatives I can see is immigration or revolt; you’ll do neither.

    You are doomed.

  • RetiredE9


    Consider this. How much longer will it be before you are criticized by the “Authorities” for glorifying a firearm on your website?? Not long, I’m thinking.

  • lumpy

    The 2009 movie ‘Harry Brown’ dealt with these topics in a way I think most here would approve of:


  • richard40

    Good article, and good reasoning. Citizens in Britain may finally be learning from the US. If a similar situation occurs in the USA, it is stopped pretty quick by an owner with a shotgun. This occasionally results in some criminal getting killed, good riddance. The day that British citizens let themselves be disarmed was the start of their helplessness against this kind of anarchy, and the start of their loss of freedom.

  • Paul Marks


    Local councillors gave be put on a de facto charge before a (Orwellian) “Monitoring Officer” even for things they did not say. I am currently on a de facto charge for (supposdely) saying the exact opposite of what I, in fact, said.

    This is normal (not just picking on me) – freedom of speech is dead in local government. Not only can you be punished for having “incorrect” opinions, you can be punished even if you do not have them.

    And, yes, these P.C. rules are (step by step) being imposed on the general population.

    Forbidding people to express support for the private ownership of firearms (for the purpose of defending themselves and others) is a “logical” next step.

  • Sunfish

    At the risk of expressing the cop perspective…

    I think part of the reason why police will sometimes tell John Q to back off rather than stand his ground is that, in many cases, the public is in an unfavorable tactical situation and isn’t likely to recognize it. As in, the member of the public can either run or get his ass kicked, and will then turn around and blame the cop for giving him bad advice.

    The disparity in available force between John Q and predator in disarmed societies like the UK is a contributing factor as well. Three on one is never favorable to the one, and especially not when the one has a knife (if he’s lucky, although that’s also stretching the definition of “lucky” IMHO.)

    The situation in the US is better. Here, our shortcomings aren’t in the law or the hardware so much as in what passes for “training.” The three hour “get your CFL” class at the gun show may give a broad and not-necessarily-accurate (looking right at you, jack hole from Wheat Ridge who’s been trading on Jeff Cooper’s name for a decade) picture of firearms and SD laws, but when all is said and done you have a shooter who doesn’t know movement or cover and doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

    Not that many PDs are much better. I risk a career-ending injury from eye-rolling and face-palming every time I run a range and take shooter comments.