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Leadership in Elizabeth’s Britain

Recent testimony from a former Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Craig Mackey indicates that he was present as one of his officers was stabbed to death during the Westminster Bridge attack, and sat in his car and locked the doors, and took advice from his subordinates as to what, if anything, to do. Holding, in an acting capacity, the most important policing role in the UK, he did not get out of the car, in which he was a passenger, to intervene, nor, AFAIK, did he suggest that the car be used as a weapon. Of course, it is much easier for any one of us to sit as armchair strategists as to what we might have done, but would we continue in office and look forward to collecting pensions had we been in Sir Craig’s unscuffed shoes?

Sir Craig told jurors it was his ‘instinct’ to get out of the car, but was in a short-sleeved shirt with no equipment following (a) ministerial meeting. ‘I was conscious my two colleagues were not police officers. If anyone had got out, the way this Masood was looking, anyone who got in his way would have been a target,’ he said. ‘I think anyone who came up against that individual would have faced serious, serious injury, if not death.’

He is right, PC Keith Palmer, an unarmed police officer, was murdered in front of the eyes of his then ultimate commander. An armed officer who was co-incidentally nearby was then able to shoot and kill the terrorist Khalid Masood. Presumably Sir Craig did not see it, on balance, as his responsibility to intervene.

The inquest… …heard that Sir Craig, then acting Scotland Yard chief, and his colleagues locked the car doors because they had ‘no protective equipment and no radio’.

Some have criticised Sir Craig, alleging cowardice. The Daily Mail highlights the contrast with a junior Transport Police officer who fought the London Bridge attackers.

So it’s not impossible these days to find brave people in public service, but what rises to the top? Is the process like flatulence in a bath?

In the last summer of George VI’s reign, a relatively junior RAF officer, Flt-Lt John Quinton DFC gave away the only parachute he had to save a young Air Cadet he was training at the cost of his life: The ultimate zenith of courage and leadership. I am reminded of a quote I read about being a Lieutenant in the (IIRC Imperial) German Army.

To live your life as a Lieutenant is to life your life as an example to your men. Dying as an example is thus part of it‘.

Grim, but accurate. In living memory, examples such as the Royal Navy destroyer Acasta, turning to face the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in June 1940, and earlier HMS Rawalpindi, whose Captain Kennedy reportedly announced, in the hope of delaying his attackers to let a larger force get them’We shall stand and fight them both, and we shall be sunk, and that will be that. Goodbye.‘. Chilling, but, in the overall scheme of things, better than surrendering and strengthening the enemy.

Sir Craig did what was, to him, undoubtedly the right thing, all his years of service and significant salary did not come with a payback clause, or if they did, it was binding in honour only. He did not breach health and safety law for himself or his companions.

Sir Craig did not take the substantive job of Commissioner, that went to the officer who managed the hunt for a terrorist that turned into the shooting of an innocent Brazilian electrician. This was found to be a crime, in terms of a breach of Health and Safety, but this was no bar to getting the top job, after all, it was a corporate failing, not anything that anyone was to be held responsible for.

Of course, in WW1, we had epic failures on land and sea that seemed to go unpunished. It’s just that these days, it seems almost to be too much to expect leadership by example from our public ‘servants’. What sort of descent has it been for the UK, when the Queen’s first Prime Minister was Churchill, and now it is May, with Corbyn waiting in the wings? Has this pattern set, or followed, the trend? If this trend is irreversible, surely the only answer is that this is yet another reason to reduce the public sector.

21 comments to Leadership in Elizabeth’s Britain

  • bobby b

    An unarmed cop – especially a scared unarmed cop – is of less use than a comfort dog, and quite a bit more expensive.

    Save your money – fire most of your cops and buy some poodles. Win/win.

  • biff

    Well, even in the United States, we know that Churchill was a horrible racist and must not be used as an example of good leadership.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45789819

  • Phil B

    Add HMS Glowworm to that list of ships …

    However, the Police are as much use as a chocolate fireguard and are merely the uniformed branch of the left wing institutions, similar to the Chinese Red Army (the armed branch of the Chinese Communist Party) and the Allgemiene SS and SA (the uniformed branch of the National Socialist German Workers Party).

    They have long since ceased to be the Police Force of Robert Peel.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I think anyone who came up against that individual would have faced serious, serious injury, if not death

    This may be the case, but two policemen (Mackey and Palmer) trained in unarmed combat, could have had a much better chance to have taken down and stopped a single attacker armed with just a knife. Perhaps there may have been an injury, perhaps that might have caused a death, but the end result would be a dangerous armed fanatic was taken out.

    If not cowardice, this man made a fatal tactical mistake when it mattered.

  • Penseivat

    I understand that Mackey has now offered his resignation. I bet his farewell party will be a hoot! Almost as entertaining as the Police reunions.

  • Eric

    Well, even in the United States, we know that Churchill was a horrible racist and must not be used as an example of good leadership.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45789819

    That was instructive. Kelly tried for some cheap grace from the leftists, who proceeded to pounce on him because he’s not woke enough to realize Churchill’s been unpersoned by the perpetually aggrieved, then he made a grovelling apology which was refused anyway. Apparently you don’t have to be very intelligent to be an astronaut anymore.

  • The Pedant-General

    Apparently you don’t have to be very intelligent to be an astronaut anymore

    Or apparently, which absolutely the hallmark of astronauts as portrayed in “Right Stuff” – a basic level of moral courage.

  • Rob

    What grates is the chestful of medals he has. How did he earn them?

    Sir Craig told jurors it was his ‘instinct’ to get out of the car, but was in a short-sleeved shirt with no equipment following (a) ministerial meeting. ‘I was conscious my two colleagues were not police officers. If anyone had got out, the way this Masood was looking, anyone who got in his way would have been a target,’ he said. ‘I think anyone who came up against that individual would have faced serious, serious injury, if not death.’

    I think his explanation is balls. He could have left the car and told the others to stay inside, locking the doors. This would have been exactly the same situation for them as the one he actually chose, which was for all three to stay inside, locking the doors.

    I can’t condemn the man for fearing for his life, I can condemn him for bullshitting about it and for having a chestful of medals for doing precisely eff all.

  • John B

    ‘… was in a short-sleeved shirt with no equipment…

    Would long sleeves have made a difference? His equipment included two hands, two feet and a brain capable of deploying them.

    He could at least have been a distraction and divided the attacker’s attention between his immediate target and a new threat. This may have given more time for other police to arrive on scene and delay the fatal blows to his victim.

    That is the tactical thinking that qualifies police for senior roles. So in this case the Peter Principle applies… Mackey had risen to the level of his incompetence.

  • Penseivat

    Rob,
    I believe the medals are either time served (Long Servce), Queen’s Police Medal (given to those of high rank), Queen’s Jubilee Medals (serving during an anniversary) and his knighthood. None of them are for bravery, courage, or service above his normal duties or can be considered honours. They are there to make him look good when standing beside those junior in service or rank, or more deserving.

  • […] Then there comes this to our attention from Mr Ed at  Samizdata. […]

  • Rob

    They are there to make him look good when standing beside those junior in service or rank, or more deserving.

    He’s going to need a lot more medals now, if that is the case.

  • JohnK

    When Smith & Wesson launched the small Model 36 revolver, it was called the Chief’s Special, the idea being that even cops who mostly flew a desk might need a gun every now and then.

    In contrast to that, the British police are mad keen to disarm the public of any sort of weapon which might be used in self-defence. It seems they have even disarmed themselves.

    Sir Craig will have to live with the memory of seeing a colleague murdered in front of him, and doing nothing. He gets no sympathy from me.

  • XC

    My personal hero, Ernest Edwin Evans, basically attacked a Japanese fleet with a destroyer. The Johnston was eventually sunk, losing 2/3 of the men but he saved 16 pocket carriers and the marines invading Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

    Before departing Pearl in 1942, he lined the crew up and told them that he intended to sail into harms way (you English may remember John Paul Jones, ahem). He then said that anyone could leave, but anyone who wanted to seek out and strike at the enemy no matter what the cost was welcome to come with him.

    You can read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_E._Evans

    -XC

    PS – For people who care about such things, he was the only part Native American naval commander in WWII and, I believe, was the first to graduate from the USNA.

  • Mr Ecks

    Rob–“What grates is the chestful of medals he has. How did he earn them?”

    “Mutley you snickering , floppy-eared hound.
    When courage is needed you’re never around,
    Those medals you wear on your moth-eaten chest,
    Should be there for bungling at which you are best”.

  • Today’s Daily Telegraph print edition has an article by a policeman of 28-years-service titled:

    Mackey has betrayed policemen like me

    The article’s contents are in keeping – and state that its author and many policemen he “is proud to call friends” still practice that valour that Mackey thinks the worse part of discretion. The facing-page editorial complements the article by making the very daring suggestion that

    The primary responsibility of the police is not to advance social justice and equality but to keep us safe

    I’m not sure if the paper will be charged with hate speech for making claims so far outside what is ‘acceptable’ nowadays.

  • CaptDMO

    Do cars in England come with spare tires?
    How about tire irons?

  • Chris Cooper

    I wonder if Sir Craig was involved in developing the police advice to “Run, hide, tell” in a terrorist attack – advice that says nothing about attempting to thwart or at least impede the attack so that others’ lives might be saved.

  • Chris Cooper: “I wonder if Sir Craig was involved in developing the police advice to “Run, hide, tell”…”

    Worse:

    Wrung his hands over traveller intimidation

    Favoured minorities for scarse police resources

    Professed ignorance over the causes of rising sex crime

  • staghounds

    “Run over him with this big safe steel box, driver!”

  • Paul Marks

    We must not be beastly to Sir Craig – after all it would clearly have been “racist” to do anything, and then Sir Craig would have had to arrest himself for the vile bigotry of not allowing Mr Masood to express his Cultural Identity in the traditional war.

    I might agree with staghounds (I DO agree with staghounds) – but then I am sitting at the same table where I was interviewed and tape recorded in relation to my vile lack of P.C. ness. I got off – not even a trip to the police station (now the closed police station). Next time I might not be so lucky – I can see why Sir Craig might be worried about his own fate.

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