21st May 2021
Under section 1 of the Public Order Act 1936 it is an offence to wear political uniforms.
And section 90 of the Police Act 1990 provides that it is an offence to impersonate a police officer.
But politicians do like dressing up.
Here is a Labour politician – an elected police and crime commissioner in 2017.
His Conservative political opponents were scathing:
But partisanship is the foe of consistency, and so we now have a Conservative politician dressed in quasi-police kit:
The remarkable thing is that the Conservative politician in question is the actual Home Secretary.
We have the Home Secretary dressing up in a quasi-police uniform and going on operations where coercive force is used.
When I re-tweeted a gloss on this significant picture yesterday, I was told-off because the original tweet had got the nature of the police operation wrong:
…it would not have made slightest difference had pic been captioned 'trafficking raid'— davidallengreen (@davidallengreen) May 21, 2021
There is something wrong and unseemly in home secretary attending any raids for photo ops
There is something sinister in ministers wearing uniforms
So I would have tweeted the same
The nature of the offence, and of the police operation, is irrelevant.
The Home Secretary could be attending the arrest of the most notorious criminal in the land, and it would not make a difference.
There is something wrong – and crass – about Home Secretaries using such operations as photo opportunities.
And there is something sinister about doing it in a quasi-police uniform.
Not even Churchill did that over a hundred years ago as a similarly opportunistic Home Secretary (and he was more entitled to wear a uniform, as a former soldier):
(And even John Terry had some claim to be able to wear his Chelsea kit in that famous 2012 incident.)
Exploiting – indeed weaponising – police operations for political purposes is unwise and illiberal – whether the politician is Conservative or Labour or even Winston Churchill.)
It points to the misuse and abuse of law and law enforcement – that certain things are being done not for the straight purposes of justice and due process.
It also speaks to the increasing authoritarianism in our political culture.
There is, of course, a good reason why impersonating a police officer is banned.
And there is a very good reason why in 1936 – of all years, if you think about it – the wearing of uniforms for political purposes was banned.
Nationalistic populist authoritarianism is something to be opposed, not encouraged.
And that, at least, was something Winston Churchill (despite his many manifest faults) got more right than his current day Conservative successors.
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