No Home Secretary should be using police raids as photo ops wearing a quasi-police uniform

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:

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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25 thoughts on “No Home Secretary should be using police raids as photo ops wearing a quasi-police uniform”

  1. There’s something uncomfortably voyeuristic about Patel’s behaviour here – a perverse coming-together of Cosplay and dogging.

    “Someone getting manhandled into the back of a Black Maria?

    I like to watch…

  2. It looks, from the photo, that the Home Secretary is standing on private premises. The police have powers in certain circumstances to enter onto private property for the purposes of making an arrest and investigating crime. Does the Home Secretary?

    1. Trespassing, and since the sight of her is highly likely to cause distress to the property owner, it will be a criminal offence if/when her Police etc bill is enacted in full.

  3. I agree. Personally I don’t think either the Home Secretary or the media should attend Police raids. Presumably the subjects of the raids should be considered innocent in advance of being proved guilty. Hence high level publicity is not really appropriate Or is this an old fashioned view. Certainly police action should not be used to promote oneself.

    1. …and we remember the disgraceful presence of the BBC at the police raid on the home of Sir Cliff Richard, and its consequences in defamation proceedings which followed.

  4. Great blog – tyvm. I know someone who had there sentence cut on appeal for this offence. 3mnths custodial 1st offence. It’s a serious offence & important to be clearly understood as such… like I say great blog.

  5. It is a pity that, for the sake of our sanity, that the law on “political uniforms” does not go further. Anything to prevent politicians (particularly Johnson) from dressing up in a high-vis coat, or as a builder, or lab scientist, or baker or anything similar would help.

    1. Anything to prevent politicians (particularly Johnson) from dressing up in a high-vis coat, or as a builder, or lab scientist, or baker or anything similar would help.

      Frankly, I object to that less than I do him being allowed to dress up as a politician with the country’s best interests at heart…

  6. Presumably the Secretary of State made an order permitting the Secretary of State (as she may do under Section 1) to dress up for the occasion (though the gold slippers rather let down).

    George Orwell predicted of postwar England that “the gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies”.

    Though prescient about many things, he did not foresee this.

  7. No, you’re right. No Home Secretary should be using Police raids as a photo opportunity dressed as a “quasi-police officer”.

    But things aren’t normal and Priti Patel is no ordinary Home Secretary, supported by that PM and a collection of MP’s which replaced the Conservative Party that was.

    On a more light hearted note someone pointed out yesterday that she could have got the washing in.

    Keep Blogging, eagerly read in this household.

  8. Whatever the legal position, she is clearly guilty of causing offence by wearing, with that black coat, white shoes. The Style Police should be right after her.

  9. Churchill got it in the neck for interfering with police matters. There is a scathing account in “The Strange Death of Liberal England” by George Dangerfield (1935). I have a copy of his essay defending his behaviour, an engaging and self-deprecating piece where he excuses himself by saying he got a phone call while at dinner and set out in a spirit of thoughtless enthusiasm. He was at least able to sort out a dispute between the Police and Fire Brigade on the spot.

  10. Nothing would surprise me about the current Home Secretary. I could well imagine she tours the Detention Centres in the evenings smugly smirking at the EU citizens and poking the refugees with a prod. She is a complete stranger to the term “inappropriate”.

  11. Can you imagine Roy Jenkins, Jack Straw, Jacqui Smith, Douglas Hurd, Alan Johnson dressing up like this during their time as Home Secretary? Come to that, any Home Secretary.

  12. Never forget Michael Heseltine as Defence Secretary donning a flak jacket to participate in the clearing of the women’s anti nuclear weapons protest at Greenham Common. An outrageous act on his part.

  13. Somehow the personalized jacket is the worst of it, whether she ordered it or some toady anticipated her wishes (and what does it say that her tastes are both so basely gratified and easily read?)

    One of the replies to Barbara Sutton’s tweet was of Himmler gawping at a prisoner of war, and it’s apposite: both combine the smirking preen of flaunting power with a fundamental small-mindedness. And just as Himmler squabbled for the succession of power in the dying days of the Third Reich, I’m sure she’ll be foremost in the tussle when Johnson falls.

  14. To be fair, in partial extenuation, her combat jacket bore the title “Home Secretary” and one may anyway doubt that the arrested individuals cared a whit. The next day, the PM, while inspecting HMS Queen Elizabeth II, wore a similar jacket, bearing a similar stitched label with the title of his office.

      1. It put me in mind of the kind of thing you might give a toddler who has just learned to use the toilet on his own – a sort of “I’m a BIG BOY Now..!” badge.

        It’s not as if anyone is going to struggle to identify him without some sort of branding, but it fairly reeked of hubris.

  15. The Spaffer-in-Chief also had a similar wardrobe malfunction recently. One suspects that the messages from Mr Bannon are still reaching their inboxes as the disunited Kingdom canters towards full Trumpism. The Nasty Party indeed.

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