United Kingdom

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: On the Thin Blue Line? Not exactly... Police are facing collapse in confidence

Here's another one of those columns I don't know whether to file under Call Me Old-Fashioned, Mind How You Go, or Makes You Proud To Be British.

But this photograph of a copper on duty in Downing Street stopped me in my tracks at the weekend. It's what's known in the trade as an 'Oi, Doris!' moment. As in: 'Oi, Doris, have you seen the state of this?'

The heavily tattooed firearms officer is leaning over a racing car parked outside No 10. His ample stomach precedes him. Not exactly the Thin Blue Line. I haven't identified him, for good reason. I've been on a police weapons course and have nothing but admiration for those officers willing to carry a gun on our behalf.

When the bullets start flying, these guys run towards the sound of gunfire, not away from it. Clearly, this chap is a braver man than I am, Gunga Din. So I hope he doesn't take this personally.

But this photograph of a copper on duty in Downing Street stopped me in my tracks at the weekend. It's what's known in the trade as an 'Oi, Doris!' moment. As in: 'Oi, Doris, have you seen the state of this?'

As a dedicated specialist on the frontline against terrorism, he is exemplary. As the public face of modern policing, not so much.

Like it or not, image is everything these days. And, be honest, we're not talking Dixon Of Dock Green here.

Who thought it was a good idea to put him outside the most famous address in the country?

Take away the police insignia and he resembles one of those football hooligans who went on the rampage after England's defeat by Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

All that's missing is the red flare up his backside. And, yes, call me old-fashioned if you must, but to my mind those tattoos are hideous. Menacing almost.

At the risk of being accused of fat-shaming, it's fair to say that he's also carrying a bit of excess timber. For all I know, he could be the Met's cross country champion, a sub three-hour marathon runner.

But on first impressions, he's a prime candidate for the 5:2 diet, not exactly a poster boy for the police in the middle of an obesity epidemic. His stab vest struggles to contain his stomach. Actually his vest looks like those worn by anglers to hold an assortment of flies, floats, reels, twine, hooks, penknives and so on. He's carrying all kinds of kit, including a taser, handcuffs, a walkie-talkie and goodness knows what else.

Like it or not, image is everything these days. And, be honest, we're not talking Dixon Of Dock Green here

His trousers need ironing. Frankly, not to put too fine a point on it, he just looks scruffy, hardly a great advert for Scotland Yard.

We've admittedly come a long way from Roger Miller singing about bobbies on bicycles two by two. If you want to know the time today, consult your iPhone, don't bother asking a policeman, even if you can find one. Following a series of unedifying scandals, from the Nonces In High Places fiasco, to taking the knee and running away from Black Lives Matter protesters, the police are facing a collapse in confidence.

The public are looking for reassurance, for a greater presence on the streets. Boris Johnson is promising that all victims will get a named officer to investigate crimes committed against them.

But this chap looks like someone you'd cross the road to avoid.

As I said, this isn't to detract in any way from his bravery or professionalism. Yet given that image is all these days, you might have expected that when it comes to policing the most iconic street in Britain, (Cressida) Dick of Dock Green would have sent someone who actually looks the part.

Mind how you go.

Migrants billeted at a hotel in Hythe, Kent, all claim to be under 18 to avoid deportation. Of course they do. 

Twenty years ago, I wrote a novel, To Hell In A Handcart, in which one of the main characters, a Romanian gangster, came to Britain illegally and pretended to be a minor so he could gain asylum.

You couldn't make it up — except in that case I did.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised for saying people shouldn't 'cower' in the face of Covid.

Why? I used exactly the same expression in my Madman In The Attic piece about Boris self-isolating at Chequers.

If anyone thinks I'm going to apologise, they can fuggedaboudit, as they say on The Sopranos.

How else would you describe someone double-jabbed and brimming with antibodies hiding away in quarantine?

Cowering seems to fit the bill perfectly. The Saj backed down after Labour accused him of being 'insensitive' towards those who had either suffered from the virus or lost someone close to Covid.

Javid immediately repented. 'It was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise,' he grovelled. No it wasn't. It was the right word and there was absolutely no reason for him to say sorry. Why does anyone take the slightest notice of a confected Twitterstorm?

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised for saying people shouldn't 'cower' in the face of Covid. Why? I used exactly the same expression in my Madman In The Attic piece about Boris self-isolating at Chequers

The Saj should have told them to foxtrot oscar. But we live in an age of the unwarranted apology. Boris going into hiding last week was a ridiculous example of extreme risk-aversion. The vaccines were supposed to be his Get Out Of Jail card. But having broken out, he broke back in again.

I was reminded of the Peter Sellers' movie, Two Way Stretch, when the lags escaped from prison to commit a robbery then slipped back over the wall to give themselves an alibi.

If they ever remake The Great Escape with Boris in the Steve McQueen role, he'd jump the fence on his motorbike before driving round to the front gate asking to be let back in.

Paula Vennells, the former Post Office chief responsible for the wrongful convictions and bankruptcies of hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters, may be stripped of her CBE. Not nearly enough. 

She should be prosecuted for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and forced to endure the same misery she inflicted on her blameless employees.

She who must be disobeyed

John Mortimer's daughter Emily now says she is planning to bring back his wonderful creation Horace Rumpole . . . as a woman.

Spare us.

The Rumpole stories already feature strong female characters, from She Who Must Be Obeyed to the Lovely Portia, Phyllida Trant.

What's the obsession with rewriting everything?

I can understand how Miss Mortimer would wish to cash in on her late father's legacy, but it isn't necessary for Rumpole to change sex.

If she wants to create a female Old Bailey hack, she's free to do so. Just leave Rumpole alone. There have been female barristers on TV before. Think the brilliant Maxine Peake in Silk.

Same goes for those who want a female or black James Bond. Just invent another female or black secret agent.

Idris Elba already has Luther and Stringer Bell as two of his signature roles. Why does he need to be 007, too?

Rumpole is immortal. Emily Mortimer shouldn't tinker with him.

When Rumpole was told to move with the times, he replied: 'If I don't like the way the times are moving, I shall refuse to accompany them.

A garden full of weeds has been awarded a gold medal at a Royal Horticultural Show. Flobadob! Weeeed!

This rewilding business is getting completely out of hand. A garden full of weeds has been awarded a gold medal at a Royal Horticultural Show.

The designer said they were trying to 'rebrand' weeds such as ragwort and care for them as much as other flowers. 

Flobadob! Weeeed!

After the heatwave, the deluge. Half the country is now under water following severe thunderstorms.

That'll be the global warming, presumably.

Football news:

Ibrahimovic will not play with Juve, most likely. Chiesa and Bernardeschi can take part in the match
Boateng, fined 1.8 million euros for attacking an ex-girlfriend, filed an appeal
Ancelotti called David Luiz to offer to move to Real Madrid
One-Bissaka will appear in court for driving without a license
Southgate wants more women to work in the staff of the England national team
Mourinho on the victory over CSKA Sofia: Roma did not deserve 5:1. I did not like the game
Steve Bruce: My family thinks I'm sick because I'm not leaving Newcastle