Bombers and Bunglers

ABOUT 250 offices poured into Forest Gate on Friday. Their superiors briefed
that they were on the trail of the makers of poison gas bombs. To outsiders
it looked as if we were watching a triumph for intelligence-led policing.
Five days on, what has all the fingertip searching produced? Zilch to
date, beyond the shooting of a suspect in circumstances that remain murky,
to put it mildly. Unelected “community leaders” are predicting a “Muslim
backlash” with varying degrees of relish, and the Met is unable to counter
them with evidence of a chemical weapon. It may well be a scandalous
blunder. If it is, we may well have to get used to blunders that are just as
scandalous because blundering is close to inevitable when the threat of a
massacre is combined with the absence good intelligence.
Everyone I know connected to the anti-terrorist effort says the
authorities are looking for clues in the dark. Reliable tip offs are so rare
older officers remember with nostalgia to the days when they fought the IRA
with the help of a small army of informers.
Ah, but you might say, isn’t it the job of MI5 and the Met to get good
intelligence? Isn’t finding informers what we pay them for? But
intelligence isn’t like a seam of gold waiting underground for a miner to dig up. You
can’t just go out and get it. People have to talk to you, and not enough
people are talking to the authorities who are too often clutching at straws.
This might seem an excellent reason for caution unless you are paid to
think about the scale of the catastrophe that might hit London. Tony Blair
has got many things wrong but he got one big thing right when he said after
9/11 that if al Qaeda could have killed tens of thousands rather than
thousands it would have done.
Like others who don’t insist on putting all the blame for Islamist
violence on the West, I’ve been struck by the huge overlap between Islamism
and fascism. It has adopted Adolf Hitler’s conspiracy theories in every
detail. It has its chosen people, with the Muslims substituting for the
Germans, and the psychopathic belief it must kill without limit to free the
chosen people from what it sees as the corruptions of the modern world.
There is one important difference, however. The fascists of the Thirties
and the IRA of the Seventies were members of hierarchical organisations that
the police could infiltrate. Outside the states they control, there is no
Islamist hierarchy. Any freelancer can take in the ideology in radical
bookshops, on the Net or in prison, and go off and kill.
I’m not saying that officers who shoot innocent people shouldn’t be
prosecuted or that we shouldn’t demand the highest professional standards. I’m
just suggesting we need to get real and accept that there will be many more
baseless scare stories and fruitless raids.

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WHEN the BBC Board of Governors declared that ‘gay’ now means ‘rubbish’ the
death knell sounded for a PC way of doing business. Years ago, the cheerful ‘gay’ was meant to replace ‘queer’ and far nastier homophobic insults. All that has happened is that teenagers have turned ‘gay’ into a new insult. Similarly, campaigners for the handicapped fought
successfully to replace ‘mongolism’ and ‘mongol’ with Down’s Syndrome. They
meant well, but their failure was brought home to me when I heard a furious
man bellow “you’re a Down’s Syndrome case” at someone who had spilt his
beer. If you want to change the world by fighting for homosexual rights and
compassionate treatment for the handicapped, do it and I’ll be with you. But
don’t duck out of the struggle by falling for the lazy belief that you can
change the world by changing language. It’s gay.

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TO THE CAMBRIDGE THEATRE for an odd evening watching Dancing in the Streets,
a celebration of Motown. I had a good time, but there was nothing theatrical
about it. The show was just tribute bands performing the hits of Marvin
Gaye, the Temptations and the Supremes.
As I looked at the audience, I realised it was getting what it couldn’t
get elsewhere. Not even Radio 2 plays much Motown these days. Nor does it
play much Sinatra, which is why there’s a Rat Pack show at the Savoy. Nor
does the BBC put on left wing ‘Play for the Days,’ which is why Sir David
Hare and his kind churn out political dramas which never challenge their
liberal audiences’ prejudices. Niche marketing has its place, but can’t we
be more ambitious?

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THE ONE thing journalists enjoy above all else is mocking the sports’ desk.
Obviously, we have to use words of only one syllable and speak very, very
slowly or they wouldn’t understand us, but it is worth the effort because no
one gets it wrong as thoroughly and regularly as football correspondents.
Example: they said for years that Peter Crouch was a carthorse their
grannies could outrun. Result: Crouch now only has to look at a ball for it
to go in the back of the net.
Now they’re saying Erickson doesn’t know how to organise his team. That’s
the World Cup won, then.

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