I am going to revisit two of my blogs of this week to make some additional comments.
To start let me restate my position on the right to demonstrate. In a democracy I believe we have the basic right to peacefully express our views by marching or holding protests.
Furthermore I believe it is one of the tasks of the British police force to ensure we are able to practice that right without hindrance.
I do not believe that being in a democracy gives us the right to riot, cause damage or abuse the police verbally or physically. I do believe the police have the right to protect themselves, property and members of the public.
During the G20 protests in London there were thousands of police on duty. The vast majority performed their tasks within the law and in a praiseworthy manner. Sadly there are those who did not and we are now seeing the fall-out from those tragedies.
If there are officers who were guilty of assault, if there are officers who have a culture of violence, if there are sections of the force that are trained and instructed to act inappropriately, and there are senior officers who attempted to cover us such acts – then they must be rooted out and dealt with.
However the events surrounding the G20 in London and just days later the violence that erupted in Strasbourg at the NATO Summit are starkly different. In France for example, they have a trained riot police, whose methods would simply not be accepted in Britain but whose actions were applauded by their political masters in that country.
It is right that in Britain we demand the highest standards of our police. It is right also that when a section of the force or individual officers break the law they were set up to defend – they should be punished, and heavily. However let us be careful not to blacken the name of an entire police force and that of thousands of good officers – because that would not be democratic either.
I close with Gibraltar and its off-shore status. On the day I wrote my blog on the OECD Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, sent a missive to the UK’s tax havens including Gibraltar informing them that they had to meet international transparency standards by signing 12 bilateral tax agreement by November or face sanctions.
The facts are these: Gibraltar signed an accord to meet the OECD’s standards in 2002 then sat on its hands for seven years and did nothing. Ahead of the G20 meeting it hurriedly signed a tax agreement with the USA but has seen itself demoted down the OECD’s list of “Good Guys”. Under the threat of sanctions the British Government has now given the Rock till November to get its house in order.
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, says he is confident that they would meet that timetable. A miracle – 13 agreements in seven months after seven years of doing nothing.
So it still begs the questions why did Gibraltar sign the agreement in 2002 then do nothing when it could have acted and been the pace-setter amongst off-shore tax havens?
Why has it given the strong critics of tax havens a sitting target – because even if it now complies it will be the threat of sanctions that is held up as the reason – when it could have been the model off-shore centre all others were made to follow?