Friday, December 17, 2010
Had work not taken me to the Netherlands this week (a brief and bizarre trip to a lovely country, about which I will blog soon) then I would have spent yesterday at a brief ceremony unveiling a memorial plaque to honour the deaths of three City of London policemen, who were shot and killed in 16 December 1910, in one of the most infamous and intriguing cases in British criminal history.
There followed a shoot-out, a rather unfair one because the police were unarmed, and three were shot dead, still the worst fatal incident suffered by British police in peace time. One of the gang was killed, but the others - it was unsure how many there were - escaped. For the next few weeks, the story gripped the nation, and a huge manhunt was launched.
The incident created a wave of fear towards immigrants, followed by inevitable calls for tough laws to be introduced to prevent a repeat. Churchill, to his credit, resisted any draconian measures, swayed by a letter written by fellow Liberal MP Josiah Wedgewood, just three days after the siege ended. New laws might be understandable, he wrote, 'but lower the whole character of the nation.'
'You know as well as I do that human life does not matter a rap in comparison with the death of ideas and the betrayal of English traditions.'
Food for thought in these equally turbulent times.
Dan - Friday
at 7:30 AM