‘Outsiders’ always know best…Apparently?

Harry Enfield at a University of York alumni m...
Harry Enfield

I have to admit, I often find it comical and somewhat ironic that; individuals external to an organisation or process always appear to know best? What’s worse is, these so-called ‘experts’ and ‘pundits’ are often ingratiated and lauded by many who really should know better…

We’ve all come across an irritating opinionated little twerp; the one who pokes his head over the garden fence and says, in a condescending grating and matter of fact tone… “Only me! You don’t want to do it like that, Oh No, you wanna do it like this!”  If not him perhaps you have come across the Self-Righteous Brothers Frank and George Doberman or, obnoxious Old Gits who take great delight in persecuting younger people – sometimes even directing their cruelty of comment at other groups of people, so as not to discriminate.

As Harry Enfield & Chums observed towards the end of the last millennium; our society appears to be packed full of those who profess to know the answers to everything… Perhaps Enfield’s satirical and prophetic insight into the malady of  British sociopolitical issues stemmed from his reading of politics at the University of York? Whatever the reason for his somewhat enlightened foresight, a worrying factor still remains; two decades down the line, very little appears to have changed in his comical prophecy?

The recent riots in England have served to creat a convenient stage for all manner of vociferous opinionated people. A myriad of individuals who suddenly (and arguably) have a ‘valid’ opinion have raced to the dispatch box, soapbox and microphone to deliver their brand of answers and conclusions. It should be remembered however; much of this activity has simply emerged due to social, political or occupational personal  agenda. Somewhat surprisingly, there appears to have been little pulpit activity, thus far?

As the riots have occurred at the exact point when our government are pushing through radical reforms in UK policing, this current state of affairs has served to bring an even greater number of ‘experts’ out of the woodwork. Everyone, connected or not, as the case may be, finally has an opinion on policing, even some (perhaps) unrelated journals and periodicals have got views…

Send for SupercopWhat British police chiefs might learn from America’s most effective oneSir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, questioned the value of tips about gangs from parts of America with so many of them, especially considering that America’s level of violence and style of policing “are so fundamentally different”……(economist.com)

Trying to keep abreast of current opinion on these recent events; I found it interesting to read the comments of Sir Hugh Orde in today’s Times – Opinion Column; Tension between politicians and police is healthy…

One of the foundation stones of British policing is Robert Peel‘s doctrine of constabulary independence. This insulates the police from political control and allows them to rely on their expertise, judgement and experience in their operations…(Sir Hugh Orde)

As per media normality, much of what Sir Hugh has said recently has been cherry picked by journalists, manipulated and presented in a manner to ‘evidence’ a particular (sociopolitical) story line. Sir Hugh states there is ‘no ‘tension’ between the police and politics, just ‘healthy debate’.  Accusations have been made (from outside) that the service is “insular” and that both he and the service are “resistant to change” and opposed to any “advice” from outside the service…

It is disappointing to see a mounting attack on British policing. We should be proud of our tried and tested model of policing – a largely unarmed service based on minimum force and minimum interference with citizens’ rights – and we are determined to preserve it. But let no one think we are not open to challenge and change…(Sir Hugh Orde)

The latter comments enforce and sit squarely with those made on numerous occasions by the Police Federation of England & Wales. Both the leadership and the rank and file of the police service are solid on this ethos and (for a change) totally united. Conversely, Prof. Tim Newburn of the London School of Economics argues that…

The long-standing tension between police and politicians needs to be dealt with now. We cannot keep politics out of the police, and we should not seek to…(blogs.lse.ac.uk)

In a way I can see his point, all policing not least the British brand, has to be accountable to the society it serves. I can also see that in may respects, any particular brand or colour of politics reflects the views of our multi-faceted society. A society that formulates and bases its opinion, and consequently its politics, on where individuals actually sit within their social hierarchy. That said, accountability is a whole different ball game to political influence, or interference. Any ‘accountability’ must be a-political.

I suspect this is one of the reasons that Tim appears to agree with the rank and file of the police service. A service that, despite allegations of insular objection to change, has for some time now be calling for a full and impartial proper examination of what we as a society require of our police service…

So where do we go from here? Though they are deeply unfashionable, I remain of the view that this is the moment for a new Royal Commission on the Police. Governance and accountability ought to be its key theme…(Prof Tim Newburn)

The pomposity of our predominant hindsight political machine, where comment or action is often configured and delivered simply around a craving for (perceived) public popularity, usually does little to resolve the problems. However and just for a change, perhaps an outsider such as Tim Newburn really does have the right answer!

3 thoughts on “‘Outsiders’ always know best…Apparently?

  1. Strangely enough the evidence is that much advice taken from outsiders is misunderstood, and in the case of our police taken up long after being disproved. Organisations rarely have much clue on how to re-organise themselves though. Those calling outsiders for interfering fail to note they are often considered such themselves in the course of ordinary duty or work. Cops are highly resented outsiders in their actions against criminal networks etc.


    1. I take the point that “much advice taken from outsiders is misunderstood” but isn’t that due to the fact an ‘outsider’ often doesn’t really fully understand that which they comment upon so freely? That said, I concur that, in the case of policing, any meaningful change (proved or disproved) is in any case woefully slow to be implemented. I have to say however; personally, I was always proud to be an ‘outsider’ when impacting upon the daily work of crooks but… Influence by advice as opposed to retribution by punishment can often be the better form of intervention.


  2. Now then you really got my hackles up with this one! Interfeering busybodies whose only sense of purpose in life is to get up everyone else’s noses are the bane of our modern (technological) society, we’ve always had them, but now due to the modern media we have to listen to them as well. Armchair Generals, Constables and experts on all that is wrong in society, yet when the job is done with no fanfare they are in short supply. Bastards! I could rant on all day but time is to precious and my blood pressure to high.
    Lets just remember though… The types that are mentioned above are now called politicians and journalists!


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