It is clear that Daniel Hannan who was a Conservative MEP for the South East region from 1999 till the beginning of this year was well respected by the political party as he was elected as leader of the regional group for many years. He was also added to the advisory group for the UK Trade Board a few days ago by the Government as I pointed out a few hours ago here. His wide range of publications in a variety of newspapers and magazines and his invitation to speak in many settings add to his credibility. Of course the challenge is that he is not accountable. Because he was the leader of the Tory group in the South East the only way for voters to reject him from the MEP position would have been for none of them to vote for the party and even in last years election when all of the other MEPs did not get elected, he received sufficient votes to get retained. He was appointed as the only Tory party member outside of the Government as the Trade Board advisory group and yet like the rest of them he was not selected in an way that was determined outside of the Government itself. So his tweet published at about 2.30pm this afternoon is clearly very disturbing because of his lack of accountability and his high profile political role. Arguably one of the disturbing elements of his tweet is the implication that free speech is free press. This relates to an attempt by Extinction Rebellion to stop the Telegraph, Sun and Times newspapers from being published. Such an attempt does not equate to the end of free speech and these newspapers are certainly not free.
I write this as someone who has had the privilege to work with Sussex Police as a member of their Independent Advisory Group for the last 16 years. I have also worked with them for the last ten years as the coordinator and then the Chair person of the Brighton and Hove Street Pastors. I also worked with Sussex Police in a range of networks such as the Local Strategic Partnerships across Sussex and with the range of Street Pastors and Street Angels when I was the coordinator for Churches Together in Sussex. Over that time I have had the opportunity to meet a wide range of Police Officers and Staff who work for the Police in Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and further away. I know very well that Hannan’s comments are in absolute conflict with the behaviour of all of these police agencies based on the many hours I have spent with these organisations that serve their communities.
It is certainly vital that the way in which the Police deal with groups of people, just as they deal with individuals can vary quite a lot depending on the police officers themselves as well as the people they are dealing with. However the way in which people are dealt with does not reflect on any sense of fear. Occasionally Police Officers do make mistakes although given the huge number of actions that are made every hour this is hardly surprising as they are human beings and on far too many occasions Police Officers are placed in a position which involves a severe threat towards them and sadly on some occasions they are killed as we know very well. One of the challenges that the Police are faced with is that rules and recommendations regarding COVID-19 have been made by Government Ministers, often without any checks made by Parliament. This certainly has a bearing on the first items of Daniel Hannans comment. All of the other issues have not changed over many years and the Police are certainly not dominating people nor fearful of people in most cases. Where these things do go wrong occasionally the Police are accountable and will be assisted by their IAG’s and PCC’s and the Home Office. Criticising them via twitter happens all the time from many people. However someone like Hannan should not do this without being challenged. Sadly he does not respond to most people, apart from explaining that he was not their MEP because he did not believe they had voted for him! Now he is a Trade Board advisor he is not accountable to anyone.
Actually, tweeting in that way is an abuse of his offical position, surely? His privileges as a private citizen are tempered by his public office.
I agree with Joanna
Too many ‘public’ figures indiscriminately ‘tweet’ using their public status to enhance some otherwise private views. something the new Director General of the BBC is clearly keen to wipe out.
As long as the BBC DG does it even-handedly, that’s fair. He’ll be under scrutiny for quite some time because of his links to the Tories and to Brexit.