|On the Beat
1 Sep 2001
And so to the local Police Station, to spend six hours on patrol with the local constabulary and see how they maintain law and order in the constituency. And mighty impressive it was too; we were summoned to a house where the owner was building an extension. He was doing the excavation himself and unearthed what he thought was a landmine. Our intrepid policeman inspected it at close quarters, took the view that it was a discarded piece of ironmongery and kicked it to convince us of his opinion. Some of this story was received at second hand, as I chose to locate myself behind a tree while our hero defused, as it were, the situation. Then it was off to an armed robbery, with instructions for the MP to stay in the car and not become a local hero by rugger tackling men with masks.
The last time I went on patrol with the police was when I was an inner city MP in London. The Chief Superintendent informed me that the best time to go out in the patrol car was about 10.30 the following Friday evening. We were dining with friends that night and I arranged to be collected from their home, and delivered to my own home after our duties were completed.
As we sipped coffee, my hosts were surprised when a police car screeched to a halt outside, blue lights flashing. Two policemen rushed in, removed the local MP and bundled him into the car. The police were on their way to a call, and had made a short, swift diversion to collect me for the assignment. After my departure, my wife sought to reassure our hosts and the other guests that nothing was amiss.
I spent an interesting evening in West London, listening to the calls on the police radio, looking at nightclubs, going round the less salubrious estates looking out for people who should be arrested. It was more Z Cars than Starsky and Hutch. At about 11pm, a chilling message was broadcast to all units.
“Calling all mobiles, calling all mobiles. Which one of you has the local MP in the back? He’s gone off with his carkeys, leaving his wife stranded at a dinner party.”
Precautions were taken this time to avoid similar embarrassment.