Yesterday, The Times reported concerns about the safety of David Cameron:
“David Cameron is rejecting the advice of top security officials by insisting on walking around Whitehall, refusing police motorcycle escorts and demanding to be allowed to keep his BlackBerry smartphone.”
The risk has been denied by Downing Street who call the concerns “ridiculous”.
Now I can applaud the decision of public figures not to want a fuss every time they want to do something that everyone else takes for granted – like walking down the street. I can understand the desire not to be seen to be having special privileges, such as having the traffic stopped so that their cars do not get stuck in traffic jams. I would like to be in a world where senior politicians are readily approachable by the public they serve.
However, the attitude displayed by the Prime Minister is an irresponsible one.
There are threats to his security. They are real and genuine. They come not just from organised terrorist groups, but from lone free-lancers. And then there are the fixated crazies ….
To have our Prime Minister assassinated or attacked in the street would never be in the national interest. His safety therefore matters to every one of us, whether we agree with his policies or not.
And it is not just his safety that is at risk.
Those around him – accompanying him or protecting him – or simply passing by – are put at risk by a suicide bomber or an armed individual seeing an opportunity to get at him.
And consider the job of those protecting him, having to make a split-second decision if someone comes too close, perhaps when that person reaches into their pocket or under their clothing. We don’t want innocent passers-by wrestled to the ground or worse still shot because of a misinterpreted gesture. But equally, not reacting to that gesture could have appalling consequences.
Mr Cameron needs to reconsider. To do so would not be a sign of weakness, nor a sign that the job has gone to his head, but it would be a sign that he is acquiring the maturity to be Prime Minister.