There are few more peaceful and pleasant suburbs in north London than St Johns Wood. It has an art deco tube station typical of that period in the 1930s when the middle classes were comfortable in their insularity from the trials and troubles of a desperate working class recovering from mass unemployment. And to cap it all there was Lords Cricket Ground home of the MCC since 1814.
A friend yesterday had reason with many others to be walking past the high walls of the famous temple of cricket which was hosting heats of the Olympic archery competition. Aside from the enthusiastic volunteers in their purple vests and sponge fingers pointing to the Ground`s entrance the street was being patrolled by two of the Met`s finest with their Heckler and Koch sub machine guns in a state of readiness. My friend is not of the gung ho hang `em high brigade. Indeed according to his own description he is a passable imitation of a pacifist. But, and here`s the rub; he told me he felt no unease and being a stranger to London had no hesitation in asking for directions, just as he has done previously in other towns, of a local bobby on the beat. And what`s more he was answered with the consideration and politeness he had previously associated with times past.
Although at the last properly conducted poll of police officers fewer than half were in favour of a permanently armed police force is it not inevitable that for good or for ill the era of the unarmed British police officer is rapidly coming to an end?