Ian Austin, formerly a legislator with the center-left Labour Party in the UK, was rewarded with a lifetime seat in the House of Lords after switching his support to the right-wing Conservative Party and stumping for Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the last election. During a week of bitter protests in Britain over a new law that limits free speech and expands police powers, Austin mocked those beaten by cops in the streets and praised the violent actions of heavily-armed officers: "I hope they didn't damage their shields or batons."
Such naked joy at violence in politics and policing is unusual in the U.K., where legislators and officials rarely have permanent security details. Austin did not stare into the abyss too long before he saw it looking back into him; he quickly deleted the tweet. But not before other users took screenshots.
UK police had indeed already apologized for misleading remarks suggesting that marchers had injured officers, though not soon enough to dampen media hysteria over the rowdy protests.
Alarming footage of police attacking a blogger went viral, too…
If this suggests to U.S. readers that the British ideal of "policing by consent" is window-dressing on a perfectly American way of doing business—some have even read about the 1980s Miners' Strike—you wouldn't be alone. Some British police are now vocally public about their preference for breaking their batons: 'We are not public servants' and 'policing by consent is not a duty,' one made clear on Twitter.
The abyss stared back. He locked his account.