Police have made members of the public aware that a stall in Southend High Street is being run by a far-right political group.
That’s nice of them. Do they feel the need to warn members of the public that they might be contributing to a political organisation whose aims they may not support when the chuggers are rattling tins for the RSPCA in the high street?
Or is this somehow different?
Two police officers and a street ranger spoke to people who visited the stall run by Britain First which asked people to sign a petition calling for better conditions for Armed Forces and to donate £3.
I signed their petition – I wish one of these three had tried to speak to me about it..!
An Essex Police spokesman said: “A female neighbourhood police officer was on routine patrol and spoke to a small group of pensioners who had just left a Britain First stall.
“She wanted to ensure they were aware of what they had just signed at the stall and discussed with the representative.”
And who told her that was part of her duties?
He said police work closely with Southend Council licensing and trading standards to ensure stalls have necessary permits.
Political groups can campaign in the town centre, but are not able to sell items without permission.
Last week council officers visited the stall following complaints from members of the public, but were unable to do anything as there were no badges on view.
The police spokesman added: “We would advise anyone who has been asked to donate money to charity or sign the petition to ensure they are fully aware of the organisation’s aims.
“All charities have a registered number which should be produced on request.”
I was fully aware, I signed, I wasn’t harassed to donate & get a button.
This is a non-issue, and the police should – quite simply – not be interfering in it. They should stay apolitical and confine themselves to ensuring that the law isn’t broken.
John Wilson, a manager at the Britain First HQ in London, defended the group.
He said: “We have branches doing this all over the country.
“We do not charge people for badges. Councils cannot get it through their heads we do not need permits to do this.”
Oh, councils aren’t confused. They – and Essex Police – know exactly what they are doing.