The Lord Mayor’s Defence and Security Lecture

Thursday 20th July 2017

The Mansion House

Two visits to St Paul’s this week and two visits to Mansion House. After lunch at Apothecaries’ Hall, it was back to the flat to change from my morning coat into a lounge suit for the stroll over to Mansion House to attend the fifth annual Lord Mayor’s Defence and Security Lecture. This year’s speaker was Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. Commissioner Dick took up the role in April and during her first three months she has appeared on the news responding to the terror attacks on Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Borough Market, and Finsbury Park, as well as the protests that have erupted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. One cannot fail to be impressed by her leadership, confidence, empathy and intelligence.

The Lord Mayor set the scene and Cressida Dick took control of a very full Egyptian Room by peering over the top of the lectern and disclosing that she was two inches too short to get into the City of London police force. Her speech focused on the threat of terrorism which encompasses most of the other security threats facing the City. She recounted how terrorist attacks had been frustrated during the 5 years following the 2007 attacks until the appalling murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013. During that period, there had been 340 arrests on terrorist charges. Since March, when the attack on Westminster Bridge took place, the tempo had changed with 17 weeks of carnage leaving many dead or injured, as a consequence of less sophisticated attacks perpetrated by people who appear to be inspired by social networking. The strategy to deal with the terrorism is based on “Pursue, Protect and Prevent" but the strategy must be constantly reviewed to address the changing nature of the threats. In the Pursuit of supects, the intelligence agencies: MI5, MI6 and GCHQ work together effectively, “often in the shadows”. The cost of Protecting the public was rising significantly but despite the threats and costs, no high-profile events in London have been cancelled. Prevention was probably the most difficult aspect of the strategy which requires a means of stopping people being radicalised. More individuals are being prevented from travelling to Syria but effective policing requires the consent and support of the public and community. She assured us that there would be further investment in local policing because communities are the most effective means of defeating terrorism and addressing radicalisation.

Commissioner Dick dealt with questions from the floor in an assured and confident manner. She acknowledged that some of the barriers installed to deter further attacks may be ugly and intrusive but they are necessary. The questions continued over wine and canapes in the Salon. I was a supporter of Cressida Dick before this evening and I left Mansion House believing that she is the most impressive leader of the police force in modern times.