I've just taken part in a fascinating 15 minute discussion on BBC Radio Ulster about the fact that the new Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, Matt Baggott, is also President of the Christian Police Association. They invited me to participate because of THIS post I wrote about the CPA back in July 2006.
Clearly, if you are Chief Constable of Northern Ireland you are constantly having to tread a religious tightrope, but I see nothing wrong with Mr Baggott being a member of the CPA. Being an openly declared Christian is not a crime in this country. Yet.
Towards the end of the interview I was asked if I thought police officers should refrain from joining any kind of interest group. I said I thought it was fine as long as their membership of a group did not interfere with their ability to the job. I think, however, it is important to be consistent. It is simply wrong for there to be a blanket ban on police officers supporting the BNP, for instance. Are we really saying that a BNP supporter is incapable of doing his job as a police officer? If an officer displays any degree of racial discrimination during the course of carrying out his duties, then I would be the first to say that disciplinary action should be taken, but a blanket ban is wrong, and in itself discriminatory. Should we also fire any police officer who supports any political party, or just those ones we don't happen to approve of?
PS Incidentally, I will be on the Radio 4 Media Show at 1.30pm talking about televised political debates with Ed Stourton and the political editor of the New Statesman Mehdi Hassan.