Saturday, November 13, 2010

Duncan Hames is a hero in many ways - but not for the have-a-go handbag chase

I have a huge amount of time for Duncan Hames, the Liberal Democrat MP for Chippenham. The energy he put into his campaign was matched only by the passion and intensity with which his fiancee Jo Swinson fights her seat.

He's a great MP. I have already been amazed by the number of times he's been called at Prime Minister's Questions, always asking something thoughtful and meaningful.

Today, apparently, he stopped to help a woman whose handbag had been snatched and then pursued the guy who snatched the handbag on foot. Someone else on a bike caught up with the thief and got back the bag.

These incidents are commonly referred to as "have a go hero" episodes but to be honest, I prefer to think of them as momentary lapses of reason, where adrenaline overpowers good sense.. The thief could have had a knife. Duncan could have been killed and his family could have been grieving his unnecessary loss tonight - and all, in the end of the day, for a handbag. Don't get me wrong, here, the thief is the criminal and should be brought to justice. And I'm not saying Duncan shouldn't have stopped to attend to the woman whose bag had been snatched, but the risk he took was disproportionate in the circumstances.

The reason I feel so strongly is that I remember how it felt when my husband told me a few years ago what he'd done when he'd seen a couple of guys break into our neighbour's shed. He didn't call the Police or anything sensible like that. He went round there and chased them off. I can't begin to tell you how utterly furious I was. All I could think was that I might have had to break the news to my then 6 year old that the daddy she adores had been killed for the sake of a pressure washer. I have to say I was grateful that when he eventually reported what he'd seen to the Police, they gave him what for - which was nothing compared to the ear bashing he got from me, but I'm glad that we were on the same page.

Bob and Duncan are peaceful, sane, rational, good men.  Even they, though, can be taken over by this adrenaline fuelled irrationality in a situation like this. Yes, you can praise their instinct to help, but to me it's not an act of heroism and I don't think we should treat it as such.

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