By Ray Fleming

AFTER the recent London riots and looting no one would have wanted the annual Notting Hill Carnival to be taking place as soon as next Sunday and Monday.

It attracts one million people into a relatively small area of West London and has always required a big police presence since it was first held in 1966. In the nature of what is Europe's biggest street carnival there is drinking and there are drugs and the potential for trouble-making is considerable.

The organisers and police discussed a cancellation or postponement but decided that Londoners and their visitors should not be deprived of one of the major people's events of the year on the Bank Holiday weekend. Some 16'000 police officers will be on call although the numbers actually in Notting Hill will be about 5'000 unless trouble starts.

There have naturally been critics of the decision to go ahead with the event but I think it is right to do so. It provides two challenges: to those inclined to make trouble for its only sake to reflect on the outcome of the London riots and consider whether a show of self-discipline would not gain more attention and sympathy than random rabble-rousing; and to the police an opportunity to demonstrate that they have not lost their touch for maintaining order without excessive shows of force. For everyone else: enjoy!

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