Thursday 20 December 2012

Plebgate and the Police

I can't say I wept for Andrew Mitchell after he departed the Chief Whip's office a couple of months back. A small sliver of satisfaction maybe. After all, who doesn't enjoy a high-flying Tory crashing and burning? But C4's investigative digging into the circumstances, and crucially uncovering CCTV footage that throws into doubt the existence of a third corroborative witness to the celebrated plebgate exchange points to a police frame up. As Owen observes;
A white privileged politician has just experienced a small slice of the frustration long felt in many of our communities. Perhaps now it will be a little bit more acceptable to stop automatically taking every police officer at their word.
Perhaps, after this episode, politicians will be more open to scrutinising police behaviour. Consider, too, the recent exposure of the Hillsborough cover-up, and the false statements initially provided after the killings of Jean-Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson.
Could this be a watershed moment for the police? This affair comes hot on the heels of public admission of RUC/loyalist collusion over Pat Finucane's murder, serious questions about dodgy activity during the miners' strike, corruption over phone hacking, and the apparent refusal of the police to look into the Jimmy Savile allegations.

It is too early to talk about a wider legitimation crisis for the thin blue line, but with a government determined to chop down their budgets, a timely rubbishing of the police's public image may prove useful.


asquith said...

Yes, indeed, and there IS a unified theme from the terrible excesses of the 80s, to New Labour's authoritarianism, to this. I'm glad that traditional conservatives and Thatcherites who never dreamed that the police could be wrong have had a wake-up call.

You may recall the struggles, in particular, around 2008/9, and I supported and stoof alongside the David Davises and Dominic Raabs of this world on the issue, but never considered that they carried the mass of their party, which consisted of traditional Tory authoritarians, and also opportunists who believed that the public considered civil liberties to be a fringe interest for hippies, yoghurt-wearing liberals and general weirdos.

As a consequence, I was not surprised to see that Theresa May is not in the slightest bit liberal. But now we've got just about everyone coming round. I always suspected that this story was hyped to feed into the "toffs" narrative rather than out of principle.

It is only the liberals who have been unified in their opposition to all forms of securocracy overreach, and hopefully more people will be liberals (and I'd note that liberals can be found in all parties, and illiberals the same, with some Lib Dems not being truly liberal).

Phil said...

It will be interesting to see what effect - if any - our wonderful and popular Police and Crime Commissioners have on arbitrary police culture. I know plenty of non-political people who've been on the receiving end of thuggish and corrupt behaviour in Stoke alone.

Anonymous said...

I thought Mitchell admitted that some altercation did take place? Is this simply over the word Pleb? Have the police officers admitted anything yet?

Phil said...

He said he swore at the plod, but has consistently denied using the word pleb. As much as I dislike the man, their successful efforts in bringing down a cabinet member is going to have repercussions for the arbitrary police culture that has existed at all levels. And that won't be a bad thing.