So… Chanel 4’s report on plebgate is devastating. None of the allegations made against Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell stood up. Not at the Gates of Downing Street, and not in any of the meetings he had subsequently with the police federation. It appears Andrew Mitchell’s account is more believable than that cooked up by police subsequently. He has been near-completely exonerated.
Furthermore, it’s apparent that senior ranks were in on the conspiracy.
The police lied, and conspired. And they thought they could get away with doing so, not against some kind of ‘usual suspect’ on the ‘swamp estate’ but against a Cabinet Minister. I can only surmise that the police federation saw an opportunity to discredit the Government as they implemented cuts to police numbers.
Think about that for a minute.
The police conspired to discredit a Government as they sought to implement policy.
This isn’t just about the police. The public sector, as a whole grew fat and complacent under Labour, and when the money ran out they thought it appropriate to lie to maintain their fat headcounts, salaries and pensions. This Government isn’t a “shambles” because it has the wrong policies, but because the public sector is actively resisting implementation of policies. This isn’t just a copper lying. It’s corruption bordering on treason.
My attitude to the police is ambiguous. I know several, some of whom I count as friends. They know my views. I have never trusted the police. But I do trust, by and large, individual police officers. The problem is that power corrupts, and the police have simply been given too much power. They are able to fabricate evidence in pocket-books in the expectation they’ll be believed. The proliferation of (effectively) strict-liability offences like Section 5 of the Public Order Act, means the Police will be believed, and Joe-citizen won’t be. The abandonment of the concept of an “arrestable offence” means you can be arrested merely for swearing at or near the police. The police log recorded “several members of the public nearby looked visibly shocked and alarmed”. This is just a standard trope, trotted out to justify an arrest under Section 5. It’s usually a lie, given to justify the police unnecessarily arresting someone who’s being uncooperative. It’s just too easy to arrest someone who irritates you for being lippy. The servant thus becomes the master, and the UK becomes a police state.
This ‘section 5 lie’ is used to arrest young men up and down the country every day. As the police deliberately wind them up, they can usually be persuaded to do something more serious. This incident is just the tip of the iceberg of casual lies the police use every day, for their convenience.
The vast majority of police, especially the older ones, seem genuinely willing help in a crisis. But there’s an arrogance, an unbecoming swagger about some of the younger officers I’ve met. They expect not just obedience, but deference, and threaten arrest for mere disagreement. They feel confident that the allegation of “swearing” justifies arrest under section 5. And without proof, who do you believe. Perhaps everyone should now take my lead and record every single conversation you ever have with the police. The police are not your friend. Though they remain, for now, trustworthy in a crisis and brave in the service of the public, they need to be brought down to earth.
Mitchell is right. The police do need to relearn their place.