When the police lie about politicians, we should ALL be very worried
21:38 GMT, 21 December 2012
Big wheel: Andrew Mitchell arriving at Downing Street on his bike
This week’s claim that a policeman fabricated evidence to corroborate a damaging account by fellow officers about the former Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell is truly shocking.
If society can’t trust the police to tell the truth, then we are in danger of crossing the very thin line that separates civilisation from anarchy.
It goes without saying that most police officers are brave and dedicated individuals who possess the highest motives. But an increasingly fractious anti-government culture is developing in the force that risks lowering its reputation in the eyes of the public. This has deeply worrying consequences.
Indeed, when reports about Mr Mitchell’s altercation with officers as he tried to take his bicycle out of Downing Street first emerged in September, there were worries that political mischief was afoot.
It was noted that the Police Federation, a powerful and militant trades union, is in dispute with the Home Secretary, Theresa May, on several fronts — over a pay freeze, increased pension contributions and the loss of 34,000 police and civilian jobs.
The Federation knows it has to win over public opinion. If the police have popular sympathy behind them, ministers’ reforms (which also involve attempts to make officers retire later and undergo compulsory fitness tests) would be seen as too harsh and the Government might be forced to back off.
The story of Andrew Mitchell provided a perfect public relations coup — the scalp of a government minister who it seemed had launched a foul-mouthed tirade at a policeman — just after the murder of two policewomen in Manchester.
It gave the impression that the Tories didn’t respect a key group of public servants who would, if necessary, sacrifice their lives while upholding the rule of law.
Ed Miliband quickly exploited Tory embarrassment in a Prime Minister’s Question Time exchange that ultimately proved fatal to Mr Mitchell.
CCTV from Downing Street, as shown on Channel 4 News, suggests there was not a group of tourists at the gates at the time of the incident
For it was the loss of support from his parliamentary colleagues that forced him to resign.
Without doubt, this was partly because throughout his political career, the somewhat high-handed behaviour of the man nicknamed ‘Thrasher’ after his time as a disciplinarian prefect at Rugby school had aggravated some backbenchers keen to see him fall.
Meanwhile, the police stuck to their account that Mr Mitchell swore at officers and called them “f***ing plebs” (Mr Mitchell vigorously denies using the latter word). A ‘passer-by’ was said to have confirmed their account.
However, all this changed this week with the release of CCTV footage of the incident in Downing Street that suggested there was no passer-by.
Ed Miliband quickly exploited Tory embarrassment over the incident in a Prime Minister's Question Time exchange that ultimately proved fatal to Mr Mitchell
Where does the scandal of 'Plebgate' leave Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary who conducted an inquiry into the Downing Street incident
There has been the arrest of a police officer who is accused of sending a fabricated email to an MP claiming he had witnessed Mr Mitchell insulting the officers outside No 10, but was established to have been nowhere near the scene.
For it now seems there are rogue elements in the police force who have tried to undermine the Government by whipping up this scandal. The Police Federation has repeatedly referred to the story in its campaign against alleged police cuts, wearing ‘PC Pleb’ T-shirts to the Tory party conference.
A police force pitted against the government is what we expect in Third World countries, not Britain.
If a policeman can fabricate evidence in a case such as this, how are the public expected to have faith in officers who they deal with each day
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The effect of this is cancerous to confidence in the rule of law, and the Home Secretary must act to remove this militant tendency in the force.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police looks increasingly under pressure, and not just because of the Mitchell case.
There is, for example, its flawed investigation into alleged phone-hacking at News International.
For several years the police said that no crimes had been committed. But now numerous journalists have been arrested, several have been charged with serious offences and three separate investigations using large amounts of police manpower are under way.
So why did these Scotland Yard investigations go nowhere Was it because of the closeness between Murdoch executives and senior Met officers
The Yard has a lot of explaining to do, even though it was, to general astonishment, not singled out for criticism by Lord Justice Leveson during his inquiry into press ethics.
What the phone-hacking scandal shows, above all, is the lack of direction, accountability and leadership in the highest levels of the force.
For too long, senior officers have been obsessed with politically correct nostrums and paperwork rather than having more police on the beat fighting crime.
Crucially, Theresa May must satisfy herself that there is no organised movement within the police that is prepared to act criminally in order to thwart the will of a democratic government — for that is exactly the suspicion of what is happening in the case of the Mitchell scandal.
London Mayor Boris Johnson set a fine precedent by removing Metropolitan Police commissioner, Ian Blair, when he felt he was under-performing.
Indeed, current Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe ought to be nervous about his own position, considering reports that Andrew Mitchell has questioned his impartiality and has ‘no confidence’ in him.
If it turns out there was a conspiracy by officers to undermine the Government by destroying the former Chief Whip’s career, those responsible should feel the full force of the law.
Otherwise, the risk is that public confidence in the police will never recover.
PS Where does the scandal of ‘Plebgate’ leave Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary
He conducted an inquiry into the Downing Street incident, and now looks like a prize twerp for not realising that key evidence was suspect.
Man of the year UKIP Leader Nigel Farage has had a good 2012
This is the season when political pundits choose their man or woman of the year. Success has been a stranger to most politicians in 2012, which rather narrows the field. But it’s been a great year for Ukip leader Nigel Farage. Though Ed Miliband must, in all fairness, be the front-runner, since it is hard to see how he can lose the next General Election. Also, he’s had the satisfaction of seeing his main Labour party rival, Ed Balls, lose credibility.
Lord Patten needs to be encouraged to resign
Time for blusterer Patten to quit
Every time Lord Patten makes a public utterance, he proves his unfitness to be chairman of the BBC Trust.
A couple of weeks ago he accused an MP of impertinence for daring to question how much of his time he was devoting to BBC business. He blustered again at a press conference on Wednesday after a report into the Jimmy Savile scandal heavily criticised aspects of BBC management. Then a Commons select committee attacked the trust for the ‘cavalier’ way licence-payers’ money has been used to pay off disgraced BBC executives.
If Patten won’t consider retirement, someone else should persuade him to.
We’re told that David Cameron will spend some of his Christmas holiday preparing a major speech about Britain’s future with Europe.
This is not because legions of Tory supporters are quitting for Ukip. Cameron thinks that if he talks about a referendum, some might come back.
This is wrong on two counts. First, it is a wide range of policies, not just Europe, that has caused the desertions. And second, a referendum on renegotiating our relationship would be meaningless, because no other EU country will renegotiate with us. The simple choice is: in or out.
What shocked me about this week’s photograph of the Queen with the Cabinet was just how many ministers there are. A total of 32!
What is the point of a meeting that has 30 or more people around the table What sort of debate can take place with such large numbers, and how can sensible decisions be taken At a time of economic hardship and cuts, can’t at least half of these people be paid off, and efficiency improved