I really do have to hand it to the Police Federation. They have managed to do what so many spin doctors, strategists, greasers and chancers have been striving to achieve for so many years. The holy grail of spin. The unthinkable. The seemingly impossible.
They have made the public feel sorry for a politician.
And a Tory one.
Mother Theresa, the Home Office’s very own Salome is demanding so many heads on platters that they are running out of platters. No, not so much a Salome as the Blue Queen screaming “off with their heads”.But this is not the usual ersatz outrage practiced by the political classes. Politicians of all parties and former Home Secretaries in particular, loathe the Police Federation who fight dirtier than even the BMA, and they are never backward at putting the political boot in.
But it gets better. Next week there will be a public humiliation at the hands of the Home Office Select Committee of those police officers who changed their conclusion about their report into the appalling behaviour of those Federation officers who mislead us all into thinking that Andrew Mitchell had been less than forthcoming about what real happened at the gates of Downing Street. For them and who ever set this whole story up, they might well prove to be the gates of hell. And this is just a side show. It won’t be long before the retiring DPP will sending his parting gift to Mother Theresa, a prosecution trial in the run up to a general election.
There will be an awful lot of collateral damage. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner may be pondering what the future holds for him after announcing his total support for officers about to be investigated. And Cabinet Secretary, Jeremy Heywood, whose thoroughness of investigation was more dash than slap, might be pondering whether he wishes to spend more time with his directorships.
But although all of us connected to the Westminster Village maybe enjoying every morsel of this Smorgasbord of shittery, think of the poor bobby on the beat. Every day he or she risk their lives to keep us safe. How must they feel? Let down by the very Federation that is designed to protect their interests. I suspect that this sorry tale will lead to a lot of soul searching and culture change. I certainly hope so.
But there are bigger issues at stake here. I know from working with them every day that the overwhelming majority of police officers are honest, hardworking and don’t make things up to get a conviction. First the Hillsborough cover up and now MitchellGate. If the public lose trust in the police then Britain will start the long journey to hell in a hand cart.
But couple this story with two others that only appeared in the broadsheets yesterday. The President of the Supreme Court warning that cuts to the Justice system will harm access to justice of ordinary folk. That Grayling’s dangerous proposals to curtail the right of judicially reviewing our public bodies, particularly the executive were troubling.
And then couple this to the Chief Magistrate of England and Wales’s comments that because there are so many cautions, penalty notices issued without transparency and behind closed doors that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a police state. Without wishing to generalise, senior magistrates are not often bleeding heart Liberals, and hearing the words ‘Police State’ sent a shiver down my spine.
I do hope that Chris Grayling understood those key messages from two senior members of the Judiciary. But I am not going to hold my breath. Grayling possesses the three most dangerous traits that a politician can have. Ambition, populism and boneheadedness.
I think that it is time for Mother Theresa to ask for another head on a platter.
And what of Andrew Mitchell? Interesting. I don’t pretend to know the answer but will have a punt. I suspect Cameron realises that he wrongly hung him out to dry, feels a little guilty and wants to make amends. And he is brilliant at apologies. Sir George Young, the bicycling baronet (this has become a ‘think bike’ story) is such a gentleman he would happily cycle off into retirement with absolutely no rancour, because like all decent Englishmen he would want to see justice done. And it would strike a chord with the British sense of fair play.