Why the ‘pleb-gate’ affair should also worry the Left


1:23 pm - December 20th 2012

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by Jonathan Kent

Forget what Andrew Mitchell actually said. Put aside the stubborn suspicion he hasn’t wholly come clean. The damage was done not because he actually said ‘pleb’ but because people found themselves so readily able to believe he did, because it resonated, because it seemed to sum up his party’s attitude. That’s not changed.

This is about the police.

Michael Crick’s Channel 4 report casts serious doubt not just on the police account of events but also raises the possibility that police officers actively conspired to unseat a cabinet minister.

The police log that ascribed the ‘pleb’ remark to Mitchell also claimed that “several members of public [were] present” during the incident. So too did a statement from ‘a member of the public’. The two accounts apparently closely corroborated each other on that and several other details.

Yet CCTV footage seems to show no members of the public outside the gates. It doesn’t even show Mitchell behaving in a way that would lend credence to the reports of a tirade. Of course it would be no surprise if two accounts had tallied if they were founded on the truth, but if two accounts carry very similar false accounts it must raise the strong possibility that, at the very least, that the author of one version had access to the other.

Now we are told not only that the independent witness was not there but that he wasn’t a member of the public. He is apparently a serving police officer.

Furthermore Crick’s report contrasted a recording made by Mitchell of a meeting with Police Federation representatives with their account of the meeting. The comparison certainly seemed to suggest that the Police Federation account misrepresented the meeting in a way that put Mitchell in a very poor light.

When the contents of the police the report were leaked it wasn’t to the Guardian or the Mirror, it was to The Sun. The Sun, already locked in a tussle with the political class, published; not too many questions asked. Together the police and News International took a major political scalp just when they most needed to. It served as a reminder to Downing Street that both could bite back.

Mitchell was one of the less sympathetic figures in a government that no one who believes in social justice had much sympathy for in the first place. So some on the left might be tempted to simply sit back and enjoy the show. That would be a mistake.

No one in politics, left or right, should be anything but deeply disturbed at the possibility that part of the state’s security apparatus is meddling in politics. It was bad enough that police officers and News International journalists apparently conspired to invade the privacy of victims of crime and people in public life alike.

Too often the left has found itself on the rough end of the criminal justice system. From Blair Peach to environmental protesters left pregnant by undercover cops the police have appeared to some to take sides, pursuing their own agenda and that it’s a right wing one.

The possibility that they’re working to bring down our elected representatives is way more worrying.

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Reader comments


Police are corrupt. News at eleven.

“to environmental protesters left pregnant by undercover cops”

Should have used protection.

3. Chaise Guevara

@ 2 Dan

“Should have used protection.”

Why would a woman use protection with a man who she wanted to have a baby with and who she believed loved her?

Top marks for victim-blaming.

This is quite right. It’s remarkable that the police in question actually thought they could do it. Almost as if they were used to using such tactics.

This was a silly week non-story that should have ended with a public apology by Mitchel.

Instead it escalated into an incompetent cover up followed by an equally incompetent fit-up. The press has, as usually, behaved apallingly while the opposition have acted like baying buffoons.

So yes, it’s worrying.

News Int’s beef is more with the Met and senior judiciary (Lord Luvvie & pals) than the govt.

The report was also leaked to the non-News Int Telegraph.

That part of an otherwise good analysis is a bit of a red herring. An opportunistic swipe at Murdoch’s stable. I nearly sat back and enjoyed it, but that would also be a mistake.

“Together the police and News International took a major political scalp just when they most needed to. It served as a reminder to Downing Street that both could bite back.”

Yes, possibly. The tabloids and the police know that the privileges that they gained in the Thatcher era could be under threat, and they like to keep reminding the political class of how much damage they can do if crossed.

However I doubt that anyone set out to damage Andrew Mitchell’s career. Mitchell provided someone with an opportunity, by getting drunk and getting into an argument with the police and then being less than honest about what happened.

This article is wrong to state that no members of the public were present. “Yet CCTV footage seems to show no members of the public outside the gates”

The video that has now been conveniently produced by downing street clearly shows a man very close to the incident. He walks past close to the gate looks at the altercation and turns back and is clearly still looking at the event. Several other people walk past although not as close as this man. Why have you so clearly misrepresented the facts?

Could a couple of the 30 Police Officers who have been allocated to find the emailer and possible wrongdoing do their best to locate the gentleman who clearly witnesses this event as his views could be illuminating?

Also could every single camera in the vicinity have its footage examined instead of the one that has been chosen for us to see. I cannot believe that there is not a camera that would not show us Andrew Mitchells face during this event or a heads on view of the situation. We have Cameras with facial recognition, are there none in this area? The most important political residence in the country!

Mr Mitchell has admitted swearing at Police Officers and issuing a threat to take the matter further because he was asked to use a gate more than big enough for a bike. Is this the behaviour we should expect from a Government minister?

Is David Cameron supporting people who when asked to follow the reasonable instructions of an officer then reply by swearing and making threats to take the matters further?

Fundamentally it was Andrew Mitchell who instigated the complaint according to the Guardian:

“As Mitchell wheeled his bike through the pedestrian gate the two accounts find common ground again. The police claimed in their log that he said “you haven’t heard the last of this” as he cycled away”.

Therefore the Police clearly had a need to record the events.

Has Mr Mitchell clearly told the public exactly all of what he said that night with no omissions. If not, why not?

Yep. We need to use this story to break through the false, hegemonic picture that many in Britain have of the police as fundamentally reliable. The reality is that, when it comes to politics, the police have a bad record. I’ve experienced the rough end of it myself, during anti-Bliar stuff, animal rights demos, anti-war demos, etc. The difference now is that has been proven, in a high-profile case, for a TORY! If they will do this to a Tory – just imagine what they would do to you and me. (In fact, as I say, many of us don’t need to imagine it. We’ve already experienced it.)
We need to point relentlessly to this case, and then generalise from it to other actual cases. That way, we might be able at last to stop police abusing their power. This could just be a game-changer.
Time for a Levesonian moment, for the police?

@8 Paul G – Corrected – there is one person sown in the video, some feet away from the gates and apparently on the phone and not necessarily close enough to be aware of any incident on the other side of the gates unless voices were raised considerably. That’s absolutely at variance with the log which reported several members of the public looking shocked. There’s nothing in the CCTV that suggests that that particular assertion in the police account wasn’t at least mistaken, possibly fabricated. In view of the involvement of another officer masquerading as a member of the public and given that the similarity of his account to the, at that point, unpublished log, strongly implies that he had access to tht log and that raises the seious possibility of more substantial wrongdoing and even woder conspiracy.
Yet still you focus on the trivia. Frankly who cares if he swore at the police. As soon as it was reported anyone with half an ounce of political nous knew it as the ‘p’ word and not the ‘f’ word that would get him into trouble.
Likewise the assertion that the police needed to record events and that Mitchell had raised the whole possibility of a complaint is based solely on the police account and the account of a police officer who claimed to be present as a member of the public but whom it appears was lying.
Wood / trees/ unable to see one for t’other.

Replace the word ‘worry’ with ‘not surprise’ in the title and you’ll have pretty much accurately put what the actual left is thinking. Liberals on the other hand probably ought to be worried.

the police have appeared to some to take sides, pursuing their own agenda and that it’s a right wing one.

Guess what, senior civil servants also ‘take sides and pursue their own agenda’, after all who is it that pushed for the pasty tax for over a decade and finally got it past Osborne? Vision of the future perhaps – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20044862

12. Reverend Timms

Wow the cops sure know how to fight the cuts. First shoot someone and provoke a riot then stand by while it gets out of control until the government are begging you to put it down and then make a high-ranking Tory cabinet member understand what it’s like to be young and black in today’s UK.

@ 10. Jonathan Kent

Its an important point because the whole assertion that the police should be doubted is because you say the log is incorrect to say that several people witnessed this event. You were as you have admitted wrong to state that.

Im not sure how you have evidence this person is on the phone or your interpretation that this person was not aware of the incident. Your conjecture is not fact. Most people would be able to hear an altercation that was taking place a few feet away. As I suggested it could prove useful for the Police to locate this person, with all the technology available in the Downing Street area surely this would not be too hard?

“That’s absolutely at variance with the log which reported several members of the public looking shocked”

Are you sure that it was the log that stated this or the email?

If it was the log were the police just trying to emphasise in their accounts that Mr Mitchell chose to swear at them in a very public place? I would imagine that the Police Officer concerned would have been very distressed to have had a Government minister acting like a bully in front of him and may have been aware of persons nearby but not the exact number. Factually there was one man very close and a few others walking past. Look at the video. The only one we are allowed to see.

I think that until proven otherwise that two officers of the law should be believed over the words of an irate Tory. Otherwise we all forgiving very poor behaviour. I have not read where Mr Mitchell had been that night.

Does anybody know?

14. Jonathan Kent

Paul G: you are wantonly twisting the facts. The police asserted that the incident shocked members of the public. There weren’t several members of the public present reacting to the incident. There was one, doing something else and showing no sign of reacting. The police account, as reported, does not tally with the CCTV and in the absence of other evidence appears to be false.
Moreover the whole basis of the concern over a possible conspiracy centres on the fact that the log and the email were almost identical and given that one was wrong implies very strongly that the emailer had access to the log.
You seem to have an axe to grind and are determined to make the facts fit that rather than starting from the facts and exploring the most likely interpretations of what we know to be the case.

From the CCTV camera within Downing Street you could clearly see people passing by on the outside of Downing Street whilst Mitchell and the Police Officers were together. As Mitchell goes to the side gate you can see more people passing by. Also someone passed the gate a second or two before Mitchell exits that side gate. So people were present/passing by as Mitchell and the Police were interacting.

The FO CCTV camera just outside Downing Street does appear to be out of sequence with the CCTV within Downing Street if you look very carefully. However the CCTV outside of Downing Street does show a pedestrian walk past the gate looking through the gate and then he turns back as if to go back to see/hear what was going on.

That man/pedestrian obviously saw/heard something to make him go back at that particular point in time. He even appeared a bit nervous to return. That man is an important witness and the Police should track his movements on the CCTV network to locate him. They would have found a good image at a station, train,on a bus, taxi or where ever he went. Failing this the Police could put out a public request.

It is sad that someone has decided to throw a spanner in the works to give Mitchell a taste of disrespect and in the progress made the entire matter look like a stitch up.

The Police log was written and Mitchell admits swearing. Mitchell was a naughty man and effectively brought this problem on himself.

Now the Police need to find the witness that past Downing Street at that point in time to find out if he heard what was going on. Hopefully when this happens the full truth will be revealed.

It’s about time the police were disbanded entirely and replaced by proper plebs.

Perhaps you’ll all pay more attention to public choice economics in future then? This is what we’ve been trying to tell you after all.

Those with power over us are not necessarily acting in our interests. They’re subject to the same incentives to improve their own position as everyone else.

14. Jonathan Kent

” You seem to have an axe to grind and are determined to make the facts fit that rather than starting from the facts and exploring the most likely interpretations of what we know to be the case. ”

Welcome to whacky world of political tribalism and ideology. Making up facts to suit prejudice is how people became ideologues in the first place.

The police might have been lied, now who’d a thought it.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 Tim

“Perhaps you’ll all pay more attention to public choice economics in future then? This is what we’ve been trying to tell you after all.

Those with power over us are not necessarily acting in our interests. They’re subject to the same incentives to improve their own position as everyone else.”

Out of interest, who are “we” and “you” in this scenario? Because what you’re “explaining” seems very, very obvious. Bordering on the self-evident in fact.

You won’t let it go will you Jonathon? Your story is a non-story. I ask you, do you believe that Mr Mitchell acted apprpriately on the night in question? Is what he has admitted enough for you to say that he should have lost his role as chief whip? Not MP , just Chief Whip. Is it ok for a high ranking official, or anyone, to swear at officers who are doing their job? Should the Police officers be made to feel it is they that who have committed a grave error?

Im only interested in the facts. It appears others believe that it is possible the Police account is at least possibly credible:

“The Guardian has analysed the CCTV footage, taken from three different cameras around the Downing Street gates, which was obtained by Channel 4. It appears to support the police claim that there were several people present by the pedestrian gate when Mitchell approached it, after being told he could not use the main gates. A key potential witness appears to be a man with a backpack who was hovering, apparently following events closely. At the moment Mitchell approached the pedestrian gate a pair of pedestrians also walked past towards Parliament Square, albeit quite quickly. It is possible these three people reacted in a shocked way, but the film is not clear enough to show facial expressions and there is no sound.”

from the Guardian today.

The fact that one man had a clear interests in the events. Is it possible that he may have appeared shocked. Who knows? I repeat that I have no reason to believe that two officers of the law have been incorrect in compiling their logs. Do you have evidence? Are you calling the Police liars?

two officers of the law have been incorrect in compiling their logs. Do you have evidence? Are you calling the Police liars?”

John Harris
on politics and the law, worth a watch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp9pOdEC5lM

@ Paul G

If you’re only interested in the facts, why are you asking for value judgements about the facts? eg “Is it ok for a high ranking official, or anyone, to swear at officers who are doing their job?”, and “do you believe that Mr Mitchell acted appropriately on the night in question?”

“Out of interest, who are “we” and “you” in this scenario? Because what you’re “explaining” seems very, very obvious. Bordering on the self-evident in fact.”

“We” being us bastard neoliberal grind the faces of the poor libertarians. Buchanan, Tullock, Freidman etc. “You” being those who think that more government is the solution to any and all ills and woes.

The essence of this public choice thing is that politicians do what benefits politicians. Bureaucrats what benefits bureaucrats. Unions unions (and that means the instititution and the people running them, not the membership). In exactly the way that companies benefit companies, management management etc.

Subject to the same incentives so act in broadly the same manner.

Thre’s a picture of Clegg looking at me on this page as I write: what Clegg does, proposes as policy, will be what benefits Clegg in terms of keeping his seat, retaining political power. Not what benefits the rest of us, the populace.

That’s all public choice economics is. And as you say, it’s pretty darn obvious. But it has some interesting implications.

Public sector unions wailing about cuts are, at least in part, wailing about the diminution of their own power and economic position: not about cuts in services to the rest of us, just as one example.

Another (and much stronger) version would be that the State is not your friend. It’s just another economic actor squabbling over the surplus that can be extracted from the populace.

But you don’t have to go all the way over into Samizdata style libertoonism to find public choice to be an interesting observation. Even to note it just vaguely is enough to reject Murphy style “Courageous States”.Because the primary driving force of those who make up such a State is not our benefit, but of those doing the Courageous bit.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 Tim Worstall

““We” being us bastard neoliberal grind the faces of the poor libertarians. Buchanan, Tullock, Freidman etc. “You” being those who think that more government is the solution to any and all ills and woes.”

Ah, I see, you’re making random straw man attacks. Carry on, then.

@ 4 Cherub

A point well made. This is what working class youth have been living with for years.

The best thing about this affair is that it happened to a well off Tory, and that as a result something just might be done about this kind of behaviour – though I won’t hold my breath.

If it was the log were the police just trying to emphasise in their accounts that Mr Mitchell chose to swear at them in a very public place?

No, the “people were visibly shocked” line is put there because swearing at a police officer isn’t a crime in the UK, but if the officer can say that members of the general public were present, then it falls within section 5 of the Public Order Act:

A person is guilty of an offence if he— .

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or .

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, .

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

There’s case law to the effect that the police are “so regularly on the receiving end of the “rather commonplace” expletive that it was unlikely to cause them “harassment, alarm or distress”, so if you want to make an arrest you need there to be members of the public present – whether they were actually there or not.

28 – the best thing about that case, by the way, is the way it was reported:

The directive states: “The courts do not accept that police officers are caused harassment, alarm or distress by words such as —-, —-, ——-, or ——.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8902770/Swearing-at-police-is-not-a-crime-judge-rules.html

30. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Tim

The urge to ad-lib those blanks is all but irresistible. I’m pretty sure the third one is “spelunking”.

@ 24 Hoover

This question is not whether people – high ranking officials or otherwise should or should not swear at plod, but rather whether swearing should be treated as a crime.

As I understand it, swearing at plod in itself is not illegal. The issue is whether other people – bystanders – are fightened and alarmed by the swearing. There appear to be no frightened or allarmed bystanders in this case, so there were no breaches of the POA.

As one serving police officer put it “I remember being briefed by an inspector in no uncertain terms that if someone was found urinating or swearing in public, I should give evidence of the dear little old lady who passed by them in disgust.”

It’s worth noting that the witness doesn’t need to appear in the court – the officer can just invent them – as appears to have happened in this case.

@31. uytfutftyf states:

“It’s worth noting that the witness doesn’t need to appear in the court – the officer can just invent them – as appears to have happened in this case.”

……………………..

How many times does it have to be stated.

LOOK AT THE VIDEO THERE WAS ONE MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC CLOSE BY AND SEVERAL WALKING PAST!

@21 Paul G No, I’m not going to allow you to get away with selective interpretation of the evidence. You pull a quote from a Guardian report to suit your case and ignore those parts of the same report that undermine your argument, namely:

“In all there were six, or possibly seven, people who passed the gates during the time Mitchell was at them. All but one of them (the man with a backpack) walked past without stopping at different moments. None of the other passersby show signs of being shocked, although it is hard to say given the footage is grainy.”

You’re focusing on trivia and paying no heed to the bigger issue.

On the subject of the passers by there is nothing in the CCTV footage that obviously supports the claim by police that passers by – plural – were visibly shocked. Only one person in the footage behaves in a way that could be construed as reacting to events. That possible witness has yet to come forward.

But you completely fail to address the bigger issues raised by the fact that a serving police officer is very likely to have access to the original (then unpublished) police log/report and made a false statement ostensibly corroborating the original account.

You also fail to address the issue of the Police Fed reps who met Mitchell offering a quite damning account of the meeting that seems to be a gratuitous misrepresentation of the actual meeting as laid out on Mitchell’s audio recording. Obviously we don’t know if Mitchell edited stuff out but what was acuially there was not consistent with the Police Fed spokesperson’s account of events.

Of course people shouldn’t swear at other people, but it happens. And police officers are trained to be professional in the face of serious threats, and a grumpy politician is not a serious threat. If we have officers who feel that ‘having my feelings hurt’ is an event that requires action then our police are failing in their professionalism.

Far worse is the possibility that members of the security arm of the state are meddling in politics. That’s what happens in autocratic states. I’ve worked in and reported from states where the security apparatus meddles in politics and it’s the sort of thing that should make every right minded Briton’s blood run cold, whatever their political stripe.

25

Spoken like a true marxist.

@steveb

It sounds like bollocks to me.

@ 32 paul G

LOOK AT THE VIDEO THERE WAS ONE MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC CLOSE BY AND SEVERAL WALKING PAST!

The issue is not whether there are other people nearby, the issue in law is whether those people were, or were not “alarmed or distressed”.

I would maintain that they show no signs of being “alarmed or distressed”, therefore, as I understand it, no crime has been committed under section 5 POA.

It happens to be a Tory this time. Tomorrow it will be a white working class kid on a council estate, the day after a Muslim kid in Tower Hamlets, the day after that a black kid in St Pauls, in 3 years time a Labour, Green or (gods forbid) a Respect Party minister.

Police stitch-ups always stink. And when they’re being used by a group of police officers to usurp the lawful authority of the government they stink even more… even if that government does happen to be this bloody awful coalition.

We want ministers accountable to us the people, not to self-selecting groups of coppers – that is the route to a corrupt police state.

It happens to be a Tory this time. Tomorrow it will be a white working class kid on a council estate, the day after a Muslim kid in Tower Hamlets, the day after that a black kid in St Pauls, in 3 years time a Labour, Green or (gods forbid) a Respect Party minister.

And it’s only the first instance that the government gives a flying fuck about, the rest are fine, in line with the police’s role in policing us and ‘maintaining order’. All that is being sought is to reprimand the police for daring to challenge the Tory party and ensure they don’t try it on again, the coalition has no interest in scraping said law or sparing ‘plebs’ from being on the receiving end of such stich ups. That’s what laws allowing stitch ups are there for after all. In fact it’s probably been past time for them to have been on the receiving end for once anyway.
As such I’m afraid I cannot agree too much with this:

And when they’re being used by a group of police officers to usurp the lawful authority of the government they stink even more… even if that government does happen to be this bloody awful coalition.

iugpiugbli @ 36

Many people will just walk by an incident/acccident rather than getting themselves involved or sucked into a situation. It is well documented that people will just walk by through fear.

From the CCTV we are unable to make the judgement as to whether those people that were passing Downing Street became alarmed or distressed. In fact the people that are passing have their faces blacked out.

In fact one pedestrian that was passing by appeared to be concerned enough to go back to the gate of Downing Street to have another look at something. He did appear to be nervous or unsure about going to take a second look. Was that pedestrian/witness alarmed or distressed ? The CCTV image blacks out the mans face so people can not pass a judgement.

Aggree with Chaise Guevara

@Janvier / not all polices are corrupt / I know very good people that work as police ! You shouldn’t say that !

@ 37 Cylux

Yep, I agree, thy’ve never bothererd about this kind of thing before – but when shot happens to them, then maybe, just maybe things might improve. Note the maybe – this is a case of possible rather than probable. If this had never happened however, you can be sure that there’d have been nothing done. At all. Ever.

As for the police pulling their sneaky tricks on the current government, well, I understand your point of view, and it’s tempting to take that line… but then we may as well just get rid of elections altogether and let plod pick the government based on their priorities. I can just imagine the conversations in the canteen down at Scotland Yard “Ok lads keep nicking ‘em and getting ‘em chucked out until we get in a nice PM who’ll arm us all with thermonuclear lacerators”

@ 38 Mr Grunt

Most of them are clearly carrying on with their business, so they’re not that alarmed, and none of them seem to have made complaints about Mitchell’s language. If they were that alarmed and distressed, then maybe they would have?

Then there’s the other guy. He was so alarmed and distressed that he went back to have a closer look. Mary Whitehouse used to do that. She was so alarmed and distressed by violent films and porn that she used to watch them for hours at a time.

On the other hand, maybe he went back because he thought it his duty to act as a witness if plod decided to deal out a shoeing to a grey haired old duffer on a push bike… then he realised that said grey haired old duffer was in fact a government whip and decided he didn’t want to be called up as a witness against plod in THAT trial so thought “sod it” and left… in fact it could even have been… Cylux, what were you doing that day? Wandering about near Downing Street perchance?

42. Derek Hattons Tailor

The rozzers fitted him up good and proper. Serves him right, arrogant little oxbridge banking prick that he is

I really do hope that the mystery witness is located !

I’m pretty unshockable but all the same I’m appalled by the sight of comment after comment in support of bent coppers just because this time it’s a toff being fitted up, not an Irish man, a Brazillian-who-looks-a-bit-swarthy, dead football fans or a murdered newspaper seller.

On the one hand you have a politician who’s obviously a bit of a dick, on the other hand you have criminal action on behalf of the police.

Oh, and the third hand, the fucking Guardian – naturally siding with the oppressive arm of the State.

The “visibly shocked” issue is wider than Mitchell. It derives from the wording of the Public Order Act’s most trivial offence which requires harassment alarm or distress to be caused. Police officers believed this allowed them to arrest people for swearing at them but the courts would not go along, rarely being prepared to believe that a PC was likely to be driven to tears by the odd “f” bomb. On one occasion a group of officers were berated from the bench with the words (and I can still hear the words now) “It is not an offence known to the laws of England to tell a police officer to fuck off”. Anyone familiar with the criminal courts can relate what happened next. Notebooks became replete with “visibly shocked” passers by that no one other than the officers could recall seeing but the existence of which was impossible to disprove. At this stage I suspect these phrase gets thrown in as a matter of course.

“It is not an offence known to the laws of England to tell a police officer to fuck off”

I so hope that is true. I demand that it be true. But is there actually a proof that a judge said that? Bailli or something? Please, let there be and point me to it.

Nah, sod all to do with this Mitchell thing. I’d just so love to be able to quote that.

48. Derek Hattons Tailor

“It is not an offence known to the laws of England to tell a police officer to fuck off”

Er from personal experience I can tell you that it is. Public order action section 4 or 5

Shatterface
I don’t know why you’re shocked, you didn’t imagine that any more than the merest handful of left wingers actually cared about justice and oppressive behaviour by the organs of the state surely ?

@ 48 Derek Hattons Tailor

Check the link in my comment at 31. In itself it’s not an offence. It only becomes an offence if it causes alarm or distress to bystanders. Coppers are supposed to be mentally tough enough that they don’t get alarmed or distressed by being subjected to Anglo -Saxon based vocabulary.

That’s not to say that they won’t nick you, just that they’ll never get the charges to stick.

Tim Worstall – I a quite aware that people with power over us try to act in their own interest. That is why I am interested in institutions and accountability. Your conclusion often seems to be that there should be no institutions except the market.

This piece touches all the bases at the end quite neatly but I don’t like the headline myself. The state’s security apparatus has obviously been meddling in politics for a very long time. But the Left should be wary to claim that fact for themselves because the State is everyone’s concern.

@41

but then we may as well just get rid of elections altogether and let plod pick the government based on their priorities.

That’s a bit of hyperbole I think, plod didn’t choose Andrew Mitchell, he presented them with a useful opportunity. One that was assisted by the fact the police are a ‘trusted source’ so can by quoted verbatim by the press with no blowbacks (for the press at least).

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 44 Shatterface

“I’m pretty unshockable but all the same I’m appalled by the sight of comment after comment in support of bent coppers just because this time it’s a toff being fitted up, not an Irish man, a Brazillian-who-looks-a-bit-swarthy, dead football fans or a murdered newspaper seller.”

Agreed. A-fucking-greed. I don’t care who’s selling it, I can’t get behind the position of “injustice is OK when it happens to people I dislike”. It’s the sort of statement that divides the decent humans from the utter twats.

@ 53 Cylux

That’s a bit of hyperbole I think, plod didn’t choose Andrew Mitchell, he presented them with a useful opportunity.

The issue is whether or not they would have taken that opportunity if Andrew Mitchell had previously made speeches in the HoC proposing that the police should have their powers of arrest extended to cover anyone who has a squinty eye, demanded the arming of all coppers with thermonuclear lacerators, and proposed a 100% pay rise for all officers below the rank of Chief Constable.

I suspect that if he had a history of making such speeches, then this situation would not have occured.

@ 54 Chaise.

Agreed. A-fucking-greed. I don’t care who’s selling it, I can’t get behind the position of “injustice is OK when it happens to people I dislike”. It’s the sort of statement that divides the decent humans from the utter twats.

Exactly. All must be equal before the law. All must have the same legal protections and the same rights.If unpleasant people receive fewer rights than the rest of us, then one day we can expect to be viewed as unpleasant people and we too will have fewer rights.

“If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, it will protect all of you”
Larry Flynt

“Your conclusion often seems to be that there should be no institutions except the market.”

No, sorry, but no. I’m one of the rational ones, recall? Perfectly happy to agree that there are times when the market unadorned just doen’t cut the mustard. I’m the guy who argues in favour of the congestion charge for example, in favour of a carbon tax, the guy who poiints out that the very existence of copyright and patents is an admission that the pure free market doesn’t work in certain cases.

I just argue that these cases where intervention/regulation are required happen less often than others seem to think.

And as to institutions etc. I don’t argue that we shouldn’t have them: just that we should be sceptical of what they say.

An excellent example of public choice economics is the current nonsense being spouted about booze. Binge drinking is down, total booze consumption is down, in recent decades and yet we’ve various publicly funded bodies screaming that *the rise* in both recently means that something must be done. Like minimum pricing for example. They’re clearly not motivated by the “good” to society or they wouldn’t lie so. They’re equally clearly advancing their own agenda through state power otherwise tey wouldn’t be lying so.

Exactly. All must be equal before the law. All must have the same legal protections and the same rights. If unpleasant people receive fewer rights than the rest of us, then one day we can expect to be viewed as unpleasant people and we too will have fewer rights.

But thanks to this incident we are now more equal before the law, since as has been pointed out so many times already in this thread the common man could and did face these sort of trumped up charges. That link I provided as the closest I could find to ‘It is not a crime to tell a police officer to fuck off’ was on appear – ie he’d already been found guilty and banged up for saying fuck a lot in front of an officer. Now people in power have had a taste of this sort of injustice.

Now if the government decides to get rid of the pertinent purposely badly worded parts of the public order act, so that we’re all free of these trumped up charges in the future then I will support them. If however they merely wish to exempt themselves from having their collar felt with these laws, then my support for equality for all before the law demands I ally myself with the police.

Appeal not appear.

@ 58 Cylux

Yes, we are hopefully more equal as a result of thi. We now hear that Andrew Mitchell, who used to believe pretty much anything plod said has become a damned sight more cynical about them – “lost faith” is the term he used. Hopefully he’ll be demanding more safeguards that ALL of us can rely on from now on. This however doesn’t change the fact that in response to my writing:

And when they’re being used by a group of police officers to usurp the lawful authority of the government they stink even more… even if that government does happen to be this bloody awful coalition.

You responded with:

As such I’m afraid I cannot agree too much with this.

Maybe I have missunderstood what you were trying to say, but I read that as “it doesn’t matter if plod plays tricks as long as he plays them on Tories”

As I said, this may have been a misunderstanding on my part – please clarify.

@60 Those laws stink bad enough as is, I fail to see why such laws suddenly begin to smell worse when they’re finally turned upon those for whom they were designed to serve. Ultimately the police are still in a weaker position than the government, the government’s plans to privatise policing is still slowly working away in the background in a NHS style piecemeal sell-off. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/02/police-privatisation-security-firms-crime
That the coppers managed to claim a high-ranking scalp for a few months by acting as they normally do with ordinary members of the public does little to affect this. They are no more or less in control of the nation than they were prior to unseating Mitchell.

Besides the real danger of the police has been well known for nearly 30 years now, that no police officer has faced jail time for killing while on duty since the 80’s, regardless of how dodgy and suspicious the circumstances. Which suggests that perhaps murder might well be regarded by the police higher ups as a valuable tool for the police to have for policing the nation.

“But is there actually a proof that a judge said that?”

No Bailii I’m afraid as Wells Street Magistrates Court is not a Court of record but I can assure you that I have quoted the exact words (prefaced in fact by the phrase “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…) of the formidable Stipendiary Magistrate of the time, Audrey Jennings. It’s not a line anyone there was ever likely to forget.

@ 61 Cylux

Ahhh gotcha. I think we were at cross purposes. Thanks for the clarification.

There is plenty in the phone-hacking affair that shows what is wrong with the Police.

sorry for swearing,but why is the media getting so fucked up in there frilly knickers over this vile example of a tory posh boy mitchell with his smug upper lip snearing of the working class man or women living in this land of tory anti working class hatred,do i feel sorry for posh boy mitchell,bollocks to him and cameron, are the cops corrupt,well maybe a few bad apples,but the real criminals here are the tory selfish bastards living in there leafy gated well protected ghettos from the rest of us who will suffer from scum and crap of society who will rob and thieve of working class people less of well than them.see andrew mitchell,you can call the police fucking this and that,but it is us that have to live with the realitys of the cuts in the police force by your goverement in the coming years.so fuck you andrew mitchell.ok..haa ha haa

I think that the Tories are going to make an issue out of police corruption and, surprisingly, they have a point.

@ 64 Guano

Indeed. This case and the phone hacking case are related. Wasn’t it The Sun that broke the news on the Mitchell case? How did they get the details? Ah yes – a leak from plod.

Meanwhile, The Mail today reports a 62% rise in allegations of police corruption text investigations, much of it related to leaking confidential information.

Over in The Telegraph ,it is revealed that in the past 18 months, out of a total of 39 chief constables, 7 “…have been sacked for misconduct, suspended, placed under criminal or disciplinary investigation or forced to resign.”

In the next tier down we are told that “In the same period, at least eight deputy or assistant chief constables have also been placed under ongoing investigation, suspended or forced out for reasons of alleged misconduct.”

Many people seem to forget that the issues raised by Leveson involve not just the so called phone-hacking allegations – though this was what everyone concentrated on – but also members of the police handing out information to their drinking buddies in the press. Just how did the press get all those details about celebrities being nicked so that they could wait outside the cop-shop to snap a photo of them coming out when released?

I agree with your point at 66… Well whodda thunkit?

As an aside, the Met has been here before. Back in the 60’s when the authorities were trying to get the Richardson gang, the investigation was done by Hertfordshire Constabulary as the Home Office couldn’t trust the Met.

As wikipedia says “By 1966, the Metropolitan Police was allegedly so corrupt that Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, was considering replacing up to 70% of the CID and other specialist branches with CID from Manchester, Kent, Devon & Cornwall, and Birmingham.”

I wonder how far Theresa May will go?

69. Sir Bernard Henderson

I hate Tories and I hate coppers as they invariably all voted Tory as Thatcher looked after them. They were probaly looking forward to massive overtime keeping the real plebs downtrodden as per in the miners strike.

Oops that plan backfired.

I have no sympathy for either side and this latest hoo hah is to keep peoples minds of how bad a government is ruining our country

The left should be more worried about the Tories running the Labour Party

69, Not all cops voted Tory during the Thatcher era, Brian Paddick was a cop then and a liberal, Alek Marnoch and Ray nallon who both went into politics were socialists, Keith Blakelock raised a fortune for the miners during the strike, I know loads of cops from that era who are in my local labour party, regarding the Police being Tories cos of Thatcher none of the police from the miners strike are still in the job, the have to leave after 30 years,

Robert Mark was Chief Constable in Leicestershire until he was brought in as external appointment to be Commissioner of the Metropoiltan Police in 1972 with the Heath government’s intention of rooting out criminality and corruption in the Met.

Corruption was rife in the Flying Sqaud, an elite unit in the Met:

“This was the era in which the squad’s close ties with the criminal fraternity, which had always been a necessary part of its strategy, were being exposed to public criticism. A number of scandals involving bribery and corruption and were revealed, and on 7 July 1977, the squad’s commander, Detective Chief Superindent Kenneth Drury, was convicted on five counts of corruption and jailed for eight years. Twelve other officers were also convicted and many more resigned.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Squad

For more flavour of those times, see the Wikipedia entry for the Richardson Gang.

A frequently reported remark by Robert Mark from when he was the Commissioner: “A good police force is one that catches more criminals than it employs.”

@ Bob B 71.

The corruption in the Vice Squad was terrible too by all accounts. Working girls had to give “favours” to plod in order to work unhindered. Sales of pornography were restricted to those who paid the bribes.

I’m reminded of the old joke. Two coppers meet up in the canteen – they’d worked together years before. “What are you doing nowadays then?”

“Vice Squad.”

“What’s all that about?”

“Oh catching perverts.”

“Catch many?”

“Yeah. We caught one last night. We went to the public toilets and drilled a hole in the wall of the cubicle so were could see if there were any perverts in the next one and we caught one bang at it.”

“What was he doing?”

“The dirty bastard had got a drill with him and he drilled a hole in the cubicle wall…”

Catching pervs in men’s loos was well known to be a regular way of dressing up the numbers of arrests for the squad’s crime stats.

Recap how Alan Turing committed suicide in 1954 with a poisoned apple after being convicted of “gross indecency” and sentenced to chemical castration. He was 41.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing

IMO the world lost out from his untimely death.

Recap on this this report from the Mail in November 2012 about the findings of the Levenson inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press :

Former assistant Metropolitan Police commissioner John Yates was too close to friends who worked at the News of the World while the newspaper was under investigation for phone hacking.

Lord Justice Leveson criticised the senior officer – known as ‘Yates of the Yard’ – for his ’defensive mindset’ which meant he rushed into ruling out a new police probe into the scandal in 2009.

Mr Yates spent less than a day reviewing the material from the Met’s 2006 hacking investigation before dismissing a new investigation.

The judge expressed ’regret’ that Yates did not step aside from running the investigation ‘into the newspaper at which he had friends, including one who was deputy editor’ – Neil Wallis.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2240551/Yates-Yard-got-close-News-International-friends-hacking-probe-Lord-Leveson-finds.html

Report in the Mail on 13 July 2011:

“John Yates resisted calls to resign yesterday as MPs grilled him over his inquiry into phone hacking two years ago. The Met Assistant Commissioner was criticised for failing to reopen the files on the News of the World scandal in 2009. However, in a strong show of support, he was backed by Home Secretary Theresa May and his boss, Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson.”

Report in the Telegraph on 18 July 2011:

“One of Scotland Yard’s most senior officers, John Yates, has resigned over his handling of the phone hacking scandal and his links to Neil Wallis, the former News of the World executive. “

Pleb is an unusual word. It has been suggested that Mitchell used it in the vernacular during or prior to an alleged kerfuffle. Separately, Mitchell was accused of using the word pleb whilst acting as a parliamentary whip.

The skirmish (if there was anything) at the end of Downing Street was very brief. But the word pleb is what we are expected to remember.

Mitchell had little time to express the word pleb.

The copper story has always been about the word “pleb”. But it is unlikely that the word could have been used at the gate of Downing Street.

So the word “pleb” must have been introduced post facto.

the moral of this story is chilling,when the lawmakers become the lawbreakers we are in big bloody trouble,big trouble in little china as they call it.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why the 'pleb-gate' affair should also worry the Left http://t.co/FGpC1v0x

  2. Carter

    Why the 'pleb-gate' affair should also worry the Left http://t.co/FGpC1v0x

  3. Derek Bryant

    Why the 'pleb-gate' affair should also worry the Left http://t.co/FGpC1v0x

  4. Sunny Hundal

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  5. Rose-the-pleb

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  6. Bellatrix Roseus

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  7. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why the ‘pleb-gate’ affair should also worry the Left http://t.co/9uTObqGe

  8. Damien Healy

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  9. Jonathan Kent

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  10. John Dougherty

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  11. teresa vicks

    Why the ‘pleb-gate’ affair should also worry the Left | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/xe0LDBCU via @libcon

  12. Della Mirandola

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  13. Rother Green Party

    Good point by @jolph: Why the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ controversy should also worry the Left http://t.co/mRGw3bvF

  14. Mark Rafferty

    @jonsnowC4 Agreement from both sides of the political spectrum it seems: http://t.co/bI3OYPmN

  15. Ken Rice

    Yes, quite disturbing! Why the ‘pleb-gate’ affair should also worry the Left | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/byPZaJPl via @libcon

  16. Louis Stephen

    Why the 'pleb-gate' affair should also worry the Left http://t.co/FGpC1v0x

  17. Alex Parsons

    That is beautiful back-tracking right there :: http://t.co/OZe8GSQm

  18. Robert CP

    Why the ‘pleb-gate’ affair should also worry the Left | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/iqLZR15c via @libcon

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    […] Jonathan Kent makes the case that ‘pleb-gate’ should also worry the left. […]

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