Posts Tagged ‘POLICE’
Don’t mention the cricket! I mentioned it once this morning but, like Basil Fawlty before me, I think I got away with it. It wasn’t quite so cold as we cleaned out the hens this morning and there was a good deal of conversation but the cricket buffs amongst us, who for weeks have regaled us with images of demoralised and terrified Aussies awaiting the arrival of Jimmy Anderson, made no reference of any kind to the Wackford Squeers-like thrashing handed out by “the worst Australian side in living memory”.
However there was a good deal of comment about this morning’s headlines regarding a “radical” blueprint to reform the police about to be published by Lord Stevens, the former Met commissioner. Its central proposal is to put more bobbies back on the beat, to return to being proactive rather than reactive. It doesn’t sound very radical to us, more a statement of what Basil used to call the bleeding obvious. In fact we, who valued our beat officer, would love to meet the idiot that decided to change things and to shake him warmly by the throat!
For several years our man with the helmet was Alan, who often popped in for a quick cuppa just as we were enjoying our allotments break. Everyone took the opportunity to pass on any suspicions of dodgy doings. Many were so far-fetched that he let them in at one ear and out of the other, but from time to time he would promise to check things out. We know that he called to see, or stopped to talk to, many other folk on his rounds as a result of which he built up a mental library of most things and most people in his patch.
Now he has gone and no one would so much as consider going to the reception desk at the local Nick to fill in forms and risk derision from civilian clerks. Like George Dixon of old Alan befriended many, nipped many problems in the bud, and owned an invaluable inventory of potential clues should his detective colleagues be at any time brought into play. Beat patrols are not, as some lunatics at the Home Office seem to think, an extravagance. They are an essential core to comprehensive policing.
We were reminded of this by today’s top story. Slavery comes in many forms, and is very hard to detect. There have of course been instances in the past of victims incarcerated with total loss of freedom, but the majority of cases are more subtle. It is, for example, entirely possible for young women to be brought into the country and to feel totally dependent on their supposed saviours. They quickly become reliant on them for employment and accommodation and, in many cases, for basic communication since the last thing their ‘masters’ will do is to arrange for them to acquire skills in language.
A few months ago a friend in Manchester mentioned a nail-bar she sometimes visits. None of the girls speak English and all seem reticent in the extreme. At the time it provoked little more than curiosity, and certainly not something that justified a formal approach to the police. The same could be said for a household near us where several women wearing face veils emerge very occasionally, and are never seen other than accompanied by a seemingly domineering male. Of course many Muslims dress the same way but do so unaccompanied and with an obvious air of pride. This feels quite different.
Now that the subject has moved into the national spotlight we all can probably recall what seemed strange behaviour. Doubtless we will all spot others but the likelihood is that we will seldom feel sufficiently confident of our suspicions to risk putting our names to accusations that may well be unfounded, a fear heightened by the loss of trust in the police based on Murdoch, Hillsborough and the rest. Mentioning it in passing to a well known beat officer would be a different matter altogether.
Predictably the politicians have reacted to the Stockwell revelations in knee-jerk fashion. There is to be a Slavery Commissioner, there is to be an Inquiry which will drone on for ever. As in so many other things what is most needed is connection with the general public amongst which those who enslave others live, move and have their being. Police cars have their plus points but encouraging local information feed is not amongst them.
Having delivered our sermon we codgers would like to end on a positive note. Last night’s Dr Who special was, in our view, a masterpiece. We are not quite so obsessed as those who dressed as Daleks and went along to the Vue cinema to watch the transmission, but we do love the sheer escapism of magic screwdrivers, time travel and Eric Pickles-like aliens.
Right now, given the temperature and general air of disillusion, we would welcome the chance to go back to another age of warm days and buxom wenches. Going into the future is less appealing for people in their eighties!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” I thought the older couple were definitely the ones in charge, they were the dominant ones, you could tell that. The young girls were quiet and would not say much..there was something strange about it all”…. A resident living close to the south London maisonette now the focus of a police investigation.
It was good to see the sun this morning, even though its heating switch was in the off position. Having read of impending gale-force winds we codgers were thankful for small mercies as we cleaned out the hens whilst dressed in the manner of Eskimo Nell. Brass monkeys would have fled the scene but we wizened northerners are made of tougher stuff. Not everyone shares that view, she-who-must-be-obeyed contends that where there is no sense there is no feeling.
Either way our dear leader was the focus of attention when we thawed out with our brew. Yesterday he incurred the wrath of his arch enemy, little John Bercow, when he turned a terrible brick colour and declared Ed Miliband to be a conman. As my old Gran used to say it takes one to know one. As a nation we love the concept of National Days, and the calendar is packed with such, ranging from the Rose through to Ferret breeding. Henceforth our Playboy versions will mark October 23 as National Conman Day.
It follows that yesterday was in retrospect the inaugural occasion. A quick resume revealed that we are off to a prolific start. We positioned our dear leader’s sleight of hand in regard to Stafford Hospital near the top of the list. The prime minister labelled the hospital a national disgrace, a place in which dehydration is only avoided by drinking from flower vases. Just days later over 50,000 locals paraded through Stafford in support of their “treasured hospital”, and it was revealed that vases have been banned for the past half century. Perhaps we should have a conman of the year award?
Our dear leader would be up there amongst the favourites. Yesterday he strengthened his claim by suddenly announcing that Miliband’s green taxes were to blame for the continual rise in energy prices, and promised to “roll them back”. It did seem to contradict his election slogan of “Vote blue to go green”, and it did seem to bemuse his LibDem partners who promised to ensure that his promise will never see the light of day. But it was a textbook example of a first-class con – promise something which cannot be delivered due to the intransigence of others.
But completion for the honour would be intense. The police yesterday staked their claim with what must have been the most beguiling performance before a Commons select committee of all time. Jerry Reekes-Williams, of West Mercia police, reported on his investigation of the trio that gave to the media versions of their meeting with Andrew Mitchell that directly contradicted the conversation recorded on the Mitchell’s tape-recorder. The officers, said the investigator, were not guilty of lying, but they did mislead by “putting weight on certain words and phrases”. The trio followed with a demonstration in the art of evasion so wearisome that Keith Vaz, the normally tolerant chairman of the committee, was moved to ask if they imagined the questioning to be “some sort of TV panel show”.
But even they probably felt less uncomfortable than the American and British security surveillance lot when Angela Merkel became uncharacteristically heated at the discovery that they have been busy hacking into her mobile phone. Catlin Hayden, the White House’s National Security spokeswoman failed her comman test when she replied that “We are not monitoring , and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel”, thus revealing that they have done so in the past. Come back Edward Snowden, all is forgiven!
It was no surprise to find Michael Gove, who always gives the impression of someone auditioning for the part of a villain in a Bond movie, up there amongst the champion conman contenders. Having declarer that his beloved ‘free schools’ are carefully vetted he was unmasked by a leaked Department for Education document. His signature appears below a proposal to “reduce financial analysis”, and for good measure the suggestion is coloured in green with “Yes, cut” scrawled alongside.
Another contender in the conman stakes must be Gorgeous George Osborne. He is about to trumpet the news that the economy is at last enjoying strong growth. Sadly for him a study about to be released by Manchester University reveals that the top 20% of earning households are enjoying most of the growth, and that the north/south divide has widened dramatically. Our hero may well forget to mention that the ‘recovery’ is somewhat selective!
No list of conmen would be complete without mention of the tax avoiders. Every day brings more names of offenders and today official figures show that £35billion was uncollected last year, a figure far in excess of all the cuts imposed on what the gorgeous one calls “ordinary people”. Today’s new names include the Gondola Group, which owns Pizza Express, Zizzi and Ask. It has avoided UK corporation tax to the extent of £77m since it was bought by the Cinven private equity fund in 2006. But is unfair to single out any one avoider, the practice is almost universal including even the recipients if our lottery flutters, Camelot.
Having said all that it has to be admitted that the banks are still the most likely contenders for the Cameron conmen award. Take a bow Barclays, who may no longer pay you interest on your current account but still know how to maintain gigantic bonuses despite the EU cap. Barclay’s cunning plan is to hand out a third payment to bankers in addition to basic salary and traditional bonuses. The payment will probably take the form of a monthly allowance , paid in cash in addition to salary but not taken into account when bonuses are calculated.
Aspiring conmen such as politicians, police , spies and business gurus can eat their hearts out. When it comes to the noble art of conmanship our banks are still without equal!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects”…..Herodotus
A dry start but Albert’s seaweed suggests that the monsoons are on their way. The result was that we worked at snails pace Mark 2 as we cleaned out the hens this morning, and there was less time than usual for chat. However there seemed to be general approval of England’s performance at Wembley. Of course beating Poland is one thing, winning in Rio another, but at least we will have something to moan about come 2014. Meanwhile it was slightly disconcerting to see hordes of UK residents booing the home team, perhaps Adrian Chiles was right?
But once we had somewhat breathlessly reached the shed for our brew our miniscule minds turned to a rather more important issue, the one of trust. Most of us codgers have spent time in foreign fields and are very aware of the sense of hopelessness that overwhelms you when, on encountering a threat, one is told not to go to the police who “can’t be trusted”. I remember feeling just that in Nigeria when I discovered with rising panic that my passport and credit cards had been stolen.
I am not suggesting that things have reached those murky depths here, but there is no doubt that trust in our police is plummeting. And that is very dangerous in any democracy. The cancer of distrust eats away at our inherent feeling of security and, in turn, at our willingness to volunteer information. Effective policing is dependent on a good relationship with the public, once that is jeopardised the only people to benefit are the criminals and bully-boys.
By the time that Newsnight hit the airwaves last night, it was clear that police officers lied in the so-called Plebgate affair. In fact a significant number of them appeared to have lied including the Police Federation trio that interviewed Andrew Mitchell, unaware that he was taping all that was said. Even more disquieting was the evidence that Chief Constables believe that there is no need for further investigation.
This follows hot on the heels of evidence that officers were in cahoots with the odious Saville, whilst others doctored witness statements taken at the time of the Hillsborough disaster. The likelihood is that criminal trials about to start will show that police officers sold confidential information to the Murdoch press..the list rolls on.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the police force has dishonest officers within its ranks, and that the leadership is woefully weak. A few days ago I had lunch with an old friend who has risen to the rank of Chief Inspector. He is an honest man, someone you instinctively trust. He told me that, as in any other profession, there are dishonest people within the force, but he made the point that the lead must come from the top. He has little respect for the Police Federation and believes that too many top cops lack the courage to stand up to it. He added that the true test of a constabulary’s integrity is its willingness to bring charges against its own members.
Many moons ago I served as chief executive of a large industrial concern. I knew only too well that no organisation comprises saints alone, and always maintained a distance and a clear message that wrongdoing would be punished irrespective of its originator’s identity or status. It didn’t make me popular but I like to believe that everyone knew exactly where the company stood on criminal activity. Being at the top of a police force should be no different.
The last thing we need is the involvement of politicians in this worrying situation. They are universally distrusted, and the actions they have taken on issues such as headcount have only served to alienate even the most dedicated copper. And their latest suggestion that we bring in foreign leaders is crass in the extreme. What is needed is a much improved selection process involving former senior officers who retired without a stain on their characters, and who tick all the boxes on honesty and independence. Meantime we need to see prosecutions of all those suspected of misdemeanours in Plebgate, Hillsborough and the rest.
The alternative is an ever-increasing gulf between Joe Public and the people supposedly responsible for his protection. When scandals such as those arising from abuse emerge only the police can lead the investigation. Does anyone right now have any confidence that they will act fearlessly and without deference to anyone? Until the answer to that is yes, we continue to be in very dangerous waters.
One of the key roles of the police is involvement in national security. And in this field it has to be said that they are continually provided with a toxic example. In our view Edward Snowden is a hero, for he has revealed the extent to which our security services enjoy a dangerous degree of autonomy, answerable to no one. The former Conservative minister Lord Blencathra, backed by the former Labour minister Nick Brown, has revealed that their committee scrutinising the government’s abandoned communications bill was never informed abut GCHQ’s existing and far more sweeping mass surveillance activities aimed at “telling everything about somebody’s life, terrorist or not”.
The combination of a total lack of accountability and unregulated action is dangerous in the extreme. Allow any organisation to play God and sooner or later the bad guys feel free to act badly! Unless led by strong and independent spirits partner organisations such as the police follow suit.
There are undoubtedly many honest and committed police officers. They, and us, deserve better than the present situation which can only be described as a national disgrace!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Everyone in public life should be arrested at least once. It’s an education!”….Alan Clark
We codgers love telling world leaders that they are wrong, it is so much easier to pontificate from an armchair than to actually face the heat of the kitchen. We had to admit to this when, having cleaned out the squabbling hens this morning, we gathered for our brew. It was the dilemma facing Barack Obama that triggered our contrition.
Clearly the Russians have a vested interest in ensuring that Assad’s chemical arsenal does not fall into the hands of Jihadists, and he must know that they have offered him an escape route from the nightmare of failing to win support from Congress. But implementation of the plan to place the weapons in UN hands will prove extremely difficult and prolonged. Wait for too long and the very people now poised to accuse him of pointless additional slaughter will accuse him of weakness.
As in most things we find ourselves seeking refuge in the creed of Spock of Star Trek fame. We try to apply logic. In this case it suggests that he maintains pressure by announcing a specific date by which a UN team is safely installed, with unlimited access provided by a ceasefire. It also suggests that he confine his strategy to chemical weapons for, whilst to believe that deaths of innocents by chemical bombardment are the only ones that matter is illogical, involvement in the Syrian civil war is even more so since that could only end in another Iraq or Afghanistan.
We may be wrong, but it does seem to us that only cold logic can penetrate the fog of emotion and madness as warring factions slaughter each other in the name of imaginary Gods. However the logic test works more easily when applied to domestic issues, ours being a society that at least has a reasonably rational membership.
A case in point is surely the so-called bedroom tax. At present we have the mother of all emotional arguments. Conservatives trot out the seemingly logical case that other taxpayers should not be expected to subsidise accommodation that is larger than the occupant requires. Labour counter this with talk of victims being moved away from their familiar community, and quote various examples of spare rooms being needed for storage of medical equipment.
To add to the mayhem a UN investigator, Raquel Rolnik, yesterday reported that she was disturbed by the extent of unhappiness caused by the tax and was struck by how heavily the policy was affecting “the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life”. The situation, she claimed, is as urgent as similar human rights situations in Rwanda and Kazakhstan. Cue the emotional responses – the government cries rubbish, the opposition yells we told you so.
Now slap on a large dollop of logic. In most areas the local authorities admit that they have no vacant affordable housing, no way of providing one or two bedroom accommodation. It follows that logical though the idea of people with excessive space downsizing to make way for larger families, it is incapable of implementation. Therefore forget the emotional arguments and abandon an idea – good or otherwise – that cannot be proceeded with. Save your collective breath and work on something that can see the light of day.
As you will gather we codgers love the game of logic. Every day brings examples to play with. The BBC bosses have destroyed their own credibility by handing out vast sums of taxpayer’s money to redundant executives without so much as a thought about the need to do so or the public reaction when, inevitably, the facts emerge. The police and CPS have serious amounts of egg on their faces as a result of a TV star being acquitted of charges publicised heavily by them over two years. Did it not occur to them that maintaining a discreet silence until such time as a trial would have been a more sensible and fairer approach?
And one could fill a roll of wallpaper with logical questions about High Speed Rail. If its aim is to free up capacity why not simply expand the existing network? If its aim is to provide a working environment for entrepreneurs does anyone know whether some thirty years from now they will still be whizzing about on trains rather than using real-time technology?
We codgers are still sane enough to realise that Spock was a fictional character. But whoever wrote the script was on to something big. We don’t need risk-assessments, spin-doctors or point-scoring politicians. We need logic, oodles of the stuff!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Many have brains like Einstein – dead since 1955!”….Gene Perrit
For reasons unknown Werrity has become a familiar cry on the allotments. I can only imagine that his supposedly dashing yet mysterious adventures, at the time when he was helping Liam Fox to run the Ministry of Defence, bewitched us all. Of course we all know that it ended in tears, but to this day whenever we encounter a problem the cry goes up to ‘Send for Werrity’. Th gentleman in question has faded from the headlines but today his boss has emerged from hibernation.
Dr Fox is, to put it mildly, a little to the right of our dear leader in political thinking. He obviously feels that the passing of Margaret Thatcher is an opportune moment to restore the standing of the Conservative Party in the eyes of all true blues, and to that end he is about to sound a call to arms. He is demanding a total freeze in all state spending for up to five years, a draconian move that would yield about £345 billion.
“We need to stop talking simply about growth and start talking about wealth creation”, he will say. We must, he will argue, reduce taxes and remind many why they were drawn to the Tory cause under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership. As a move aimed at unseating Cameron and Osborne it is a clever move but, as with all actions of a Fox, it risks a huge backlash.
It has to be said that things in the wealth department are somewhat different to those of Maggie’s day. She argued in favour of the small entrepeneur who, through sheer graft and enterprise, could create cash for himself and gainful employment for others. She would not have approved of tax-avoiders or executives of banks and energy companies pocketing millions. She would also have drawn the line at freezing every state service to the point where all but the very rich would suffer.
Fox is not merely talking about benefits here. Just imagine the effect on the NHS or police. No problem for those able to afford private medicine or who, like the Doctor, live in houses with electronic gates and private security to hand. For the rest of us – it doesn’t bear thinking about.
But credit where it is due. Dr Fox has given us an insight into right-wing thinking, one well concealed by the seemingly moderate, albeit confusing, policies of the Cameroons.
If his intention was to swing doubting voters at the local elections it seems likely to backfire. The great man should have sent for Werrity!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober!”……Logan Pearsall Smith 1865-1946
Very cold this morning, with a thin sheet of ice covering the allotments pond. But so far we have been spared the forecast snow, so blessings were being counted as we codgers began our daily battle with mud and chickens alike. Unsurprisingly there was a good deal of discussion about the sudden resignation – if that is the appropriate term – of Pope Benedict XVI. Catholics, and non-Catholics alike, have developed great respect for the present incumbent and have become increasingly aware of his frailty. His conclusion that he is unable to muster the strength that leadership in this new age of high visibility and constant travel demands is a brave and selfless one.
Inevitably there will now be intense speculation around the resulting election, and for two reasons. The Church is important to many people across the globe, and deep-down we all love any measurement of popularity. And there are a few of those available on this cold February morning!
First up is the latest ICM survey. Labour has forged a 12-point lead over the Conservatives for the first time in almost a decade. Ed Miliband’s party stands at 41% of the vote, with the Tories on just 29%. Less surprising is the news that the Lib Dems have sunk to 13%, only just ahead of Ukip. The truth will out. It is hard to understand the success of Miband et al, easier to imagine that their popularity is the result of the self-inflicted wounds of our dear leader and his pals. He has, it seems, alienated nearly every woman in the land for the poll reveals that whilst Labour enjoys only a modest lead amongst men, the gap amongst the fairer sex has rocketed to 26 points!
Of greater interest amongst us codgers, given our delight at the thought that anyone could be less popular than us, is the latest edition of the Most Trusted league tables. Asked ‘Do you trust the following institutions?’, 70% said yes to the police and 69% to the NHS. Surprisingly the Banks score 62%, above the BBC at 59%. Less surprisingly, only 14% nodded when MPs were named. Despite all our supposed disillusion with police, NHS, and the Banks, it is the people in Westminster that have actually sunk to rock-bottom in public esteem.
When asked about the political leaders no more than 30% approved of our dear leader, and Messrs Miliband and Clegg could only scrape together 26% and 21% respectively. For what it is worth Churchill regularly polled in the nineties.
An interesting picture isn’t it? We do not believe what our political leaders think we believe. Proof positive of that came when people were asked about the position of Sir David Nicolson, head of the NHS. Ministers insist that he enjoys the trust of the public. When asked, 76% said he should either go or consider his position!
The truth will out!. And what is clear this morning is that our leaders lack the honest self-awareness of the Pope to mention but one!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: “When he who hears doesn’t know what he who speaks means, and when he who speaks doesn’t know what he himself means – that is philosophy!”….Voltaire
According to several leading newspapers the whole world is debating the likeness, or otherwise, of the painting of the Duchess of Cambridge. I can only conclude that our group of codgers is from another planet, for I didn’t hear even the vaguest reference to it as we cleaned out the hens this morning. Apart from those who regard studying the Royals as a substitute for reality, it seems unlikely that many people have given the matter any thought at all. As for the repeated references on the Beeb to ‘the most beautiful woman in the country’, I can only remark that there are various young women in our road who, given the same expensive hairdressers, make-up specialists, and clothes, could contest the claim.
What my pals did discuss was “Giving Victims a Voice”, the hastily prepared report on the Savile scandal. Frankly we are appalled by it. We do not question for one moment that Savile was a vile creature, and in saying that we are not in the embarrassing position of people like Jeremy Hunt who, just 15 months ago, paid tribute to his ‘sense of fun’ and talked of the ‘lasting legacy he leaves behind’. But our sense of outrage concerns the way in which the report has conveniently converted allegations into offences.
All we know that we did not know before is a series of statistics – the number of people who have come forward, the number and nature of offences alleged (126 indecent assaults, for example), their incidence over years and their geographical spread. The report is clearly right when it says there used to be an attitude of mind which dismissed accusations of sexual assault too easily. But it cannot be right to go so far the other way that every accusation must be considered true. It insists that everyone referred to in the statistics be described as a “victim” rather than a “complainant”, yet it cannot know whether this is an accurate description.
I found myself wondering how the inquiry would have treated a liar. Suppose X had pretended that he or she was a victim in the Seventies. X could have surrounded the claim with accurate, checkable facts about when Savile was where. Would X have automatically been believed, categorised as a “victim” and placed in the line for compensation?
Of course it is highly unlikely that many people who came forward are making things up, but it is not unknown for some people to say things which are not true, especially where celebrity and the prospect of money come into play. If the police and the NSPCC absolutely deny this possibility, then they are unfit to investigate iniquity of any kind.
Our concern is that because this report subjects stories against Savile to no tests, it puts unfair moral pressure on the other, related investigations now taking place. Suppose the NHS or BBC investigations come across a claim which they conscientiously believe to be false. Suppose – even more likely – that they encounter a claim which they simply feel they cannot judge accurately? If they refuse to discipline staff for errors or omissions, will they then be excoriated? Will they be accused of ignoring victims because they insist on sticking to known facts? And will all those now officially labelled victims be able to sue, regardless of proof?
We have to ask ourselves how, if every accusation is automatically believed, any sane person will ever again want to be a teacher, nurse, doctor, child-care assistant, charity worker, scoutmaster or children’s TV presenter. The moment we allow the police, NSPCC or anyone else to validate allegations without proper trial this is the risk being opened up by this ludicrous report.
Interestingly the one irrefutable fact that it produces is the utter failure of the police to bring Savile before the courts. Time and again they dismissed complaints. And they are still doing so. Official statistics reveal that the annual rate of alleged offences logged is running at 15,670 of which only 2910 went to court where only 1070 convictions were obtained.
We will never know for certain the depths to which Savile sank. What we do know is that there must be a total overhaul of the way in which the law-enforcement agencies deal with allegations. The way in which they have attempted to present a report based on suppositions based on the mood of the moment does not bode well. Small wonder that to this day only 15,670 women come forward, to seek police help, out of the estimated annual total of 95,000 rapes!
INSULTS; SOME FAMOUS QUOTES: “He’s not unlike Hitler, but without the charm”…..Gore Vidal “I admire him, I freely confess. And when the time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake”……Mark Twain “He’s one of those people who would be enormously improved by death”……Saki “I treasure every moment that I do not see her”…….Oscar Levant “The answer is in the plural and they bounce”,,,,,Edwin Lutyens “Who is one cell short of an amoeba?”…..Anne Robinson “I decided that the worst thing you can call Paul Keating, quite frankly, is Paul Keating”…..John Hewson “A hundred thousand sperm, and you were the fastest?”…..Jim Hightower
The more romantically inclined amongst the hen-keepers were quite touched by the pictures of our dear leader and his wife walking hand-in-hand down a deserted street to enjoy a celebratory birthday meal. They were less tearful when a newspaper reporter showed us a wider shot. The street had been closed off, and there were armed police positioned at both ends. Forget the Mills & Boon stuff, it was what the politicos like to call a photo-opportunity. After cleaning out the hens we reflected that nothing is quite what it seems in this age of spin.
So it is in the case of Andrew Mitchell. The prime minister has attempted to draw a line under the incident involving the Downing Street police by remarking that Mitchell has apologised and it is time “to move on”. The police are not prepared to do that, and for good reason. Yesterday Chris Jones, secretary of the West Midlands Police Federation, said that both our dear leader and his Chief Whip have effectively accused the police of lying.
He went on to say that the police accept the fact that he has apologised for his offensive langauge, but the fact remains that “they in effect are intimating that the officers were untruthful in a formal report. They insist that he did use the term ‘plebs’ and their integrity, and that of every other officer, is now being brought into question”. Chris Jones and numerous other leading police officers demand that Mr Mitchell either admits that he used the word or resigns.
The police are extremely concerned that the prime minister is effectively opening the door for challenges to police sworn statements in every criminal court. Defence counsels will argue, not unreasonably, that since the prime minister has accepted that police statements are falsified the one incriminating their clients may well be similar. This is the route to chaos. And those who move in senior government circles privately accept that the renowned bully Mitchell almost certainly did use his standard form of abuse for anyone considered to be below his station.
The underlying problem here seems to be a belief on the part of the establishment that the plebs – the whole nation minus the 10% who own most of the UK’s wealth – are incapable of seeing through any ruse. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the NHS reforms which are now in full flow. Already waiting lists are extending and many services are being rationed. There are many examples but the one concerning diabetes will suffice to illustrate what is happening.
There are a soaring number of new diabetic cases each year but 218 diabetic specialists have been dismissed. Sub-services are being outsourced and inexperienced high street commercial clinics are now providing treatment, with no knowlege of their history and no ability to carry out chacks on vascular problems. Barbara Young, head of Diabetes UK, says that the diabetic care pathway is being broken up, and the risk to patients is multiplying.
Over 400 NHS services are now in the process of privatisation. The government’s response is that GPs are taking over commissioning and they know best the needs of patients. Like the romantic birthday picture this is an illusion. The Royal College of GPs report that, despite a few enthusiasts, most of the new commissioning groups are not led by GPs, and the majority have none on their boards!
Meantime almost a third of NHS Foundation Trusts are feeling obliged to begin the process of increasing the number of beds reserved for private patients. The service that has served us all for so long is in the process of breakdown, we plebs are expected to be incapable of seeing beyond the facade.
None of which constitutes a condemnation of this particular government since society has reached the point where politicians in general have come to see the public at large as malleable, capable of believing anything.
This is the British version of what has happened in many more volatile societies. Someone has to have the moral courage to declare that enough is enough. If our dear leader was to take a stand for truth by dismissing Mitchell it would be a good sign.
We all know that the police are not beyond reproach, but they are all that stands between us and anarchy. To declare them as totally dishonest is a very dangerous practice, a lot is being put at risk to save the skin of one arrogant bully!
Our headline may have puzzled you. Are the codgers about to exclusively reveal that the Labour leader once fell foul of Dixon’s descendants? No, the words are intended to sum up a test that we believe should be applied as the latest party conference kicks off in Manchester. For days now, as we have gathered for our mid-morning brew on the allotments, we have been bemused by the superficial material appearing in the media about someone who might one day be the prime minister. We decided that the debate should really centre around policy, hence the reference to the police.
Several days ago we revealed talks between David Cameron and his press friends in which he called for attacks on the Labour leader. The newspapers have responded with gusto, encouraged no doubt by hints that our dear leader might be persuaded to ignore whatever Lord Leveson comes up with. Ed Miliband, they tell us, has no charisma, is hopeless in front of cameras, has a nasal twang and none of the beaming joyfulness of a Blair or Cameron.
The Daily Torygraph has this morning wheeled on mad Boris. He pays glowing tribute to Tony Blair, “the most successful Labour leader in modern times”. Anyone, says Boris, could cheerfully vote for Blair. “You could vote for Blair and use private medicine, vote for Blair and send your children to private schools, vote for Blair and be a well-heeled boss of a multinational corporation”, says the mad one.
I suppose that the problem facing the would be character-assassins is that Miliband can hardly be expected to have detailed policy proposals two years ahead of an election campaign. But they really do seem to be scraping the barrel. We codgers include in our numbers people of every political persuasion, and many of none. But we all agree on one thing, we are sick to the back teeth, that we no longer have, with political leaders with a bloated swaggering sense of personal destiny. And we are sick of actors posing as earnest leaders. Remember those inspiring performances by Nick Clegg in the TV debates?
Of course we acknowledge that Ed Miliband is less than a bundle of laughs, not the sort of geezer you would hire to entertain your kids on a wet bonfire night. We fear for him in any TV debate with the Morecambe and Wise of politics. Compared to Blair he is a true pleb. But he does appear to be honest.
We codgers on the jury are out. Our judgement on the latest new-boy on the political circuit will be based not on the shape of his nose but the shape of his policies. These may be early days but we would like to set him a little test. What will he do about the police?
Yesterday the home secretary, Theresa May, joined hundreds of people in York Minster paying tribute to police officers who have died on duty, including the two PCs killed a fortnight ago in Manchester. We believe that she had no moral right to be there for this government has done more to imperil police lives that any previous administration.
Right now, in areas such as Salford, there is rampant gun-crime. Harsh cuts to police numbers mean that regular round-the-clock neighbourhood policing has had to be curtailed and informal communication with the community has been lost. Response times to less than murder have slowed down. This is not unique to Greater Manchester, across the country communities have lost their local police-stations and their community officers. The police have no choice other than to become reactive rather than proactive.
Even in town-centre disturbances it is now often the case that two officers have to attempt to contain large groups of aggressive drunks. Back up can be a long time coming and the danger of serious injury is an ever-present nightmare.
Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Mnchester, spoke movingly yesterday about the thousands of officers killed, and the uplift given to his force by the public response to the deaths of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes. We codgers live in the region and we know that he is right, people from every walk of life have been deeply moved by what happened to those two dedicated young women. We also know that many are concerned at what is being done to the police in our name.
When ministers comment that times are hard and everyone must tighten their belts they miss a central truth. Whether we realise it or not we all rely on the police to maintain order in an increasingly fractious society. Army apart, it is a unique calling, the threat of serious injury or death never more than a dark corner away. And the fewer police there are the greater the danger to them and to to all of us.
So there is our challenge. We care not a fig that Ed Miliband cannot match Cameron, Clegg, Blair or mad Boris in the acting business, we care only about his plans. If he has one for restoring the morale and safety of our police we would like to hear it!
Apologies! I’m very late publishing today and can only excuse myself on the grounds of that long-standing British tradition of traffic jams caused by road digging. We had to travel to East Lancs to collect a load of chicks – feathered variety – from a farm. I can only assume that the Bolton and Blackburn areas have taken up the excavation hobby with enthusiasm.
Everywhere we drove we became tangled up in jams waiting for temporary lights to turn green, whilst geezers sat on buckets reading copies of the Sun. Everyone practised the noble art of hooting furiously, most people ignored the lights and became entangled with drivers coming from the other direction. What they are all digging for we didn’t discover. Fortunately chickens go to sleep the moment they are enclosed within airy boxes so, on the return tour of the holes – by then the Sun-readers had gone home – they enjoyed a refreshing snooze whilst we sat wracked in pent-up rage. The result was that we were very late returning.
But we still had time to read of the ultimate lateness. The families of those killed, or seriously injured, at Hillsborough have had to wait since 1989 to learn the truth of what happened on that tragic day. Yesterday the Hillsborough Independent Panel reported on its three year study of 450,000 documents previously witheld by the authorities.
It confirmed Lord Justice Taylor’s key finding in August 1989 that the main reason for the disaster was “a failure in police control”. It also revealed that “mulitple failures” in other emergency services and public bodies contributed to the death toll. Similarly, serious failings in the inquests and reviews that followed prolonged the agony of the families of the victims.
But the most devastating revelation is the extent to which the police and the establishment have covered up their culpability. They were abetted by the Sun which printed a pack of lies. No great surprise about the tabloid but total shock at what the police in particular have done, the lengths to which they have lied and suppressed evidence. Although those documents were not available to the public many senior officers must have known their content. Public trust has been damaged almost beyond repair.
We codgers are not vengeful by nature but it seems to us vital that the government now acts to initiate criminal proceedings wherever these are possible. The police are not above the law and their behaviour was intolerable.
They, and sections of the media, have attempted to place blame on innocent people. Until those responsible are behind bars no one will ever again trust anything that the police or emergency services say.
It is all far too late but justice must now be seen to be done!
Several of us had planned to visit the Southport Flower Show today but were dissuaded by last night’s weather forecast of continual and torrential rain. Yet again the weathermen got it wrong. Instead of wandering the predictably glittering array of flowers we were this morning up to our ears in hen-muck without so much as a spot of the wet stuff to justify our U-turn. The question is not why does the Met office invariably get it wrong, it is why we habitually watch its unending array of charts and waffle.
Of course were we rich we could abandon worries about our ability to prise our jallopies out of mud and ring for the chauffeur instead. But like most of Britain we are, as they say in the East End, near to being brassic lint. Most of us rely on supplementing our pensions by accruing interest on such savings as we have. Thanks to the inane quantative easing, a euphemism for pouring cash into the bank’s profits, interest rates have shrunk to the size of Baldrick’s vest. But, despite claims that inflaton is falling, our bills continue to rocket.
Yes, the euphoria of the Olympics is wearing off as we come to earth with a bang. For two trumphant weeks it really did feel as though we are all in it together. Back on planet earth we realise that only most of us are in it, and you don’t need to be a hen-cleaner to know what it is we are in!
But back to the rich, whose only discomfort relates to the amount of media attention now being focussed on their equivalent of the Great Train Robbery. Today the audited record of top-executive pay has hit the headlines.
The total pay package for the typical FTSE 100 chief executive hit £3 million for the first time in 2011. This represented an average increase of 9 per cent – despite it being a brutal year for investors. By contrast the average pay rise for workers nationally was 1.6 per cent, less than half the rate of inflation, placing pressures on household disposable incomes and endangering growth prospects.
One might imagine that the overly generous pay of our top executives refelcts success. Hardly, the FTSE 100 fell 6.5 per cent during 2011. Of late a so-called shareholders spring has emerged with directors being heckled at countless Annual General Meetings. But last year’s largesse continues. Barclays and the rest may have wiped out interest on your current account and tightened their approach to you should you become overdrawn, but they are happy to continue to pour money into the pockets of those who created this mess in the first place.
Add the massive gap now opening up between employers and employed to the fact that few of the new breed of super-rich pay tax and you have a massive problem. Of course there is the loss of revenue to the treasury, but the psychological impact is the real killer. Millions and millions of struggling Brits feel enormous resentment at what is going on. The result is a poor political outcome for the government.
If our dear leader cannot convince the nation that we are united in austerity he is doomed, the nearly double-figure lead now held by Ed Miliband will grow and grow. That will lead to ever-growing schisms within the coalition, and the house of Cameron, Clegg and all will come tumbling down.
And with Armageddon looming what has been the response of Gorgeous George the Chancellor? He has reduced the top rate of tax and he has stuck stubbornly to a no-growth policy.
The worry is that whilst it may be goodnight for him, it may be curtains for the rest of us. There has always been an element of them and us in our society but now ‘them’ seem to reside on a different planet!
All this week we have gaped in astonishment as the much-heralded Games legacy has been axed. Troops, that took over Olympics security at the last moment are being presented with P45s, police are being replaced by G4S, the one failure of the Games, and school playing fields are under fresh assault, not least because Academies (around half of all secondary schools) are now free to sell off their sports heritage.
Any leader wth half a brain would realise that a gesture is called for. The public has fallen in love with the Olympics, more than 2.1 million tickets for the paralympics have already been taken up. Once they are over why not open up the Olympic Park for a few months? Everyone who managed to get a ticket can then wander freely over the famous points of memory. Those who didn’t can feel the reality of what they viewed so avidly on the box.
It is churlish to slam the gates whilst there is so much interest. Given the general air of a divided country, opening them wide is a political necessity.
We allotmenteers are becoming somewhat obsessed with the early signs of the promised Olympics legacy. Together with everyone else we loved the Games and ate a Desperate Dan-sized dollop of humble pie having expressed doubts about such diverse aspects as security, transport and ticket sales. In the event the 2012 Games were an enormous success thanks in no small measure to the troops and police who stepped in at the last moment to compensate for the G4S fiasco.
A couple of days ago this site recorded record hits when we railed at the shabby treatment of our troops. Same again yesterday when we highlighted the crass action by Education Secretray Gove who celebrated the end of the glorious fortnight by announcing new laws which wipe out the obligation of state-owned schools to provide sports facilities. What we didn’t know yesterday was that Gove has continually overruled advice from the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel, which investigates applications from schools to sell off playng fields. He has also lied about the totals and today his department has been obliged to admit that 30 sales have been approved between May 2010 and July 2012.
So there is no legacy for the troops or playing fields. Surely the police at least have reaped reward? Actually no. Advertisements are appearing seeking privatised police officers. The proposed employer is none other than G4S.
This latest little secret concerns Warwickshire police whose number of officers has fallen to just 802, and another £10 million of savings means that more redundancies will follow. But fear not, G4S are preparing to take over. Its advertisements say that successful applicants will investigate crime, gather evidence, seize and view evidential material, take statements from victims and witnesses, prepare files for the Crown Prosecution Services, attend court hearings and give evidence, and identify and trace offenders. In other words civilians employed by G4S will become police officers. Given what we learned of the company’s recruitment and training methods that is a sobering thought. And given what we learned of the company’s high-profit and low-wages there will be a dramatic fall in standards but no saving to the national purse.
Yesterday, the cabinet ministers Philip Hammond and Jeremy Hunt said the outcome of the £284 million G4S Olympic security contract had caused them both to “think again” about the default use of private contractors. More lies to go with those of their colleague Mr Gove perhaps?
In today’s issue of Private Eye there is a report on G4S staff who referred to troubled teenagers in their care, at a Kent secure training centre, as “arseholes” who “need to be taught a lesson”. G4S managing director, Paul Cook, has admitted to “inappropriate conduct and behaviour” as a result of which staff have been sacked for “gross professional conduct”.
It is surely unacceptable to sub-contract policing or offender treatment to a private company whose first priority is profit. To choose the one that almost jeopardised the Olympics is not only unacceptable, it is pure madness, political ideology of a third-world state.
But we must comment with caution for G4S officers may be heading our way!
SAY ONE THING, DO ANOTHER!
The latest hospital trust to suffer as a result of the ludicrous Private Finance Initiatives launched under Blair is Mid Yorkshire. A huge and unaffordable PFI contract was imposed to pay for the new Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield that opened in 2010. The contract, currently costing £35m per year, was signed in 2007 wth PFI company Consort Healthcare, a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and a then privately owned RBS.
To pay for this lunacy the trust is sacking scores of staff, nearly 200 others are being downgraded and given pay cuts and nurses are having to do the cleaning.
Andrew Lansley is on record as seeing 30-year long PFI contracts as being “at odds with the government’s conception of even-handed competition between hospitals”. He is right!
So why does he have four of his own – at Alder Hey, Papworth, the Royal Liverpool and the Royal Orthopaedic – in the pipeline?
We trooped on to the allotments this morning somewhat disheartened by the news that this week is going to be like last, wet and cloudy. Perhaps the continual gloom also depresses the hens which this morning attacked and killed a Blackbird which was happily sharing their corn. Weird. Perhaps they react in the opposite way to we magnificent humans? We tend to be more aggressive in hot spells and merely moan during the rest. And it is the thought that even in this wretched summer we are bound to get at least one period of bed-sweating heat that has the police very worried indeed.
History does support their theory that hot weather sparks any latent trouble. And there is certainly plenty of that. Since last year’s riots more and more cuts have caused great anger amongst the poorer sectors of our society, and resentment is stoked by the constant evidence that the wealthy are lining their pockets as never before. The latest banking scandal will take a good deal more than the resignation of the Barclays chairman, Vince Cable yesterday spoke for millions when he called for a full criminal investigation. The public, Uncle Vince stormed, “just can’t understand why people are thrown into jail for petty theft whilst these guys just walk away having perpetrated what looks like conspiracy”. He was backed by Lord Blair, the former head of the Met, who said ; “Anybody, the youngest detective, would say this is conspiracy to defraud”.
Today the findings of a joint study by the Guardian and London School of Economics into last year’s mayhem are published. Called ‘Reading the Riots’, the study is based on in-depth interviews with 130 police officers of all ranks. It gives an unprecedented insight into what thousands of officers – both on the frontline and in control rooms – experienced during the most serious bout of civil disorder for generations.
At the time politicians, such as our dear leader, rushed to blame the police for a situation that went totally out of control. What is clear from the report is that insufficient officers were deployed initially in London and copy-cat riots exploded in Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere. But what is equally clear is that the officers involved were often at risk of losing their lives in the face of naked aggression few of them had ever witnessed before.
Arrests were made and punishments handed out, but a superintendent from Greater Manchester said that the majority got away with it and are probably already gleefully looking forward to more looting and violence. Be this as it may there was at least one positive for the police. In Manchester and London many from communities usually hostile to the police came forward with gestures of gratitude. Disgruntled though many of them were they had witnessed frightening scenes of anarchy in which their families and businesses were under violent attack. And they had witnessed young heavily outnumbered constables battling on to stem the flood.
Almost every officer interviewed expects a repeat this autumn. They expect the usual hard core of violent thugs to trigger trouble, and for large numbers of disaffected youths to climb on to what they see as a chance to acquire goods that they can only dream of. And milling around them could be thousands for whom unemployment and what they see as discrimination is a daily experience, who see rioting as their only opportunity to vent their anger.
When you read the many pages of testimony you quickly realise just how frightening and violent the situation was. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to fear that this year the situation could escalate into a national undermining of our society. So you tend to reassure yorself that this time the police will be ready to put out the first signs of trouble. But you are wrong to do so.
Astonishingly since last year the government has continued its assault on the police. Thousand more officers have been axed, it is estimated that chief constable now have around 15,000 fewer able bodied men or women to call on. Those that remain have suffered a huge loss of morale as more and more talk of privatisation hits them, and many fear that the election of police chiefs will politicise law and order and reduce willingness to cooperate across police authority boundaries. Today parliament will receive a report from the current chief inspector, Sir Denis O’Connor, on the impact of police cuts at a time of preparing for the Olympics, the biggest peacetime policing operation in modern Britsh history. Throw in the possibility of civil unrest and you have a nightmare scenario.
The home secretary is Theresa May, a frightening thought at the best of times. And these are far from that. Her speciality is talking gibberish. She suggests that the massive cuts she has agreed should apply only to ‘backroom staff’. Has she no idea of the importance of control rooms? Has she any idea of the extreme dangers to small groups of male and female officers when faced with violent mobs?
Talk of using troops is dangerous in the extreme. They are not trained in civil control, they are trained to kill the enemy. They cannot be used without the risk of a massive escalation. Talk of our all having to tigthen our belts is equally fatuous. How can we soft pedal on tax avoidance yet penny-pinch on the security of the nation?
In today’s world of instant communication the devil often has the best tunes. It is ironic that the worst summer in living memory may be our only hope of avoiding Armagedon. Our political leaders are not even also-rans as many law-abiding citizens in our inner-cities reach for their shutters and worry-beads!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “ The first piece of luggage on the airport carousal never belongs to anyone”…..George Roberts ” ‘I was driving along and saw you through the window’ ‘Oh do you have a car?’ ‘Well, I don’t just have a window’ “…..Bob Ferris and Terry Collier “Until you’ve learned to drive you’ve never really learned to swear”…..Robert Paul “Old women with mobile phones look wrong”….Peter Kay “I have never killed a man but I have read many obituaries with pleasure”…..Clarence Darrow “I once sent two dozen friends a telegram saying FLEE AT ONCE – ALL IS DISCOVERED. They all left town immediately”….Mark Twain
Another overcast, wet morning did nothing to life our spirits as we codgers let the hundred or so hens out of their coops. According to the Daily Express, which seems to have dropped headlines about Diana in favour of weather predictions, we are in for many more weeks of this. We have reached the point where old films about the Battle of Britain cheer us up since every portrayal features blue skies and sunlit airfields. Those of us who each year look forward to our break at Wimbledon are already offering prayers of thankfulness to whoever came up with the idea of a centre-court roof, listening to Cliff Richard for hours on end would have finished us off.
But enough of moaning about the weather, we are more concrned about what the idiots supposedly running the country are doing to the police. Many communities have, like us, lost their beat bobby and the sense of involvement between protectors and protected that the system engendered. Now even more cuts are biting. Local police stations are closing, police are unable to respond to all calls for help and anti-social behaviour is being downgraded in priority. Bad news for elderly and vulnerable people!
A few days ago one of our number noticed that his neighbour’s curtains were still drawn at midday. He could only call the police who came quickly and gained entry. What they found led to an urgent visit from the paramedics. Perhaps the Old Etonians imagine that everyone has staff who deal with emergencies as they happen. But the reality for most of us is that on many occasions the police are all that we have.
The coalition has already slashed 16,000 front line officers and the cull goes on. Yesterday over 30,000 off-duty coppers marched through central London. As you would expect their behaviour was exemplary, but many were very angry indeed at what they see as the destruction of the British policing structure. Scott Jeffreys, a veteran from Derbyshire, said; “It’s not just about pay and pensions. We are here because we’re concerned about stealth privatisation of the police service”. Andy Springthorpe, a sergeant in the West Midlands, said; “We’re losing some of our most experienced officers, and not getting new ones, we are in meltdown”. Almost every officer in the demo wore a cap proclaiming that “Cuts are criminal”.
The problem here is that the case of the police is being mixed up with that of every other public sector employee. All have grievances that should have been the subject of proper negotiation, but the police case is a special one. On last night’s David Bumblebee’s ‘Question Time’ Conservative and Lib Dem spokesmen made play of the fact that police officers retire early yet we are all living longer. True, but can you imagine 65 year-olds physically handling many of the violent situations that occur constantly in town-centres and many other situations?
Quite often the constraint and arrest crises require effort akin, in physical terms, to that of a rugby scrum-half. Can you imagine men or women over the age of 50 playing thus? And the determination to introduce private security firms is ludicrous. They are primarily concerned with profit and invariably employ people available on the lowest pay rates. Are ministers seriously considering bestowing police powers on people whose own record is not beyond reproach and whose commitment is minimal?
It is not a question of favouring the police, it is a question of recognising just how important police are in a democratic society. The present lot let themselves down occasionally, heaven knows what will happen if maintenance of law and order rests on a skeleton force supplemented by the equivalent of parking attendents and night-club bouncers.
All of this may prompt one of two responses. Firstly we will be told that ministers do not take decisions without good evidence and advice. Like the decision to reverse the previous government’s decision in regard to buying jump jets? Now they have seen the error of their ways and wasted £250 million of taxpayer’s money in the process. Secondly, we will be reminded that times are hard and there is simply no money to fund adequate policing.
Perhaps someone should remind the Old Etonians that their wealthy pals are stepping up their tax evasion. Every day brings new evidence. The Beeb’s Panorama programme is about to reveal that GSK and Northern and Shell exploit tax loopholes to dramatically reduce the amount of tax they pay. The firms have set up off-shore subsidiaries in Luxembourg, which then loan money back to their UK operations. This allows them to off-set the loans against corporate tax in the UK whilst paying corporation tax in Luxembourg. This amounts to half a per cent. In recent days we have heard similar reports in regard to Amazon, Vodaphone and a host of others.
So we have a situation in which the only safeguard we have against public disorder and crime prevention is being emasculated to save money whilst most of our biggest companies are being allowed to rob the treasury of billions of pounds. Someone has their priorities wrong.
Perhaps the last word should go to another serving police officer. Paul Crompton, of Greater Manchester Police, said yesterday that “our thin blue line is being stretched to breaking point”, and added that the cuts are damaging not only individual officers’ lives but also “the infrastructure of policing”.
When that blue line finally snaps, and anarchy rules, we will all have reason to regret it!
GOVE GETS SOMETHING RIGHT AT LAST!
The so-called poison-dwarf, Education Secretary Michael Gove, surprised a lot of people yesterday. He said that the scale of private school dominance of top jobs in Britain is “morally indefensible”. He went on to mention the dominance of Etonians in particular.
Who can he possibly have in mind?
Ye Gods! Now the gales are back and we were greeted by the sight of roof panels scattered across the allotments. But before Albert could begin his rant about global warming, I was quick to remind him that on this day of 2000 we had blizzards, flooding and utter chaos. He now believes that I qualify for Mastermind, sadly I only knew this thanks to my Letts diary. But our focus soon turned to headlines about the Metropolitan Police and yet more suggestions of institutional racism.
It is reported that a police constable is on ‘restricted duties’ after he was filmed allegedly kicking a 15-year-old black boy to the ground and then kneeing him while in the custody suite of an east London police station. That officer was present hours earlier when his colleague, PC Alex MacFarlane, was recorded calling another man a “nigger” when he was arrested on suspicion of drug driving.
The man, Mauro Demetrio, 21, recorded the abuse on his mobile phone. Mr Demetrio said he was subjected to a tirade of abuse at the hands of officers before he was taken to an east London police station. There, he reportedly saw the alleged assault on the 15-year-old boy which was captured by CCTV footage. The case was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commisssion, which investigated and this week handed over its report to the police for possible disciplinary action. The watchdog had sought advice from prosecutors to see if any criminal offence had been committed. The decision by the CPS not to bring charges has caused an uproar.
To his credit the head of Scotland Yard, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has spoken out. He has said that he will not tolerate racism which could be ” very damaging for public confidence”. But it will take more than words to cut out this cancer which recurs again and again. We all know that our society harbours racists, and it is crucial that the only protection society has must be free of any taint of prejudice. If the police tolerate racism how will society ever clean up its own act?
I have always been puzzled by prejudice based on the colour of anyone’s skin. Not only is it cruel, it is utterly illogical. Last night I watched a recorded interview on BBC4 between David Frost and the one and only Mohammed Ali. The former star boxer and showman now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease but has lost none of his sharp intellect. Frost reminded him of comments he made some forty years ago, when he said that white folk are evil. Ali said that age has brought him to the realisation that he was wrong. There are evil people, he said, but the colour of their skin is irrelevant. Sadly there are evil white, black, brown and green people, was his summary.
But it would be optimistic in the extreme to imagine that the fanatics of every race will one day see the light as Ali has. We are a multi-racial society and idiots of all racial origins will always pose a source of social unrest. The key is to have a body in charge of law and order that shows no favouritism or prejudice.
In the interest of everyone now, and generations to come, the police need to clean up their act!
HAVE A GREAT EASTER BUT DON’T FLY!
Easter is only days away and the government has just realised that the Border Agency is undermanned due to staffing cuts.
Ministers are now weighing up the option of relaxing security checks at airports or of allowing massive queues to bring the system to a grinding halt.
If you wrote a book covering the events of the past few weeks the critics would condemn it as too far-fetched!