In yesterday’s Observer, Nick Herbert, the former police minister, wrote at some length about what he said was the public’s loss of faith in the police. He said this had been caused by the fact that some detectives in Kent are being investigated for a scam involving TICs, and because of Hillsborough and ‘Plebgate’.
Leave aside the question of what on earth an MP of all people thinks he is doing lecturing people about a loss of faith; and the fact that the TIC scam is as old as the hills, and is partly in response to the government’s own insane target culture; and that Hillsborough happened in 1989 (90% of the cops in the country on that day having long since retired).
Andrew Mitchell resigned of his own volition after swearing at the police, and good riddance to the foul-mouthed yob. Arguably, the real scandal is that Mitchell was not arrested; if I were a youth who had been nicked for swearing at the police outside The Jolly Friar Chippy last night, I might be wondering why it is that pompous Tory MPs get a pass and I don’t.
But my main gripe is with this paragraph:
Anyone who doubts what was behind Mitchell’s downfall need only read the blog of Inspector Gadget. A serving police officer, the self-promoted Gadget (he is not an inspector) says: “The relationship between Conservatives and police officers is not just toxic, it is over.” Feelings about the reform of pay and conditions were so strong “there was bound to be trouble. Plebgate is trouble”.
So, just to recap: I say Inspector Gadget is a serving police inspector, or at least has been (s/he may or may not have been promoted).
Nick Herbert says s/he is not.
Does that mean Nick Herbert is saying that I am a liar?
Given that I publish non-fiction books, it is quite important to me that people believe what I say (outwith the usual disclaimers about names and details being changed to protect the guilty).
Can I sue Nick Herbert for libel? It’s an interesting question, with shades of Tony McNumpty.
Incidentally, I have met Herbert once: I found him to be on the slimy side of charming. It was (from memory) some time in early 2007, when PC David Copperfield was invited to give a talk to Policy Exchange, the Conservative think-tank.
I went along to hold his coat, the Daily Telegraph‘s Philip Johnston acted as MC, and the then opposition MP and shadow police minister Herbert was among the invited guests.
The audience was small but rapt: none of them had ever seen or heard a ground-level PC talking, openly and articulately, about the problems British policing faced (and faces). This was because no serving PC had ever done so. (This was a few months after Wasting Police Time had been published, and Copperfield had not yet outed himself; it took a lot of guts for him to attend, as he would certainly have lost his job if identified.)
Copperfield’s key messages were that, yes, the police sometimes are terrible – being human – but here’s why: too much police time was being taken up in pointless paperwork (he recounted how it could easily take six hours to deal with two teenagers for the theft of a pushbike; no-one was saying theft of a pushbike was not important, but six hours was a bit much); that serious recidivist criminals were not being jailed for the protection of their (usually poor, elderly and otherwise vulnerable) victims; that the target culture introduced by the Blair government was changing police priorities for the worse; that discretion was a thing of the past; and that policing much of modern Britain was a bit like dealing with drunk toddlers.
Herbert sat there and listened, gave an interview to some TV people who had attended, and then left.
Wind forward five years, and the paperwork has got worse, the targets are still there, people are still drunk and entitled, and the government can’t wait to let violent criminals out of jail. But then, thanks to the Plebs at the Gates, Dave and Sam have zero chance of being burgled for the kids’ Christmas presents.
Of course, if you want to read more by Inspector Gadget, you can always buy the book.
On that note, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our reader!