Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Police and the English Defence League

I want to suggest that 'right thinking' people have too high an opinion of the police and too low an opinion of the English Defence League.

First, the police. The problem here is 'Plebgate'. I'm not sure where you can find a comprehensive and impartial account of the facts - probably because it is such a toxic mix of facts (class, Tory Cabinet Minister, police conspiracy) - but the BBC's summary timeline is here.

Simon Carr covers the Parliamentary investigation here, opining that "If this is the level of integrity in the police, there’ll be a Royal Commission at the end of it". Worth a read

Sam Leith, in the Evening Standard, gives his carefully thought-through view here. Also worth a read. He starts his piece "When Andrew Mitchell was first accused of calling police officers “plebs”, I wrote in this spot that — though it was impossible to know what had actually happened — I inclined to believe the written testimony of more than one police officer against that of a man whose career depended on not having said what they claimed he did. That seemed to me a reasonable judgment. That it was dead, dead wrong should give us serious pause". He concludes with this suggestion: "That serving officers with everything to lose and nothing much to gain would appear to engage in a casual, slapdash, ad hoc conspiracy very strongly suggests that they felt entirely confident in getting away with it because, baldly, they do this sort of thing all the time. I don’t pretend this is probative. But it is certainly the conclusion that very many people will draw. Hard not to, when barefaced and malevolent public misleading statements are described as “errors of judgment” and two forces decide the officers concerned need face no disciplinary action." That sane and thoughtful people should be thinking in that way shows that something is very wrong with at least some section of the police.

The police have had their run-ins with the English Defence League in general and Tommy Robinson in particular. Read this interview with Tommy Robinson in the Spectator. Just to take an example of how the police treat him: "When somebody posted his mother’s address online and promised to ‘chop up’ Robinson’s kids he finally went to the police. He says they told him they could do nothing about it. He began retweeting Twitter threats, but says he was told by police that if he continued doing so he could face arrest himself." Now, I'm not saying that Robinson is a lovely chap who you would want to have round to dinner. But the police treated Andrew Mitchell dishonestly and aggressively. Consider the possibility that they might have done the same to a working class chap with right-wing views.

Robinson stresses again and again that he isn't a racist. I believe him. Mostly because of this piece from the Economist, which is fascinating. The Economist's correspondent goes to an EDL rally and concludes: "it was remarkable how unthreatening, or normal, the rally felt. There were even signs of the general tolerance in British society, of which an aversion to racism—the main cause of the BNP’s demise—is an important element. A rainbow-coloured flag, brandished by a large infidel in a burka, represented the EDL’s gay, lesbian and bisexual division. Another, who described himself as a “Judeo-Christian”, waved an Israeli flag—“I haven’t heard a single anti-Semitic comment,” he protested, “so how can we be Nazis?” The EDL’s Sikh division had been expected, but failed to show, possibly because its leader was recently convicted of armed robbery." The EDL's Sikh division don't sound any nicer than the rest of the EDL. But the fact that it has a Sikh division is pretty striking.

So, who wants to stand up for posh Tory politicians and working-class anti-Muslim ones? To a first approximation, no 'right-thinking' person at all. Which makes it all the more important that these people get fairly treated by the organs of the state, especially the police.

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