17:22

Police and 'Plebgate'

I've been surprised recently about how the Andrew Mitchell 'Plebgate' affair is panning out. The facts - did he, or did he not call a policeman a pleb - seem to be predictably difficult to nail down. Is he arrogant and rude? Probably.

What is more interesting is the torrent of stories - both in the press and anecdotes from people I know - about their own experiences with the police. These are all people who you would define by any metric as 'law abiding'. They all have tales of officiousness, egregious over-reaction and low grade brutality that are individually unpleasant but in aggregate disturbing if you believe  in government by consent. The relationship between the police and the tabloid press seems to have only been touched on in the Levenson Enquiry and yet this seems to be the real disgrace in the Plebgate affair. How did the Sun get hold of that story the moment the police filed a report? Why, when they want to question Andy Coulson in Glasgow, do they have to arrest him in Surrey and drive him to Scotland? Is he likely to do an Assange rather than talk to the Bill in Glasgow? I don't think so.

What seems so stupid, in a era of government spending cuts, is to upset the very people who are your natural supporters. If you get the Andrew Mitchells and Charles Moores of this world fed up with you it looks like shooting yourself in the foot.
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