Remember Zola Budd? There may be a number of blank faces among those reading the question, but in the early 1980s she was a well known, if controversial, track athlete, who had started her career in (then) Apartheid South Africa, but then moved to the UK after applying for British Citizenship. The campaign for that move was led by the Daily Mail.
Budd’s career after obtaining her British passport was controversial, not least because of her collision with US favourite Mary Decker in the 3,000 metres event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which resulted in Decker missing out on what was expected to be a podium finish. But it was an example of what can be achieved by the aggressive campaigning of the Mail.
The thought also enters that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, who took over the editor’s chair at the Daily Mail in 1992, would dearly like to top campaigns like that of Zola Budd, which was overseen by his predecessor David English. And, with the fallout from Phonehackgate and the weekend’s riots around London, has come an opportunity for the Vagina Monologue.
There is a vacancy at the top of the Metropolitan Police, following Paul Stephenson’s departure. Names already in the frame include Bernard Hogan-Howe, formerly Chief Constable of Merseyside and at present a temporary Deputy Commissioner at the Met. But at some point, Young Dave has pitched the name of former NYPD and LAPD head man Bill Bratton, and the Mail has been listening.
First, the Mail lifted the initial report of Cameron’s backing for Bratton from the Maily Telegraph, which was backed by a comment piece from Charles Moore, whose superior insights enabled him to pronounce Bratton “the best man to run the Metropolitan Police”. This has been followed today with yet more righteous certainty by Melanie Phillips, who tells “our Police are not trusted any more”.
Mel was clearly at the front of the Dacre cab-rank this morning, although she does not help her cause by asserting “It is not an exaggeration to say that ... the very ethic of policing in Britain has been systematically dismantled”, and “officers were being promoted ... because they had university degrees – which often merely qualified them in political correctness”.
But Mel has done as her editor demanded, and made the pitch for Bratton. A further piece today, by Ian Drury, has confirmed the campaign is under way. And Bill Bratton may be very good at his job. But we should be wary of policymaking by Daily Mail diktat: UK athletics didn’t gain much from the Zola Budd affair, and the UK and USA are two very different places when it comes to policing.