Among the various media outlets that inhabit the dunghill that is Grubstreet, there are two which have historically served as reliable conduits for law enforcement agencies to get their spin across to the public at large. The Daily Mail, presided over by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, is one (its campaign against Colin Stagg the stuff of newspaper legend), and the other is the Murdoch Sun.
Both papers span events following the 1986 riots in favour of the Metropolitan Police, especially over the potential guilt of Winston Silcott, who, it ultimately turned out, was not responsible for the brutal killing of PC Keith Blakelock. The Mail smeared Stagg even after his acquittal over the killing of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common, while the Sun excused the Met their recent execution of a Brazilian electrician.
Yesterday, it was the turn of the Super Soaraway Currant Bun to serve up the spin in the aftermath of Mark Duggan’s killing, an event that is generally held to be the trigger for the recent rioting. And, sadly, the substance of the excuses wheeled out has not improved over the years. Silcott was guilty because he was big, and he was black, Stagg “did it really”, and Jean Charles de Menezes had overstayed his visa.
Duggan, we are now told, was not merely a criminal, but he was related to other criminals. And, so what? Well, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating Duggan’s death as it is mandated to do with any incident where an armed officer shoots and kills a civilian, has held its hands up and admitted it may have misled journalists.
This is because the impression may have been given that there had been an exchange of fire as the Met tried to arrest Duggan, though there was not: he had a weapon, although there was no attempt to use it. This information had not been clearly relayed to his relatives: had it been, there may have been no protest and therefore no trigger for the rioting.
This, though, is more in the category of cock-up, rather than conspiracy. It’s the kind of stuff that happens in the heat of the moment and its immediate aftermath. We understand that those at the Met, and the IPCC, are only human. But for every one of these incidents, someone clearly feels the need to feed information via favoured media conduits to get their retaliation in first.
And this serves the Police not at all well: it’s a clumsy tactic, made more so by being viewed through the distorted prism of Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Sun. All it succeeds in doing is reminding those already concerned at the closeness of the Met and some parts of the Fourth Estate that, whatever the fallout from Phonehackgate, some things never change.