The saga that is Plebgate has moved on: first we had the unquestioning publication of whatever certain members of the Metropolitan Police supplied to the more credulous part of the Fourth Estate, then the realisation that this might not have all been factually correct. Now has come the kicking of the Police for supplying tainted information as a means of getting readers to “look over there”.
Because what those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet cannot allow to take hold is the thought that much of what happened to former Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell came about not because of the Police, but the messengers who gladly transmitted their message and then got their dubiously talented array of pundits to talk up as immutable fact.
And, as any fule kno, the press cannot under any circumstances admit that they fouled up, nor that this shows, as I pointed out last week, that much of the Fourth Estate is no longer capable of performing investigative journalism: the Jimmy Savile revelations were sparked by ITV, the Winterbourne View care home scandal by the hated BBC, and the reality of the Mitchell saga by Channel 4.
Most prominent among the pundits pushing back at the rozzers is the preposterously pompous Simon Heffer in the Mail (and, of course, late of the Telegraph) who recoils in horror at the prospect of dishonesty at the Met: “When the Police lie about politicians we should ALL be very worried”. That’s as opposed to lying about newspaper sellers, Brazilian electricians and Muslims in Forest Gate, of course.
The Hefferlump is certainly worried: “The effect of this is cancerous to confidence in the rule of law, and the Home Secretary must act to remove this militant tendency in the force”. So no removal of the equivalent tendency in the press. Instead, Heffer talks of the Met’s “flawed investigation into alleged phone-hacking at News International”, as opposed to the Mail’s flawed coverage of it.
Things are little better over at the Tel, where Charles Moore stresses that he said Mitchell wouldn’t have called someone a “pleb” at the outset. But his paper got hold of the Police log of the incident and published it unquestioningly. It, too, was either unable or unwilling to do the relatively small amount of work performed by Michael Crick when he unearthed the facts about the “corroborating” email.
And remaining at the Tel, Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan also wants to talk about Police failings over Phonehackgate while not mentioning that his own paper failed even to report the matter for months, if not years. And in suggesting that the Police has been on occasion corrupt, he fails to explain why the Tel, and so much more of Fleet Street, hasn’t been fussed about such things before.
None of them will admit their part in this affair. Will their readership believe them?