Back on to the news radar has come former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell, and the saga of Plebgate, to the acute discomfort of a number of Police forces and a not very good attempt by many of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet to paint themselves as disinterested bystanders. That’s not what they were when the story first hit the newsstands.
As I noted last December, the Super Soaraway Currant Bun was out of the blocks first, asserting that Mitchell had called the Met’s finest “f***ing plebs”, with the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre doubling down on the accusations by telling that the MP had told the cops “I’ll have your job for this”. Neither title has apologised – yet.
And, while they keep banging on about how independent press regulation (that is, independent of the press interfering in the process in order to get the result they want and “mark their own homework”), none of those papers that were so keen to run the story last year are letting their readers know that they did no investigation of their own, or even tried to stand up the story via a second source.
Yes, this was a single-sourced story, and that source was the Police. This may be usefully borne in mind when reading the self-righteous outrage of the Mail this morning: “The more that emerges about Andrew Mitchell and the Plebgate affair, the uglier and more chilling appears the conduct of the police”. And who was it that took the story of what Mitchell allegedly said on trust?
The Maily Telegraph has been equally concerned: “If we cannot trust the police to behave honestly and with integrity, then a key element of the citizen’s social contract with the state is fatally undermined”. So why did the paper wait until it was demonstrated – not by a newspaper journalist, but Michael Crick at Channel 4 – that Mitchell must have been fitted up?
And why start harping on about the Police Federation, of which “three senior representatives ... closed ranks with their Met colleagues, and may have seriously misrepresented Mr Mitchell after a meeting with him in his Sutton Coldfield constituency”? And why not say it directly – the meeting was recorded, they told the press a pack of lies about it, and got caught out.
There is a part of the press that has swallowed everything the Police has fed it, and for decades. They have backed the cops even through the most flagrant miscarriages of justice. They have had no problem with using them as a single, and moreover trusted, source. As was shown with Phonehackgate, the press were all too often good friends of the Police. So they have no room for complaint.
Plebgate is just as much the press’ problem as it is that of the Police.