It was inevitable that, following the revelation that an undercover Police officer had effectively spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, the self-appointed guardians of his memory at the Daily Mail would milk the story for all it was worth, directed personally by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, trading once again on one front page from his paper.
Who're you calling an opportunist f***ing hypocrite, c***?!?
And the Dacre doggies have gone to town today, kicking off with “Lies, spies, cover-ups and corruption... the sickening extent of Stephen Lawrence's betrayal by the police is exposed as May orders inquiry into undercover smear op” followed by “21 years of struggle. No family should suffer that: Stephen Lawrence's parents speak of devastation after learning officers spied on them”.
As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. What the Mail is not telling its readers, though, is that for three and a half years – not a trivial interval of time – the paper was at best agnostic over the case, and at worst hostile. You think I jest? Dacre always tries to downplay the account given by Nick Davies in Flat Earth News, but the book is still in print, and the relevant passage bears repetition.
“The Daily Mail famously – and courageously – named his five alleged killers on its front page in February 1997. One of those directly involved says that the Mail’s approach to the story began by being hostile. They sent their only black news reporter, Hal Austin, to interview the dead boy’s father, Neville Lawrence, with instructions to run a story attacking the groups who were campaigning for a new inquiry into the murder: ‘We don’t want rent-a-mob left wingers – that was the line’”.
“During the interview, Neville Lawrence realised that Austin’s editor was the Mr Dacre for whom he had done some plastering in Islington some years earlier. By the time Austin sat down to write his story, the highly respectable Neville Lawrence had contacted Dacre, and the news desk told him to change the line: ‘Do something sympathetic’”. Always remember that when reading the Mail’s claims.
And always remember that not even the Lawrence campaign is safe from the Mail’s own efforts to link anything and everything to its own particular version of press freedom – that being to publish what they like, and stuff the reputations trashed as a result – and to claim dishonestly that, had this happened under properly independent press regulation, they could not have reported what they did.
Again, you think I jest? Here’s today’s Daily Mail Comment: “in the chilling aftermath of the Leveson inquiry, unofficial contact between police and journalists is now virtually banned”. That would be the same police that spoke to the Mail over Plebgate – and the paper believed – after the Leveson hearings.
Using the Lawrence murder in this way is beyond disgusting. But entirely predictable.