THE CLAP CLINIC

So, yes, it’s been another strange week-and-a-bit in these strange days. Boris ending up in intensive care; Brenda addressing the nation with her first message outside of the festive season in a long time and even paraphrasing Vera Lynn for that extra Blitz Spirit/Britain Can Make It vibe; Matt Hancock shaming easy target high-earners like footballers whilst conveniently neglecting to bring off-shore Oligarchs off the bench; oh, and Emily Maitlis attempting a ‘Walter Cronkite on Vietnam’ moment by abandoning the threadbare vestiges of BBC impartiality and delivering an impromptu Reith Lecture as a novel new ‘Newsnight’ intro. Yeah, Lockdown Britain is everything Remoaners promised Brexit would deliver – and even weirder.

The mainstream media reporting of events has become so wearingly sensationalistic and speculative that it’s no wonder the reaction of some has been to abandon initial ambitions the lockdown inspired; rather than learning a new language, a musical instrument or starting to write a novel, many have simply slipped into the junk-food/binge-watch routine and steer clear of the daily death-toll roll-call. On the other hand, social media being the maternity ward for the more outré conspiracy theory has unsurprisingly provoked a descent into medieval madness. Burning 5G masts in the baffling belief these objects generate evil is straight out of the dark children’s serial of the 1970s, ‘The Changes’, in which the western world undergoes a violent rejection of its dependability on technology by smashing all machines because they’re ‘wicked’.

Misinformation, or at best the poor communication of information, has also been responsible for the misconception that the humble domestic moggy is possessed by the virus. From what I can gather, misguided advice to keep cats indoors was actually specific to felines living in infected households; their coats when stroked by outsiders would still bear the residue of Covid-19 as much as any surface touched by someone with the plague, so preventing the prospect of the cat coming into contact with strangers was deemed sensible. My own personal worry is the same yahoos that thought 5G masts were spreading sickness may well single out cats for the same reason. Again, this is pure ‘she’s a witch’ mentality it would be nice to think we outgrew centuries ago; amazing how close to the surface such superstition actually is. Yes, the source of this virus does come from animals, but nature’s payback – if that’s what it is – stems from the disgusting trafficking and menu-adding of endangered species so commonplace in the Far East, not next-door’s cat.

When Benjamin Franklin said ‘Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety’, he probably couldn’t foresee the populace of a free and democratic society prepared to accept the severe restrictions of civil liberties currently being imposed upon it. However, I think most people are content to go along with these restrictions for the moment by viewing them as a contract between the state and its citizens, a personal inconvenience done with a greater good in mind; the delicate equilibrium can be maintained as long as both play their part and the sacrifice is regarded as a just one. Reports of some law enforcers exceeding the traditional ‘policing by consent’ foundation stone of the police force in this country are no more helpful in maintaining the equilibrium than those who continue to irresponsibly gather in groups.

Of course, it’s difficult at times like these to discern how widespread the abuse of police powers is when the most OTT examples will naturally be seized upon by the media (both mainstream and social), even if these are not representative. But anyone with half-a-brain is well aware that certain constabularies have a reputation for over-zealousness, and if their officers have been given the green light to wander into public parks and disperse a couple catching a bit of sun that they might not be able to access at their place of house arrest, it’s no great surprise that these individual constables are becoming ever-more officious in their ridiculousness. Threats of roadblocks or demanding to rummage through the contents of shopping bags are undoubtedly overstepping the mark; in the case of the latter, no policeman, policewoman or Community Support Officer has the right to be an authority on such a subjective subject as what is or isn’t ‘essential’ when it comes to the supermarket shelves – even if you’re lucky enough to find some eggs. And not even the emergency legislation rushed through Parliament without question gives the police that right.

The sudden high visibility of the police is either an indication that the PM’s recruitment drive has borne fruit in record time or that they’re relishing throwing their weight around without having to worry about difficult things like catching burglars or solving murders. Maybe if they were always this omnipotent they’d actually act as a deterrent in neighbourhoods plagued by crime. I suspect there won’t be any choreographed clapping rituals for the boys in blue just yet; but maybe not being elevated to the status of secular saints currently occupied by NHS workers helps to keep them in check. I remember when the military briefly received a similar elevation around the time the bodies of dead soldiers were being driven through the streets of Wootton Bassett during the Iraq War; and just as politicians back then would tediously preface each reply on ‘Question Time’ by ‘paying tribute to the wonderful job our armed forces are doing’, they’re at it again now – only with NHS workers.

Whilst the recognition and acknowledgement of those doing a bloody hard job is perfectly laudable, the overnight establishment of the mass clapping does make me a tad uncomfortable – perhaps because the compulsory participation seems just a little reminiscent of the forced tears North Koreans had to publicly shed when Kim Jong-il died. How long before the police are knocking on doors at 8.00, demanding to know why the residents of the house aren’t standing on their doorsteps applauding doctors and nurses? As with the public display of appreciation for the army fifteen years ago, the ring-fencing of any service as beyond criticism can act as a convenient smokescreen to obscure the shambolic state of the institution that employs these heroes and heroines, and how little it pays them for their troubles.

Then again, perhaps clapping for the NHS is only able to fully function as a new national pastime due to the fact all universities are closed; the ritual has the potential to provoke a panicked rush to the nearest safe space, so if this is to continue after the lockdown, maybe a jazz-hands compromise is in order. Recognition of how difficult being on the NHS frontline can be should be a given, anyway, as should free parking in the grounds of hospitals for staff. And the abrupt determination to ensure rough-sleepers have a nightly roof over their heads is something else that didn’t need a pandemic to institute; the fact they were on the streets in such high numbers in the first place should have alerted authorities to an already existing emergency that needed sorting.

Oh, well. That’s the state of play. Herd immunity might have worked as an alternative had it not been rendered impossible due to the poor health of most western nations – especially the special relationship fatties of the US and UK. As it is, we are where we are. The previous post may well have appeared to be dealing with a trivial topic; but it was refreshing for me to do so. I need those moments of light relief because otherwise there’s only the one subject right now.

© The Editor

THE GHOST SQUAD

It’s not often a present-day news story has echoes of a fifty-year-old TV drama series, but the gruesome discovery of 39 bodies in a refrigerated lorry in Essex this week has weirdly done just that. Thanks to the international publicity afforded this ghastly smuggling operation gone horribly wrong, it would now appear the victims emanated from Vietnam, rather than China (as was initially announced by police). I’m reluctant to invoke the spirit of Prince Philip and his neat summary of ‘Orientals’, but surely Old Bill jumping to conclusions based on clumsy racial profiling should have been kept private before a clearer picture emerged. Half-a-century ago, in an episode of ‘Softly Softly: Taskforce’, it was the Indian Subcontinent that provided the illegal immigrants whose bodies were uncovered in the gas tank of a docked vessel – though Barlow & Watt interestingly didn’t publicly speculate on the country of origin where their victims were concerned.

Those who regard ruthlessly-organised illegal immigration as a recent innovation might be surprised to learn that people-smuggling was a stand-by storyline of several vintage TV mainstays such as ‘Special Branch’, ‘Budgie’ and even ‘Dixon of Dock Green’; but for some reason it was the full colour turn-of-the-70s successor to the monochrome 60s ‘Z-Cars’ spin-off, ‘Softly Softly’, that sprang to mind when news broke of the latest tragedy to befall the most vulnerable of contemporary cargos. This BBC series, running from 1969 to 1976, saw the aforementioned CID double act that began in Newtown relocated to Thamesford, a Home Counties conurbation in which urban and coastal districts merged together, enabling the region’s constabulary (and the scriptwriters) to cover a wide range of scenery from mean street to bleak beach – scenery the familiar rep company of character actors making up the cast numbers in most UK TV dramas of the era could easily slot into.

The location was an ideal setting for the Thamesford Taskforce, a fictionalised portrayal of the period in which regional crime-squads pooled their resources and answered to a higher power that was entrusted with overall responsibility for law and order across a coalition of counties. Upon its formation, this particular Taskforce required the kind of heavyweight reputations amongst its senior personnel that would justify its existence. Foremost amongst these recruits was the fearsome Detective Chief Superintendent Charles Barlow, memorably played by Stratford Johns.

Barlow was a bull in humanoid form, a balding Minotaur that provoked panic in all proprietors of china shops within a two-mile radius when roused. Yet he was ‘hard, but fair’ – a description Ronnie Barker’s Norman Stanley Fletcher would later use in relation to Don Revie’s Leeds United team; both are applicable and very much of their time, the same time. Johns inhabited the larger-than-life character for 14 years, and though a notable lack of repeat screenings has prevented successive generations from forming the same appreciation of him as those who watched back in the day, Barlow remains one of the outstanding television creations of an era abundant in them.

Barlow’s was the first generation to miss out on the War, and one often gets the impression this was a grievance it then took out on the generation behind it, that misfire with the long greasy hair in its eyes and sneering disregard for the full range of Burtons’ brown ensembles. They never had to suffer all those dismal National Service drills in provincial backwaters, playing at being soldiers and having nothing to show for it in the shape of medals, maimed limbs, heroic anecdotes or stolen cigarette cases emblazoned with Swastikas. The weight of the chip on those shoulders was crippling. Maybe it would explain the ease with which Barlow barked and bit at the slightest indication of provocation.

If DCS Barlow was the bad cop, Detective Superintendent John Watt was the good one. Second-in-command since 60s Merseyside days, Watt had been by Barlow’s side through thick and thin. Played by Frank Windsor, Watt was gruff in a blunt Northern fashion, but approachable and diplomatic – the McCartney to Barlow’s Lennon. Notable other members of the Taskforce squad included PC Snow, played by the excellent Terence Rigby; the Brummie dog-handler formed a telepathic synergy with his canine partners which was given a heartbreaking jolt when his first sidekick Inky was shot dead during a siege; successor Radar was a bright Alsatian whose initial lack of experience was soon overcome via several acts of heroism. Less dog-friendly was Sgt Evans (David Lloyd Meredith), the rotund ginger Welshman prone to reciting Bible passages absorbed during many a Sunday spent killing time in the Valleys by attending chapel shindigs.

DI Harry Hawkins (played by future ‘Emmerdale’ star Norman Bowler) was the beefcake of the team, the kind of man who probably wore Tabac; not exactly what the next century would label Metrosexual – he was still too stridently masculine for that – Hawkins was nevertheless unashamedly well-groomed in a new way, certainly by the stiffer, starched standards of Barlow and Watt. There was also a token girl, DC Donald (Susan Tebbs), regularly referred to as ‘pretty’ by the older men surrounding her (in whom she brought out an overprotective paternalism); but it’s worth remembering that female officers comprised a separate unit ala the dog division at this time, rather than being ranked on the same level as male colleagues, so it’s no wonder the likes of DC Donald were special cases. There were, however, no ‘people of colour’ in the Taskforce – something the diversity-conscious BBC of 2019 certainly wouldn’t tolerate.

This engaging ensemble cast shared Shepherd’s Bush nick with the ongoing crime stories of Dock Green and Newtown at a time when the BBC evidently regarded the police station, rather than the hospital, as the prime setting for primetime TV drama. In that soothing seven-year window in which this popular trio of strong and solid cop soaps served as the antidote to ITV’s raw alternatives such as ‘Special Branch’ and ‘The Sweeney’, the line between crime and crime-fighter was unmistakable; there were no rotten apples in the Taskforce barrel, and the villains were villains – moustachioed, necker-chiefed, working-class, and not too nasty for pre-watershed sensibilities; even the skinheads and football hooligans weren’t all bad. None carried a swag-bag, but nobody would have been too surprised if they had.

The Thamesford Taskforce was neither the uniformed branch of the social services nor the paramilitary wing of Political Correctness. It was a proper police force, just as the criminals were proper criminals; television may have been transforming into colour, but morality (like certainties) remained black & white. We wanted them on our side when we were in trouble, and we knew we could trust them to defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer. Mr Barlow wouldn’t let us down, even if the real-life contemporaries who valued his interpretation of their profession were too embroiled in corruption scandals to emulate his simple principles. Perhaps, as with the persistence of people-smugglers, this merely shows we haven’t actually moved on much in fifty years after all.

© The Editor

DECLINE AND FALL

Coppers indulging in cringe-inducing ‘dad dancing’ at Gay Pride parades or the Notting Hill Carnival; does anybody really want to see that? A dad’s authority extends no further than his family, whereas the police have it over thousands of people. To see them shedding their remaining shreds of dignity on so public a platform could be perceived as an ill-advised attempt to make them approachable; but it has the same effect as seeing Tony Blair saying ‘Am I bovvered?’ on a Comic Relief sketch. A few years prior to starring alongside Catherine Tate, the most media-savvy PM of all time had coined a phrase that has been endlessly exhumed of late.

Having avoided the glut of Diana ‘tributes’ on TV, I’m not sure if there’s been any programme that has examined those events bereft of the fawning ‘People’s Princess’ script; probably not. I doubt any have taken the long view of how our society has significantly altered since – and as a consequence of – August 31 1997. At the time, the coverage of Diana’s death complemented the coverage of Diana’s life; it followed the same narrative and also felt like a media construct. The theory goes that the mass hysteria came not from the media, but from the people; yet the media had created the Diana monster for the people in 1980 and the people had bought it. Therefore, when the public received its lifestyle manual from the media during that week between Paris and Westminster Abbey, it was taught how to react to her death in the same way the media had taught it to be interested in Diana to begin with.

The transformation was remarkably rapid. The way in which Brenda was perceived as being cold and inhuman simply because she wasn’t bursting into tears whenever a camera was pointed in her direction was a good pointer to how a society could change in the space of just a few days. Two decades on, when teenage girls greet their exam results by wafting their tearful faces with a hand acting as a fan to visually articulate their emotional response – just as TV talent contestants do – it chimes with the long-term impact of these changes. That they willingly do so free from any embarrassment, despite knowing they will be transmitted into the nation’s living rooms, isn’t an issue for them when they’ll probably upload videos of themselves doing likewise on social media, anyway. The private is now public – and that extends to every private function, taken even way beyond Diana’s appetite for publicity via ‘I’m A Celebrity Big Brother Island’.

The pernicious trend for television news reporters to persistently ask witnesses to tragedies how what they witnessed has made them feel also reflects this; the triumph of heart over head and the need to seek an emotional rather than intellectual response to upsetting events can be traced back to that first week of September 1997. There’s nothing wrong with sometimes letting one’s heart dictate a response, of course; we are all human, after all. But the heart is not always a reliable organ in a tight spot; handing it life’s steering wheel can often result in reckless actions that provoke regret and a retrospective wish that the head had taken control at the crucial moment.

The cavernous black hole Diana left in our mainstream media was swiftly filled by a series of nominees nominated by Fleet Street in the way Holy Roman Emperors were once selected by the elite Prince-Electors of Vienna. Posh and Becks were the first to be elevated to the obsessive level Diana had occupied for a good seventeen years, eventually followed by the likes of Jordan/Peter Andre and a swift succession of even greater cretins, each more insubstantial than their predecessors and each possessing a shorter lifespan. Not that the excess of coverage has reflected these diminishing returns; advances in technology have intensified it, despite every nominee being akin to a photocopy of the Diana blueprint with the ink cartridge gradually running out as someone from ‘Geordie Shore’ fills the final sheet of paper in the machine.

In her search for something to do with a little substance, Diana may have gradually embraced laudable causes and broken taboos that needed breaking, but her initial appearance in the public spotlight required little more than simply having the right look for the moment. She was the role model for the modern media darlings who are famous for being famous, appearing just as that role was poised to acquire considerable cache. Her successors have regularly viewed the ‘good causes’ clause as surplus to requirements, yet we are still supposed to be interested in them for reasons that appear utterly mystifying other than they prevent the masses contemplating anything with any depth, lest that prompt them into asking awkward questions.

The ground for 1997 had already been laid by the same media that manufactured Diana. Rupert Murdoch’s mission to remake his first adopted country in his own image, to dumb down its population by stealth and reduce it to his own coarse, crude, anti-intellectual level, had been a calculated campaign of creeping corrosion from the moment he installed Kelvin McKenzie as editor of the Sun in the year of the Royal Wedding. By his own admission, McKenzie was a fairly inept journalist, but he was a man with a gift for an eye-catching headline, however ludicrous – a bullish Barnum of bullshit. As editor of Murdoch’s tabloid flagship, McKenzie expanded Murdoch’s philosophy and took it to unprecedented extremes of outrageously gross bad taste and celebratory idiocy. If the chosen paper of the average working man is devoted to telling him what an idiot he is every weekday, chances are he’ll eventually come to believe it and will never know he has the potential to aim a little higher.

Under the stewardship of Kelvin McKenzie, the Sun became ever more reckless in its promotion of stupidity as a virtue; the huge sales figures gave the paper carte-blanche to venture into territory that even the Digger would have initially avoided, and its malignant influence has been immense across the media as well as, it has to be said, the media’s ravenous consumers. The extent to which one of the nation’s windows onto itself – television – has reflected the dumbing down process was highlighted to me when I stumbled upon an edition of ‘Parkinson’ from 1973 on YouTube a couple of nights ago.

When one bears in mind that Michael Parkinson’s long-running chat-show aired on BBC1 and was produced by the light entertainment department, the edition in question seems even more remarkable; it centres around a discussion between Kenneth Williams and union leader Jimmy Reid on the state of the nation. In a pre-‘Question Time’ innovation, it also draws members of the studio audience into the debate and is utterly compelling television that runs for an hour and twelve minutes. The jarring contrast between the level of intelligence from all concerned on the programme and 2017’s equivalent – the inane Hollywood PR charade that is ‘The Graham Norton Show’ – is so stark that it makes ‘Question Time’ resemble ‘Loose Women’. As a barometer of measuring how low we’ve sunk in the space of four decades, it even surpasses disco-dancing constables.

© The Editor

KORAN ABOUT THE HOUSE

I’ve never been in a mosque, but I’ve never been in a synagogue either. Although I was raised in a secular household, I am familiar with one branch of the House of God on account of having to attend endless childhood weddings and christenings; these were churches of the austere Protestant variety, however, rather than the camp Catholic model. I’ve no idea if the ambience is as chilly and, frankly, boring in the showrooms of other denominations, but with all my C-of-E education coming via the dullest lessons at school, I think my agnostic outlook was sealed from an early age. Drawing a picture of Pinky and Perky at the Crucifixion in the infants was probably a telling indication that I recognised a fairy tale when I heard one.

On last night’s edition of ‘Question Time’, a member of the audience brandished a leaflet he swore blind he’d been handed at an open day at Didsbury Mosque, at which the father of Salman Ramadan Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was once a regular. What he read from the leaflet sounded like classic Radical Islamic propaganda, denouncing western immorality in a language that implied such immorality was deserving of severe punishment. A veteran of the same mosque sitting a few rows down denied he could have received such literature at Didsbury, but the man was adamant.

The general impression given is that there does seem to be something of an ‘It weren’t me, guv; I weren’t even there’ culture prevailing through many of the mosques that have harboured the hate preachers and fundamentalist shit-stirrers in the UK over recent years. Either nobody saw or heard anything or their eyes turned blind through choice; however, not knowing the interior structure of mosques, I’ve no idea if the guilty parties retreat into special recruitment rooms. But the climate of fear when it comes to informing in many Muslim communities seems almost reminiscent of Sicily or even Belfast during the Troubles; events in Rotherham and Rochdale appear to back up this Mafia-like control the worst offenders have over the populace and why the police steer clear.

Then again, it has emerged that Salman Ramadan Abedi’s extremist views and support for ISIS had aroused enough suspicion within his own community that he had been reported to an anti-terrorism hotline, something I imagine would put those who reported him at considerable risk should they be identified. As a result of these calls, Abedi was known to the security services; but police manpower being deployed to keep an eye on potential Jihadists would severely stretch the police manpower required for historic fishing parties into the sex lives of dead celebrities and politicians, so it’s no wonder the likes of Salman Ramadan Abedi could further his ambitions free from surveillance. Many police officers may have been laid off in the wake of Government cuts to the country’s forces, but deciding the priorities for those that remain is something the police themselves have to answer for.

The internet has also resurfaced in the blame game this week. Online outlets such as Facebook and Twitter certainly operate on curious moral grounds. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had her FB account suspended after posting a photo of herself holding a Supertramp LP over her chest; the sleeve of said album featured nothing but a pair of tits on it. Similarly, the entertaining Twitter ‘Whores of Yore’ account initially had a profile pic which was a portrait of Nell Gwyn showing a nipple; the painting hangs in the National Gallery for all age-groups to see, but was evidently too outrageous for cyberspace, and the offending nipple had to be removed for the account to continue. On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter don’t appear to have similar problems with inflammatory language or violent videos promoting opinions that somewhat contradict the Utopian New Age worldview shared by Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow visionaries.

So, yes, mosques and websites have been under the spotlight yet again this week, though few have mentioned HM prisons, which seem to be the real recruitment centres when it comes to home-grown terrorists. The escalating convictions for those planning terrorist attacks since 7/7 means many prisons have a far higher Muslim population today than has been the case in the past, and the brutally alienating regime behind bars means birds of a feather naturally flock together.

A young Muslim prisoner who may be serving a sentence that has no Radical Islamic element to it is befriended by another Muslim prisoner who recommends one way to stay safe from the psychos, the druggies and those who take a shine to a pretty face is to spend his time exclusively with other Muslim prisoners. Segregation and indoctrination ensue, and said prisoner is released with a head pumped full of Paradise and those oh-so alluring virgins.

Armed police and even bloody soldiers – both of whom have had their numbers severely depleted by the same Government that now requires their services to enhance ‘Project Fear’ for the public – are currently highly visible on the streets of Britain; but they’re guarding the stable door when the proverbial horse has already bolted. No wannabe Jihadist would contemplate an ‘incident’ when there’s such a show of force; better to strike when nobody is looking. No matter how heavy an armed presence Bobby and Tommy present this weekend, the only strike I expect to see at Wembley tomorrow will emanate from the foot of Diego Costa.

© The Editor

WHITEWASH AND GO

Hold page 17! Get through coverage of the Budget and you might find the odd reference to the fact that a trio of Scotland Yard officers in the vanguard of the infamous Operation Midland have all been cleared over their handling of the investigation into a nonexistent ‘VIP Paedophile Ring’ seen in visions by a deluded (though mysteriously unprosecuted) fantasist whom we must still refer to as ‘Nick’. Well, fancy that! That august body the Independent Police Complaints Commission has come to an utterly unexpected conclusion. Who could have seen that coming, eh?

Twelve months on from the closure of Operation Midland without a single arrest, charge or conviction, this breathtaking squandering of taxpayers’ money achieved nothing other than ruining both the reputations and financial security of those targeted by a bunch of blundering Bobbies whose instructions from on-high to believe the accuser at all costs resulted in the most high-profile case of what has become standard police practice. So standard, in fact, that the current series of hit ITV drama ‘Broadchurch’ apparently promotes this in-built belief that the accused is guilty and the accuser is innocent long before such an investigation even gets anywhere near a courtroom.

The three who were surprisingly exonerated by the IPCC included Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, the dolt who preempted any possibility of a fair trial should it have come to that by declaring the accusations of ‘Nick’ were ‘credible and true’. DS McDonald evidently believes his role is not much different from that of Judge Dredd, futuristic super-cop who acts as judge, jury and executioner; and his belief has not been trashed by this judgement. Although the IPCC hearing, chaired by retired judge Sir Richard Henriques, identified 43 serious failings in the Operation Midland investigation – including stating the bleedin’ obvious, that too much faith had been placed in the word of ‘Nick’ – it still declared the operation was ‘extensive and carried out diligently’.

Five Met officers were referred to the IPCC, yet the clearing of three of them suggests the other two haven’t got much to worry about. ‘There is no evidence to indicate bad faith, malice or dishonesty’, says the report, adding ‘and no indication any of the officers may have behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings’. One other area that gave the IPCC cause for concern was in regards to the detectives involved failing to present all relevant information to the district judge who gave the green light to the search warrants enabling them to kick down the doors of those named by ‘Nick’. That three of those whose homes were searched were named and shamed by the media during the investigation is apparently not thought shameful in itself.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse was also cleared of his part in a separate investigation into the involvement of the dying Leon Brittan in the same Paedo Ring, so that draws a line under a parallel farce. Even if the conclusions of the IPCC were utterly predictable and understandably regarded as a whitewash by those who suffered at the hands of the investigation (such as ex-MP Harvey Proctor), in a way one cannot hold the investigating officers wholly responsible for the disaster that was Operation Midland if the instructions they received vindicated the approach they took.

The ‘maverick cop’, that staple of British TV police dramas from Barlow in ‘Z-Cars’ and ‘Softly Softly’ through to Regan in ‘The Sweeney’ and Tennyson in ‘Prime Suspect’, no longer exists in the real world. If the police force in this country is inherently bent, it’s the natural outcome of the way in which that force is organised from the top on down rather than a Gene Hunt-style rogue cop making up his own rules. The politicised changes in procedure that declare an accused man (and, let’s face it, they’re basically always men) is guilty till proven innocent means the police have already been trained into making their minds up before an investigation even begins. Should it really come as a great surprise that the likes of Harvey Proctor are engulfed in smoke that couldn’t exist without any initial fire in the public perception when the rules have been rewritten to such a damaging degree where ancient British Law is concerned?

I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I’m absolutely bloody sick of this subject and part of me resents the fact I feel compelled to pen yet another post on it when so many others online put the work in and do it a hell of a lot better as a consequence. But it continues to represent so much of what has gone wrong with this country over the last fifteen-twenty years that any blog pertaining to deal with the great issues of the day cannot ignore it, however hard the temptation to do so truly is.

The fact is that the small army of bloggers and tweeters who follow the topic with a dedication that is admirable are in the minority. Most people don’t even give it much of a thought unless they themselves are on the receiving end of a false allegation and then a door is opened to them that had previously been barely ajar. And these are the people that are denied the platform to air their grievances that Harvey Proctor or Paul Gambaccini can call upon – the genuine silent majority who suffer the most when the finger of suspicion is aimed at them and they are at the mercy of a police force that has been politically remodelled to fit an agenda the police force was not created for. Peel must be turning in his grave.

© The Editor

THICK AS A BRICK

pc-mcgarryBack in the dark days of the Sunday Sport, if the pair of tits decorating the front cover didn’t catch the eye from the newsstand, the ludicrous headline alongside said mammaries usually did; long before the term Fake News was even coined, the Sport specialised in the silly and patently untrue. I suppose ‘Post-Modern’ could be applied to the Sunday Sport if one was inclined to be kind and view it as a parody of a Fleet Street weekend tabloid in the same way that Viz continues to spoof those trashy mags that clog-up the waiting rooms of GP’s surgeries with uncanny accuracy. These days, it’s often difficult to distinguish between the Real McCoy and the pastiche, particularly when it is the attention-grabbing headline that provokes heated debate, whether or not the causal shopper opts for the paper.

Take yesterday’s Mail on Sunday. Emblazoned across its cover was the dramatic announcement – ‘POLICE CHIEF: HEATH WAS A PAEDOPHILE’! Those that see nothing beyond that headline therefore have every suspicion confirmed. They may not even notice the ‘POLICE CHIEF’ prefix; but the headline says a former Prime Minister who never married and was never successfully outed as gay was definitely fond of little boys. There you go, job done. Mr and Mrs Public don’t need to pursue the story any further; everything they need to know is there in those four little words uttered by yet another Chief Constable from a nondescript provincial police force desperate to justify the vast expense devoted to grave-pissing. It’s there in black-and-white, in print; it’s true.

It matters not that the Mail on Sunday has actually exhibited a degree of bravery in its recent efforts at debunking some of the urban myths that have sprouted online wings where the sexual peccadilloes of dead or elderly household names are concerned; with that one crass headline, they would appear to have undone months of hard investigative work that has exposed the stupidity of the police in giving airtime to fantasists from the outer limits of the internet. To most, the word of a Chief Constable means jack shit in 2017; who in possession of half-a-brain would believe anything the police say anymore? They are inherently corrupt and terminally corruptible. Yet, some out there are willing to take the word of Wiltshire Police’s Mike Veale as Gospel. Then again, is this an ingenious ruse by the paper to highlight just how dense the men running our police forces really are?

There have evidently been no lessons learnt from the notorious ‘credible and true’ gaffe when a thick senior officer takes it upon himself to deflect criticisms of police manpower being redirected to fishing parties by making a personal opinion official before the pointless investigation has even been completed. Despite the fantasy of the so-called Westminster Paedophile Ring being utterly trashed, Mike Veale will not let it go; he claims those who have ‘come forward’ in relation to Ted Heath’s alleged hobby have made allegations that are remarkably similar. Fancy that! It’s not as though any of these tired old tales haven’t been doing the rounds in the cyber kangaroo courts for years, with members of various forums sharing their lurid fantasies and upping the satanic angle with every retelling, is it?

Mike Veale declares he has ‘120%’ conviction about the allegations against the dead PM; but even the language used advertises his level of intelligence. ‘120%’ is the language of the dim, the language of the footballer being interviewed after he’s just stepped off the pitch, like saying ‘literally’ when you don’t mean literally. Yet after the Chief Plod issued his ‘120% conviction’ to the press, subsequent PR statements from the Wiltshire Police make a mockery of Veale’s comments.

According to a police spokesman, Veale is determined to ‘ensure the investigation is proportionate, measured and legal’ and the purpose of it all is to ‘impartially investigate allegations without fear of favour and go where the evidence takes us. It is not the role of the police to judge the guilt or innocence of people in our criminal justice system’. How does that square with a Chief Constable making his prejudices public in the midst of an ongoing investigation? And are the deceased included amongst those people ‘in our criminal justice system’?

Mike Veale’s idiocy was apparent from day one, when he launched his force’s foray into time-travelling from outside Ted Heath’s former home and later denied it was a witch-hunt as the cost began to rise towards £1 million. Investigative officers even turned up at the HQ of Private Eye to peruse back issues of the magazine and see if they could uncover any suspicious references to Heath’s unmarried status; yes, I know, this is a development straight out of Private Eye’s satirical middle section, but it really happened. Where next? The home of Eric Idle because he wrote a comedy novel in the mid-70s called ‘Hello Sailor’, which featured a gay Prime Minister? Don’t rule it out.

There have been fewer easier targets than Ted Heath when it comes to this kind of posthumous character assassination; as with Jimmy Savile, he had no wife or children to take the accusers and their allies in the police and law firms to task. Also, like Savile, his sexuality was the subject of much hearsay and gossip during his lifetime; and both were disliked by many. Death and the diminishing ‘outrage’ of homosexuality as a means of ruining a public figure have simply released hounds of an even more malicious nature. And if the prominent can be ripped to shreds with such callous ease it’s no wonder the ordinary are so susceptible to the same treatment.

Come the Revolution, as Wolfie Smith used to say, maybe some of our most detestable misery-mongers will find themselves up against the wall for the bop-bop-bop treatment; added to the likes of past offenders such as Mark Williams-Thomas, Keir Starmer, Tom Watson, Liz Dux, Vera Baird, Mark Watts and ‘Nick’, we may well see the name Mike Veale. I reckon his presence could be justified, judging by his recent behaviour. I’m convinced, anyway…120%.

© The Editor

THE FINGER OF SUSPICION

10524678_10154392772245324_8312222850693804832_n2-copy-copyThe granting of effective pardons to deceased men convicted of ‘homosexual offences’ prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults in 1967 may be deemed a Good Thing by those who have long promoted such an event; but when one considers the thousands incarcerated in British prisons on such charges before the long overdue change to the law, it’s worth remembering how many of them are still with us. For them, this is little more than an empty gesture. Any amendments to the change to include the living on the list of the exonerated – and the potential minefield of whether a post-1967 conviction for sex with any man under the then-consenting age of 21 could be wiped from the records – were prevented by cynical filibustering. Apparently, one can always apply to the Home Office, but I suppose that august department knows most of those applying will probably be six feet under by the time the paperwork is completed.

Convictions of the non-dead for homosexual offences both before and after 1967 remain on their CVs, and thanks to the advent of CRB (now DBS) checks, the one-time crimes that death would erase the existence of retain the power to prevent the living from working in any profession in which contact with society’s ‘vulnerable’ is paramount. Even the Rehabilitation Offenders Act 1974, which introduced a time limit on a past criminal conviction so that it would cease to be a blot on an individual’s future career chances after a specified period of rehabilitation, included numerous caveats in the shape of exemption from it where certain professions are concerned.

However, a system of scrutiny that once only applied to ex-cons now encompasses a far wider section of the population. A criminal check on a prospective employee, as with a credit check by a bank, is regarded by the advocates of the system as a sensible precaution, though many others may see it as an infringement of their civil liberties that places them under unwarranted suspicion, faced with an interminable wait for the process to clear a name that didn’t require clearing in the first place. Doctors, nurses, teachers, youth-workers and care-workers (to name just a few) are all under this suspicion until their innocence has been established.

Anybody passing a Disclosure and Barring Service check is awarded with a certificate that essentially proclaims ‘I am officially not a Paedo or pervert’, confirmation that the individual the system presumes to be guilty is actually innocent. In a Court of Law, the onus is not on the defence to prove the accused didn’t commit the crime they’ve been charged with, but on the prosecution to prove they did – and beyond reasonable doubt. When it comes to a DBS check, the process works the other way round. It temporarily criminalises great swathes of the workforce, marooning them in an unemployable limbo for months, keeping them hanging on for the moment when they receive notification that they are not what they knew they weren’t all along.

Following several high-profile cases whereby a genuine rapist/Paedo/murderer slipped through the net and committed their favourite crime again, the restrictions imposed by DBS checks have been tightened to such a degree that the implication for anyone having to endure a DBS check is that these rare occasions are judged to be the rule rather than the exception. Primary schools are struggling to recruit male teachers as a consequence, and it has also had a detrimental effect on organisations like the Girl Guides, who are suffering a shortage of adult volunteers. Who would even want to work with children under such circumstances?

Putting the private business of employers and employees in the hands of an institution as corrupt and untrustworthy as the Police Force was destined to be a recipe for disaster. One may as well hand over the running of social media to the Stasi. Ten years ago, the Home Office revealed almost 3,000 people had been accidentally labelled as criminals following CRB checks, whereas it emerged in 2009 that any minor contact with police, even when there wasn’t so much as a caution involved, would be present on an individual’s ‘Enhanced’ CRB or DBS file (the one reserved for those seeking to work with children, the elderly or disabled adults). So, if you once had to give your name and address to a woodentop when he saw you waiting for a taxi and judged you to be loitering before moving you on, it’ll be in there.

There is also an immense backlog of checks building up as the net widens to include more professions. Recent statistics exposed the worst performing Force when it came to backlogs; it was – surprise, surprise – the Met; another persistent offender, the South Yorkshire Police Force, was also in the top five. Last year it was reported that as many as 150,000 people with jobs lined-up were prevented from beginning these jobs due to DBS checks taking upwards of four months – and this despite Police Forces being set a target of processing at least 85% of applications over a period of 14 days. Labour blames the delays on Tory cuts, but it would hardly make much difference whoever happened to be running the country. The system itself is the problem.

Mind you, if you’ve already been through the process and are keen to move to another job in the same sector, it’s now possible (for the annual sum of £13) to re-use the same DBS certificate you were awarded last time round; move into another sector, however, and you’ll have to go through it all over again.

We have allowed the powers-that-be to criminalise us because we’ve been gullible enough to swallow the ‘it’s for your own good and the good of your children’ guff, and look where it has left us – suspicious, wary, mistrustful, seeing only the bad in people, encouraged to snoop and snitch, leaving vital professions under-staffed and starved of those who could make a massive difference; but, hey, some dead men convicted of things that were actually illegal at the time can now rest easy in their graves, so we can be proud of our country once again.

© The Editor

OUR MAN IN THE ESTABLISHMENT

rumpoleWhen John Mortimer created the character of Horace Rumpole, he admitted his ultimate motivation was to come up with a Sherlock Holmes or a James Bond, a fictitious figure whose popularity could span a series of books that would keep the author financially comfortable in his old age. In the end, it was the television incarnation of Rumpole as played to utterly convincing perfection by Leo McKern in the ITV series, ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’, which ran from 1978-1992, that provided Mortimer with his retirement nest-egg.

Mortimer was himself a barrister and he drew inspiration from some of the ‘Old Bailey hacks’ he had encountered during his legal career, those who regarded their role as a moral duty, one that honoured the inscription on the pediment above the portico of the Central Criminal Court – ‘Defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer’. Like them, Rumpole had no career ambitions to climb the legal greasy pole, to become a QC or Circuit Judge; he was a firm believer in the presumption of innocence and favoured legal aid cases that few other barristers of his experience would touch.

As a barrister, John Mortimer gained a reputation for defending what many saw as the indefensible, famously on the side of the ‘Oz’ editors charged with obscenity in 1971, ‘Gay News’ for blasphemous libel in 1976, and Virgin Records over the furore concerning the public display of the word ‘bollocks’ on the sleeve of the debut Sex Pistols LP in 1977. Although he cited his criminal barrister father as another influence on the character of Rumpole, there was certainly more than a touch of the author in his creation’s wilful embrace of the underdog up against the powers-that-be.

Interestingly, Rumpole baulked at prosecution, though there were occasions when even if he knew his client was guilty, he still entered a ‘not guilty’ plea; for all his noble dedication to ‘the golden thread of British justice’, Rumpole’s cherished ethics occasionally encompassed the lies that so many in his profession propagate in order to secure success. Rumpole’s career was back in pre-CPS days, so he had no need to court favour with the Clown Prosecution Service in the hope that he could one day prosecute on their behalf; he never deliberately threw a defence case by withholding vital evidence he knew couldn’t be used in an appeal, thus ensuring a dubious CPS conviction. The old boy network was one Rumpole revelled in standing outside of.

As unconventional and borderline Dickensian a character as Horace Rumpole was, he nevertheless represented a recurrent strand in British television when dealing with the most revered professions within British society, that of the heroic crusader seeking justice for the little man when confronted by those with the weight of the establishment behind them. Such a character had already become familiar in the genre of the police drama. Sgt George Dixon was far from being a rebel, but he personified the honest copper children had been brought up to believe was there to protect them. Stratford Johns’ bullish CID colossus Barlow (‘Z-Cars’ and ‘Softy Softly’) was a different proposition, but still essentially a good guy when it came to the innocent. If we ever found ourselves in a tight corner, we wanted Sgt Dixon, DCS Barlow and Rumpole to be there for us.

These effective TV PR jobs for the police and the Law presented the public with an idealised and unrealisable vision of crime and punishment that viewers who had no first-hand contact with either came to believe was the truth. It wasn’t until GF Newman’s uncompromising ‘Law and Order’ was broadcast on the BBC the same year that ITV aired the first series of ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ (1978) that television uncovered the less reassuring reality of how the system actually worked.

A four-part series whose grim brutality showed up ‘The Sweeney’ for the admittedly enjoyable escapism it really was, ‘Law and Order’ featured a corrupt police detective (Derek Martin of later ‘Eastenders’ fame) faced with finding the guilty parties behind an armed robbery. Although this proves a relatively simple task, the urge to frame a career villain (Peter Dean AKA Albert Square’s Pete Beale) who has evaded arrest for several other jobs sees the detective cajole and persuade the men responsible for the crime to name said villain as a member of their crew even though he had no involvement with them or their ‘blag’. The man was ‘due’ and is duly found guilty, sent down for several years for something he didn’t do; in the eyes of the copper, this is justice.

The bias of the judge in directing the jury to reject the outrageous notion that the police could possibly be liars, the hopeless predicament of the low-rent lawyer entrusted to keep the accused innocent from prison, and the smug satisfaction of the detective in removing a persistent offender from his books are all complemented by perhaps the most graphic portrayal of prison life ever seen on TV up to that point.

‘Law and Order’ doesn’t make for easy viewing, but I would recommend it to anyone who remains in denial that the judiciary and the police aren’t always on our side. Yes, we want to believe in Rumpole and Dixon in the same way we want to believe every newspaper journalist is on a par with Woodward & Bernstein. The sad fact is that when we encounter them we find this isn’t necessarily the case.

Only this week in promoting the ITV police drama, ‘Unforgotten’, its author spoke on the radio of deliberately portraying the police as ‘nice people doing a tough job’ and it would seem endless toxic headlines of police corruption and ineptitude have resulted in TV returning to a more feel-good formula that assures its viewers that not every apple in the barrel is rotten. Try telling that to the innocents who have been on the receiving end of a system that purports to live by the principle carved on that Old Bailey pediment and yet is found wanting when the maintenance of the status quo from which its beneficiaries thrive and prosper becomes the prime objective, along with increasingly insidious politicisation that has made ‘guilty till proven innocent’ the rule rather than the exception. Be careful out there – you’re on your own.

© The Editor

THE UGLY GAME

police-boxJust when you thought it was safe to put the Paedo back in the box, the blighter has escaped again. Someone call the cops! Not to worry – cometh the Paedo, cometh the Chief Constable; this time it’s the turn of Norfolk’s main man, Simon Bailey. The No.1 Bobby from the land of big-eared boys on farms also happens to be ‘lead for child protection’ of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, so he obviously knows his stuff.

Chief Constable Bailey declared on Saturday that there will be a significant increase in numbers coming forward to report historical sexual abuse in sports other than football. Without even heading for the hat-stand in the hallway and reaching for the headgear marked ‘cynic’, it’s hard not to detect the palpable relish in a statement that means we will once again see the nation’s individual police forces devoting their resources to investigating alleged crimes committed twenty, thirty or forty years ago rather than coping with the far more difficult task of solving crimes committed in the here and now. It’s the crime-fighting equivalent of opting for the cosy familiarity of Radio 2’s playlist instead of taking a risk with 6 Music because the memory-laden soundtrack of the past is easier on the ears and easier to deal with than the unpredictability of the contemporary.

In what our law-enforcers know is a tried-and-trusted self-fulfilling prophesy, the announcement by a prominent policeman (at least in his own neck of the woods) that he suspects ‘there will be other sporting governing bodies…who will come forward and who will identify the fact that they have similar problems’ is guaranteed to unleash the kind of workload the police are evidently in sore need of as well as fuelling this nation’s insatiable appetite for the subject it clearly can’t get enough of. The words ‘credible’ and ‘true’ have yet to be bandied about, but other hackneyed phrases that constitute the lexicon of the historical child abuse narrative have reappeared, just as we all knew they would.

‘Brave’ and ‘Courageous’ were employed to describe the sad TV confessions of a group of ex-footballers fulfilling the moral obligation of the moment by providing a voyeuristic public and a salacious media with the most intimate and explicit personal details of their pasts; and, of course, ‘other victims coming forward’, that other old chestnut, was wheeled out for one more encore. As we are informed that four separate forces are stepping into their customised police boxes for further journeys back in time following last week’s high-profile revelations of a former youth coach who has already served time and is recognised as a past offender, the farcical national inquiry into child sex abuse has said it is ‘watching events closely’, perhaps intending to add football to its itinerary in around three or four years time.

The NSPCC, supposedly a children’s charity, has become the unofficial sponsor of the grown men whose miserable childhoods took place decades ago; the usual ambulance-chasing law firms have pricked-up their ears at a development that holds the prospect of fresh exploitation as well as financial salvation; and Crewe Alexandra, the perennial lower-league dwellers who once employed Barry Bennell, the man at the centre of these allegations, are apparently launching their own investigation into the unpleasant affair to boot. The wheels of the industry are being oiled anew and timing, as ever, is everything.

The BBC has given extensive coverage to this story, excitedly rounding-up the ex-pros to spill the beans on Victoria Derbyshire’s coffee-table chinwag in classic Oprah Winfrey fashion; one can’t help but suspect the Corporation is rubbing its hands together as it has done on numerous occasions post-Savile, eager to prove it wasn’t alone in allowing rampant Paedos to fiddle about to their dark heart’s content on their premises in the past. And, of course, the boys in blue, still smarting from the justifiable condemnation they received following the publication of the report into Operation Midland, are desperate to deflect attention away from their own ineptitude and corruption of justice, hoping they can win back the public’s trust in them by embarking upon a new mission against the common enemy.

As the most extreme extension of the ‘they’re all at it’ conspiracy theory conviction, the historical child abuse industry has been one of the few post-2008 success stories in the UK over the last five years; and like every booming business, it has a network of individuals and institutions that are financially dependent upon it. What would become of the arms industry, after all, if there were no wars taking place in which the latest weaponry was required?

Likewise, having exhausted the respective worlds of showbiz, politics, academia and various branches of Christianity, this particular industry has spent a great deal of time and energy engaged in a search for the next untapped source of revenue. So far, sport – usually bogged-down with match-fixing or drug-taking scandals – has evaded the shadow of historic abuse. Now, however, its time has arrived.

Like many detached observers witnessing yet another chapter in this saga unfolding, I often ponder on how and why we got here. I sometimes wonder if the obsession of Britain with a rare sexual peccadillo and the belief that every outlet of ‘the establishment’ has been a haven for its practitioners due to institutionalised blind eyes betrays a deep grievance with this society’s social and financial inequality. Intense envy of the rich, the famous and the powerful has grown in line with the dramatic decrease of social mobility; and as economic divisions widen rather than narrow it would appear the only way in which many can deal with the harsh truth that they will die in possible poverty and undoubted obscurity is to take the rich, famous and powerful down with them. Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of this nihilistic approach to a hopeless situation are themselves, if not famous, then increasingly rich and increasingly powerful.

© The Editor

THE FISHING PARTY

ted-heathIt’s probably true to say Ted Heath was his own worst enemy. Britain’s Prime Minister from June 1970 to February 1974 was famed for his cold, brusque aloofness in company, ignoring VIPs, dignitaries and his own MPs at social functions and earning a reputation as a rather pompous and grumpy old so-and-so that won him few friends and cost him support amongst his peers when he needed it. Yet he himself couldn’t understand why people found it so hard to warm to him; he always saw everyone else as the problem. He came across as uncomfortable, stiff-necked and ill-at-ease when PM both on television and when speaking in public, a poor communicator struggling to get his message across to the electorate. With the possible exception of Gordon Brown, he remains on paper perhaps the most unsuited man for the job in the post-war era, an unlikely candidate for Downing Street if ever there was one.

Yet, put a baton in his hand and stick him in front of an orchestra or sit him down at a grand piano, and he was in his element. A diffident and difficult man whose shyness was often perceived as straightforward rudeness, Heath relaxed when with those who shared his passions. Music had been the main one from day one, though later in life he applied himself to mastering the art of sailing and this became his other great love. The determination he displayed when it came to learning the latter mirrored his political ambitions. Despite his evident limitations for public office, he wouldn’t be swayed and the work he put in was eventually rewarded when he won the contest to succeed Sir Alec Douglas Home as Tory leader in 1965. Five years later he scored a shock win over Labour PM Harold Wilson, a man who had repeatedly dismissed Heath as a lightweight up until polling day in 1970.

We’re so used to the nauseating ‘family shots’ of Prime Minister with spouse and children these days that it seems even more bizarre now to have had a bachelor at No.10 forty-five years ago, let alone one who sought solace of an evening by playing the piano and then took a couple of weeks off from running the country to compete in, and win, a prestigious yachting competition. Heath was certainly his own man, refusing to enter into a marriage solely for PR reasons and brushing off predictable rumours he was an old poof (to use the parlance of the time). Heath became PM just three years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, though the accusation remained the default insult to aim at the unmarried man; those who were genuinely homosexual during that era tended to marry, such as Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, as a means of deflecting accusations, though Heath had no idea how to interact with women in a romantic manner and didn’t bother trying just for the sake of his public image.

After innumerable difficulties with bolshie unions and Northern Ireland, as well as antagonism over his pushing of Britain to join the Common Market, the Three Day Week was the final straw for the electorate. After losing two General Elections in 1974 and surrendering No.10 to his nemesis Harold Wilson, Heath’s days were numbered. When his unpopularity in his own party gifted Margaret Thatcher the kind of support required to topple Heath as leader in 1975, Heath couldn’t fathom why it had happened and for a good year or so was convinced he could regain his position; when Thatcher won the General Election in 1979, her decision not to award a Cabinet post to her still-active predecessor provoked one of the great public sulks in British political history, one that didn’t end until Thatcher herself was toppled in 1990.

During half-a-century as a serving MP, Edward Heath made many enemies and wasn’t prepared to compromise in order to court popularity. His relatively humble origins for a Conservative leader provoked enmity from the old patrician Tories, who looked down on him as a social inferior, and his obstinacy as PM where the press and public were concerned lingered long after he had left Downing Street. Heath wouldn’t play the game and that kind of attitude inspired grudges that have lasted, even more than a decade since his death. Naming and shaming him as a closet gay, though there was no evidence to back up such a claim other than he never married, is no longer a sufficient weapon in our sexually enlightened day and age, so the default insult now is paedophile, a word that embodies all the revulsion once reserved for ‘queer’.

The last 16 months has seen 21 presumably thumb-twiddling officers of Wiltshire Police pack their rods for a fishing expedition known as Operation Conifer, a sort-of retarded country cousin of the Met’s Operation Midland, in response to unsubstantiated accusations against the deceased PM, and have so far spent £700,000 casting their nets in the vain hope of salvaging confidence in the country’s most discredited public service. Heath’s name had already been pulled out of the fantasist’s hat worn by ‘Nick’, the anonymous accuser of half-a-dozen VIPs and their alleged part in the Westminster Paedo Ring that never was, and Wiltshire Police took it upon themselves to pursue additional ‘credible and true’ accusations even when Operation Midland was rightly recognised as the criminal waste of public money and ruination of reputations it was all along.

This week Operation Conifer was even reduced to ‘investigating’ (and I use that term loosely) the anti-Common Market incident in 1972, when a protestor threw ink at Heath as he arrived to sign on the dotted line that would enshrine Britain’s membership of the EEC. What the hell that has to do with ‘paedophilia’ is nothing other than the painful sound of a barrel’s bottom being desperately scraped. After last week’s damning report into Midland, the continuation of Conifer merely confirms the priorities of the police as a time-travelling hit squad whose interest in solving twenty-first century crimes is secondary to rooting around the dirty laundry of the dead and dying on the hearsay of mentally demented finger-pointers fresh out of therapy.

It’s no surprise they should single out Heath in a last pathetic throw of the dice. His defiant oddness in Prime Ministerial terms was a gift for them, but each victim of the witch-hunt has been an individual eccentric and square peg, characteristics alien to the consensus of the day. Operation Midland has now been acknowledged as an outrage by the media, yet few have dared to allocate the same condemnation to Operation Yewtree, the granddaddy of them all, and a project responsible for the rotting in gaol of more than one household name as well as the soiled gravestones of many more. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it? No, me neither.

© The Editor