The thing that strikes me so clearly as I watch the questioning of Sir Paul Stephenson, Yates and the Murdochs by the hacking committee is the contrast between the polite, gentlemanly way it is done and the way ordinary people are treated.
No dawn raids, no busting open the doors, no cuffs. Polite invitations to attend police stations followed a couple of hours later by a discreet release on bail. This is the way the establishment treats its own. Paul Stephenson says that he felt that hospitality worth £12,000 was in no way suspicious and everybody seems to agree. A stream of clearly damning evidence flows on about perjury, bribes and financial irregularities which if they were levelled at for example social security claimants would have seen them summarily banged up.
And nowhere is this clearer when we compare the way these “well-mannered thugs” are treated with the treatment handed out to demonstrators at the TUC demo & the anti-cuts protests. In Sir Paul Stephenson's resignation as Metropolitan police commissioner on Sunday night, one of the things he claimed he was most proud of the Met for was "the professional and restrained approach to unexpected levels of violence in recent student demonstrations".
Those who suffered the policehorse charges, the beatings and the kettling, and the scores of people currently passing through the courts on serious charges of violent disorder, affray and criminal damage, might disagree. Francis Fernie, for instance, jailed for 12 months for throwing a couple of placard sticks on the 26 March TUC protest, injuring no one. Or Charlie Gilmour, jailed for 16 months for sitting on the bonnet of a car that was part of the convoy carrying Charles and Camilla, and for allegedly throwing a bin. Or Alfie Meadows, seriously injured – brain-damaged - by police and then charged by his attackers with violent disorder. While some of these young people languish in jail, media moguls like Murdoch and their disgusting henchmen treat the law with contempt – because the top cops are on their payroll – quite literally in some cases here! An incestuous and corrupt relationship that has been going on for years.
The close associations between the police and News International go right back to the start of printing at Wapping. Murdoch broke the print unions with his move to fortress Wapping in 1986. He claimed the move would free Britain’s papers from the “restrictive practices” of the print unions.Many journalists went along with him. In reality he used the move to sack any journalists who didn’t support the hard right Thatcherite politics that he was promoting. Destroying the unions did not free up journalists and free them from control by “elites” as Murdoch had promised. Instead, removing any kind of collective opposition created the atmosphere in which the News of the World scandal festered.At the same time, Murdoch’s union-busting meant that the newspapers needed police help to get through the ranks of sacked printworkers and their supporters outside the gates. Murdoch and his senior executives were glad of the assistance rendered in facilitating their scabbing operation, and ever since then, many police officers have enjoyed a close relationship with News International, a relationship in which bribery and corruption have been not only endemic but an essential lubricant . An old friend of mine, ex-detective, socialist, once told me “I never felt really accepted in the CID until I took my first bribe, because then my hands were dirty too.” Over the years I had started to think he was exaggerating. Clearly not.
At the very least, those demonstrators still being processed by the legal system should have their charges dropped and an inquiry held into the cases of those already convicted. Protestors were demonised by the same press that was bribing and suborning senior police officers. This tainted force cannot be trusted.