Friday, 21 September 2012

Guv'nor, Can You Spare A Copper?

It appears that Andrew Mitchell, Conservative Chief Whip in the House of Commons and formerly of Rugby School, the Royal Tank Regiment and Jesus College, Cambridge is alleged to have been rather rude to a police officer who impeded his political progress.  Had he not been trying to earn brownie points by biking instead of using the comfort of an official limousine it would never have happened.

By coincidence, I have played rugger at Rugby, against a battalion of the RTR and also Jesus College, Cambridge.  One of the odder experiences of the three was calling for the traditional end of game gesture of sportsmanship shouting the words “Three cheers for Jesus!”

All this was before Andrew pedalled into the world.  But at the time one of the conventions of students in bars, notably rugger chaps, was to sing songs of doubtful taste and lacking in poetic meaning.  One was “I’ll sing you a song and it won’t take me long.  All coppers are bastards!”

Whether this practice continued long enough for Andrew to be a part of it, rugger or no rugger, I do not know.  Just as in Cameron’s, Osborne’s and Johnson’s Oxford there were some rackety dining clubs at Cambridge, but again what may have been on their song sheets is an open question.  Perhaps they were all keen on Queen.

There has been a long undertow of snobbery relating to the police, nowhere better seen in the Jeeves and Wooster series, where there is a hapless P.C. Oates bullied by the people up at The Hall as well as others. 

A tradition of crime novel writing in England has been the well educated intelligent person of the patrician classes solving crimes whilst the dim detectives and distinctly plebeian officers thrashed about in error and confusion.

To some extent television has corrected this with typical officers clearly being ordinary people trying to do a difficult job with some of them being of the rougher sort with hearts of gold.  But most, I suspect, would not have been the sort of persons any of the TV hierarchies would invite to dinner.

The last few days, however, have provided us with a stark contrast to test our attitudes.  On the one hand there are the findings of the Hillsborough Disaster enquiry.  On the other there have been the tragic deaths of two officers in a part of Manchester where gun gangs and crime have been rampant. 

As many say but government and too many at Westminster do not seem to hear there is a lot going bad that the police are struggling to contain.  They are not helped by easy going judges and magistrates and a system that rather than upset the social engineers lets loose too many evil and dangerous people onto the streets.

In this context, the Andrew Mitchell episode has all the elements of farce.  Either you have high security or you do not.  If you do it is often very inconvenient and tiresome and there is no way round it.  If you do not then the risks are high.  He really ought to know this.

Mitchell should mend his fences by taking himself to support the Metropolitan Police Rugby XV, another lot of former opponents.  Should they invite him into the bar he could try to win them round by reciting The Ballad Of Eskimo Nell and then promising to restore their pension rights.

And remembering to say “please”.


  1. He was sent by the Headmaster to say sorry. I think the pendulum may be swinging as after the Olympics, it appears authoritarian control is becoming more accepted and if you swear at a policeman, you get reported. As an aside, 'pleb' is not a word I would have expected him to use in those circumstances.

    Well, at least your youth wasn't misspent, D.

  2. And then he lied about what he said

  3. The fuzz badly needed something to counter the s**t-tsunami of serial exposures that's hit them; an authentic rep of the nasty party has provided it; the fuzz PR machine has gone into overdrive; MPs hate their Whips. There are no white hats or black hats here, just the Orwellian nightmare going on....and on...