Andrew Mitchell & the media spin

25 Sep

Having been confronted with saturation coverage of the ‘gategate’ affair as it has been labelled in some quarters I was struck by the media’s attempt to ‘spin’ the story. They (the media) are definitely presenting the story as a ‘who said what to whom’ event & therefore turning it into a smaller & less revealing spat than it could otherwise have been.

It does appear that if reports are accurate either Mr Mitchell or the police officers are lying.

If it is the police then for many this would be nothing new, after all think of the revelations in the Hillsborough report to name merely the latest example. But given that a policeman’s notes are admissible in court as factual evidence, fraudulent note-taking by constables has serious legal ramifications. It must also borne in mind that these are NOT run-of-the-mill bobbies, the individuals concerned are members of an elite group of a highly trained protection detail, whose skill-set would, one imagines, contain the ability to accurately recollect & transcribe a recent situation for further records & analysis

If it is Mr Mitchell who has lied then he has no credibility & his political career is surely over. Furthermore if he did in fact say what he is alleged to have said then it portrays the higher echelons of the Tory party in a very unflattering light & merely confirms the worst suspicions of many died-in-the-wool Tory opponents: namely that the Tory party is at its heart the party of rich, privately educated, tax-avoiding, elitists who are irrevocably wedded to the ideas of entitlement, superiority & divine rights to rule & get their own way. The affair again throws into stark relief this administration’s default setting is to protect its own. Thus rather than upholding higher ethical standards by members of the Government (& indeed all elected representatives), instead we have seen yet another series of tawdry attempts to ‘draw a line under the story’. which merely serve to underline the perception of self-serving contempt for the lower classes who elected them.

Which brings me to the media’s spinning of the story. 

The most illuminating omission in the media’s coverage has been its acceptance of the discrepancy between what happens to you or I if we swear at a police officer who instructs us to take a particular action & the treatment of Mr Mitchell and there can be NO doubt that these highly trained & competent officers knew exactly who he was.

Imagine how the events would have unfolded if instead of a rich & well-connected Tory politician the cyclist had been an ordinary Londoner (heaven forbid if the gentleman in question had been from one of our capital’s more visible ethnic minorities).

Had it been you or I we would have been detained & if our ‘noses were clean’ & we were proven to be otherwise upstanding, we would probably have received a caution & sent on our way. Although it is equally possible that had a van been available, or the officers been so minded, we would have made a trip to the nearest police station.

Had we been of less-upstanding appearance we would have been arrested & held for a time before being either a) officially cautioned or b) charged with a Public Order offence and given a date to appear in court.

We most definitely wouldn’t have received the support of a high ranking civil servant nor the head of the Metropolitan Police.

That the media unquestioningly accepts this behind-the-scenes use of power & connections to protect a member of a ruling elite raises serious questions about the role of class, privilege & rule of law in an allegedly 21st century democracy. It would appear that the media is all too accepting of elitism, privilege & unlike the police officers in this most definitely ‘knows its place’.


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