Alexander Pannett 6.45am
The shock of the phone hacking scandal has twisted into a new Hydra’s head with the revelation that Sir Paul Stephenson, the head of the Met police, had hired Neil Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor known as “The Wolfman”, as a PR consultant in 2009. This was at a time of much public acclaim for the police to re-open inquiries into the alleged hacking. Sir Paul’s resignation yesterday will not be enough to silence the serious questions that have been raised over the Met’s recent conduct.
This scandal is only the latest in a catalogue of mishaps that arose under Sir Paul Stephenson’s stewardship that saw the police become far too cosy with the both the previous Labour administration and the media. The police were very happy to bite for their political masters when allegations of Home Office leaks saw Damien Green, the then Shadow Immigration Minister, arrested and his offices in the Houses of Parliament searched. At the time, it was unprecedented for an MP to be arrested and his office searched by police in connection with a leak inquiry.
The police were also strong advocates of the insidious attempt by Labour to extend detention to ninety days for terrorist suspects. Andy Hayman, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, wrote to the Home Secretary in 2005 to express his view that 90 days was required. At the time it was even alleged that the police and Labour were working closely together as senior Chief Constables wished to keep their jobs after plans to cut the number of Constabularies in the United Kingdom from 43 down to around 9.
Now that the Faustian pact between the media, Labour and the police has been exposed, it is highly disturbing to consider that such momentous assualts on British liberty and Parliamentary democracy may not have been driven by concern for the safety of British citizens but by the need to satisfy a tabloid populist agenda. Like the three blind witches of Macbeth, these three culprits had but one eye to see the world and unfortunately that eye belonged to Murdoch.
The Murdoch press has been allowed to shape the lexicon of law and order. It has corrupted and encouraged the police to forget that they serve the people. Laws gain their authority not from obedience but from the recognition of that authority by the people. If the agents of the law are not transparent or accountable, then how can the people recognise what they stand for. From dubious kettling tactics to the nefarious shooting of an innocent on a tube, it is time the police re-affirmed both its independence and its obligation to uphold the liberties and democratic values that underpin our society. The police must clean out its tainted parts and put more emphasis on observance of the law rather than its Kafkaesque enforcement.