This report from Channel 4 on the #plebgate affair throws up another video worth your time. Watch it first.
Several immediate reactions, in no particular order of importance:
- If Andrew Mitchell is telling the truth, and our government is so tardy about investigating and getting at the truth of what its own allegedly get up to (or not), what does this tell us about its ability to devise and engineer policy for a whole society? I mean if it can’t get right one piddling little report into events which supposedly took place in an area crammed full of CCTV cameras the government itself owns, what are the implications for their ability to fashion the destination of the NHS, Legal Aid, the Budget and its aftermath and a whole host of other matters of national importance?
- If Andrew Mitchell is telling the truth, and both the Sun and the Telegraph duly followed their journalistic procedures, what does this say about the quality of their procedures?
- If Andrew Mitchell is telling the truth, and the newspapers which reported this affair were prepared to use material leaked by a person who had a close relationship with the police, doesn’t this indicate they’ve done this on far more occasions beforehand – during #hackgate for starters and inevitably since? Doesn’t it, in fact, indicate such behaviours are par for the course?
- Finally, if Andrew Mitchell is telling the truth, and now – on the basis of what he alleges happened to him at the hands of some individuals or other – wants something to be done in order to re-establish the belief he had in the police prior to these aforementioned events, aren’t we allowed to ask him why such a firm and definite trust wasn’t already severely damaged by the revelations around Milly Dowler, Hillsborough and Orgreave onwards?
Yes. I feel for Andrew Mitchell if the situation is as he describes it. Just as I feel, as any human being surely must, for the aspersions cast on the reputations of others in recent times. But I can’t help also feeling something bigger is happening here. Andrew Mitchell doesn’t want what has happened to him to happen again in Britain. I agree, of course. But I’d go much much further. Personally, I wouldn’t want the sex abuse scandals to repeat themselves; I wouldn’t want the fuel poverty scandals to repeat themselves; I wouldn’t want the Hillsborough cover-up to happen again; I wouldn’t want my unhappiness with and distrust of my government’s ability to manage a country to perpetuate itself any longer.
Yet what I believe is really taking place here is that all of us – all of us as a society – are being stitched up by forces quite beyond our ken. If Andrew Mitchell truly tells it as it has occurred, and he’s not now spinning the revelations for his own purposes, then this is really a rather unsatisfactory – even severe – matter. If someone like Mr Mitchell, at the heart of government, cannot get the truth out when a frame is being engineered around him by other institutions, what hope do any of the rest of us have when faced by analogous circumstances?
Are we really saying our society is so very corrupt/inefficient/inept that one of the most senior figures in government can be removed from his position after a cursory and inconclusive investigation by people on his own side into accusations splashed by the same old media dynamics which Tom Watson, the Guardian and others spent so much time, money and resources trying to unmask?
The stitch-up I talk about? This – that is to say, everything I describe above – is all leading us to a situation where we simply can’t trust anyone again to be telling the unvarnished truth. Instead of engaging enthusiastically and directly, immediately and sincerely, with our peers and representatives and leaders and enablers, we are slowly but surely going down the path of an encroaching and cynical disengagement.
A cynical disengagement where we will be forced to end up concluding that nothing – but nothing – can be relied on any more.
And who really benefits from such a reaction and such a dispiriting conclusion? Who really benefits from such a bankrupting of democracy?
Well, I think it’s actually time that you told me.
But what I can say for sure is that it ain’t going to be people like us.