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UK: Police, Riots, Tactics, Politicians,Media …

  • August 14th, 2011
  • Posted by 7thmin

london-riot-roarmag11.jpgLondon police engaging in argy-bargy with politicians over their handling of last week’s riots, were just emerging from some unwelcome exposure also, over links with the tabloid press.

The conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron has promised the police full resources and powers to bring rioters to justice – though not without ire.

“They treated the situation too much as a public order issue rather than crime”, he said.

Carrots put aside, the stick policy includes moves to evict public housing tenants from their place, if somebody in the household has committed a crime during the riots; as well as the displaying of CCTV images of suspects; and opportunities for television crews to get armed police busting into apartments to make arrests.

The actual government-to-police tension arises as Mr Cameron is far from alone among elected officials who rushed back from sunny holidays – mostly down at the beach, on the Mediterranean – and are now out in public saying how else it might have been done.

Senior police have criticised those “not there at the time”, giving advice on tactics, “with hindsight.”

As for police and media; while August has been the time of riots, July was the time of News International, the Murdoch publishing corporation facing public inquiry over journalistic malpractice, and actual crimes.

See EUAustralia Online, “News ad nauseum:, 22.7.11; “Rupert Murdoch affair..”, 20.7.11.

Most of it concentrated on the hacking of private telephones, to find stories for journalists, but the matter of payments to police for information provided a very fine spin-off for journalists not themselves in the line of fine at the time,

The update on the pay-for-stories issue was that journalists in the present day and age might, for a consideration get access to police tracks on the movement of private phones; they can ping you around the town, and might tell journalists where you are.

More traditionally, the Old Bill, in the form of enterprising Bobbies on the beat, has been a very dependable tip-off service over the decades.

Few would have been surprised at the news of an update in the range of activities.

To commemorate that tradition, here is one of the celebrated episodes, on the theme, from the comic genius of Evelyn Waugh:

Mrs Stitch, the socialite, has driven her small car into a downstairs public lavatory in London.

The hapless William Boot, finding himself unexpectedly in the employ of the Fleet Street daily, The Beast, is randomly accosted in its offices.

 “After a time he heard himself addressed. ‘Hi, you,’ said a voice, ‘wake up’ …

“The man speaking to him was exactly the type William recognised as belonging to the film he had seen in Taunton; a short, shock-headed fellow in shirt sleeves, dicky, and eyeshades, waistcoat pocket full of pencils, first finger pointing accusingly.

‘You. You’re the new man aren’t you?’ …

“Well, here’s a chance for you.’ He pushed a type-written  slip into William’s hand. ‘Cut along there quick … ’

“William read the slip. ‘Mrs Stitch. Gentlemen’s Lavatory, Sloane Street.’

“We’ve just had this phoned in from the policeman on duty … Quick!’ …

“There was a dense crowd around the public lavatory … A man with a camera was forging a way through. ‘Press, please, Press. Make way for the Press.’

“William joined in behind him …

‘“Hi,’ said a sergeant, ‘where are you going?’

“‘Press,’ said William. ‘I’m on The Beast.’

‘“So am I’, said the sergeant …”



Evelyn Waugh (2010), Scoop, Melbourne, Penguin; first published 1938.