82% of Telegraph readers think Andrew Mitchell should go

In an online poll, more than 82% of Telegraph readers think that Andrew Mitchell should be sacked from his government job. And really who can disagree, after what he said to policemen doing their jobs, now allowing him take his bicycle through a Downing Street gate:

Open these gates, I’m telling you – I’m telling you, I’m the chief whip and I’m coming through these gates. Best you learn your f***ing place. You don’t run this f***ing government. You’re f***ing plebs.

If that doesn’t sound like an arrogant, over-privileged posh boy throwing a tantrum, I’m not sure what is. The police are neither above criticism nor without flaws, but in a week that two police officers were killed in the course of their duty, such an attitude from a member of Her Majesty’s Government is disgusting.

Conservative leading light Boris Johnson and David Davis have previously said that people swearing at police should face arrest. Anyone who didn’t carry a red briefcase almost certainly would have done. And what was David Cameron’s response:

What Andrew Mitchell said and what he did was not appropriate, it was wrong and it’s right he’s apologised. He’s apologised to me and but much more importantly, he’s apologised thoroughly to the police.

Which, to me, sounds like barely so much as a slap on the wrist. No arrest, no sanctions and no sacking. A simple apology, and everything is just rosy again.

One rule for everyone else, another for Andrew Mitchell and co. If anything, this sounds like David Cameron is telling the British public to  “learn your f***ing place, you f***ing plebs!

The Shape of Things to Come?

In the light of the mess G4S have made of Olympic security, this should be a worrying warning about the future of our policing.

It’s a said state of affairs, isn’t it? The army have been called in to the Olympic Games, to cover for a shortfall in the number of security staff provided by private security firm G4S.

They were to be paid £284million, to provide 10,000 staff, but apparently won’t be able to meet it in time due to problems with “scheduling and development”. It’s looking very much like they tried to do things on the cheap, and got caught out.

Which is embarrassing, but at least the army can bail them out. The more worrying thing is G4S’ involvement in the ongoing scandal of police privatisation. Not only are they one of the bidders in West Midlands and Surrey police forces plans to outsource some of their policing duties to the private sector. They’re also going to be building and running a police station for Lincolnshire Police.

Privatisation of the police force scares me, honestly. The idea of streets being patrolled by private security guards, of law and order functions being handed over to these companies, should be something that we’re all opposed to, and I think the majority of people would. Privatisation has done little good for the customer in areas where it has been rolled out historically — whether the train companies or water companies — as the “public service” ethos always seems to get lost in a blind dash for profits.

And G4S don’t exactly have a rosy history themselves:

Not a favourable record (and don’t think that the other parties interested in police privatisation are any cleaner…), and especially worrying about the problem we already have with deaths in custody.

Enter into this volatile mix, the elections of police commissioners in November. Here in the Thames Valley, the only candidates we have declared so far is Labour’s Tim Starkey, and the Conservatives’ (“TOTALLY OFFICIAL” apparently) Anthony Stansfeld. I have heard with my own ears Tim disavow police privatisation, and so can say without a doubt that he would not countenance it. I cannot, sadly, say anything similar about Mr Stansfeld.

The Conservatives have nothing to offer in these elections. They are cutting police budgets by 20%, are pathologically against all taxes regardless of justifications, and have no new ideas of how to improve policing. They do, however, have a track history and zeal for selling off public services to the private sector, to the benefit of businesses and detriment of the public.

I, for one, shudder at the possibility that publicly accountable police officers could be replaced by thugs hired on the cheap to make quotas and profits for the likes of G4S. They’ve cocked up Olympic security, and the army have stepped in — but the army won’t be able to do the same on Thames Valley streets.

Will Anthony Stansfeld pledge not to privatise police if elected as Police & Crime Commissioner?

UPDATE: Well, one good thing seems to have come of the G4S Olympic shambles (and yes, Theresa May, your private security company drastically under providing for a major international sports competition is the very definition of shambolic): the BBC are reporting that Surrey Police have dropped plans for privatisation. Very good news, but I can’t help but fear that the plans might be stealthily resurrected following November’s police commissioner elections.

Fire up the Quatro! (Ashes to Ashes – A Retrospective Review) [contains spoilers]

So, it’s over. And in all honesty, what an ending.

But first, a little background. In 2006 a fantastic series called Life On Mars began. It starred John Simm as a present-day policeman, who ends up in a coma and goes back to 1973, where he has to figure out what is happening, whilst dealing with classic 70s policeman DCI Gene Hunt. It was funny, witty, intelligent, and very entertaining. It made two series, and ended with a perfect ending.

Then, it was followed by spin-off series Ashes to Ashes, which featured another cop (this time a woman) going back to the 80s, and playing out a similar series of events. I’m going to start by saying that it wasn’t as good as Life on Mars. For starters, it suffered from the inevitable plague of “spin-off syndrome”. Namely, that most spin-offs are awful. Now, that wasn’t true here, it just wasn’t as good as its predecessor. Part of the problem was lead actress Keeley Hawes. She just didn’t have the same chemistry with Glenister that Simm did (which is a little odd when you think about it, actually…). But that’s not really her fault, since very few people have the kind of acting talent John Simm kicks around. I found her irritating though, and her moral stances reflected the same stubbornness that she chided Hunt for, the only difference being that it was her opinion that was unquestionably right, rather than his.

But for all I can criticise it, I have to praise it too. It was an absolutely beautiful concept (something which the US remakers failed to grasp), and Ashes to Ashes introduced another dose of philosophical uncertainty into the mix. The story was excellent, with the final season and the final episode standing out in particular, and the writers correctly deduced that the real star of Life on Mars had been old-fashioned copper Gene Hunt. Whilst LoM had been about Sam Tyler, AtA was very definitely about Gene.

Last night’s finale confused me. I mean, really confused me. All the way through, I had no idea how it was going to end (well, sort of; I called that they were all dead ages ago), and especially as the series has only ever been realistic police drama mixed in with a bit of psychology, the lurch to full-blown existential headfuck could have been a little jarring, were it not so perfectly written.

The best ending to a series is when it is completely natural. I don’t know if the writers had this specific ending in mind when they started, but it fits so well with the rest of the series that there really couldn’t have been any more perfect ending. The police purgatory wasn’t the creation of Sam Tyler, or Alex Drake. It was, and had always been, the Gene Genie’s world. The whole thing was steeped in symbolism, from the duality of the Hunt-Keats relationship, to the death of the Quatro at the end (one of the most weirdly moving moments in television).

Part of the attraction of both series was, of course, the nostalgia factor. I wasn’t alive in either the 70s or the 80s, so that’s perhaps a bit wasted on me. But the historical context manifesting through background events, through the style, and through the soundtrack, meaning that for a lot of people it’s like looking back in time. Even not having been there, I appreciated a lot of it. The Falklands War, and Maggie Thatcher’s 1983 reelection in particular. And I think this is how the finale works its magic. The shows realism has grabbed the audience every bit as much as it has Alex, and that is one of the primary things that keeps everyone guessing.

So in conclusion, I suggest you watch this. You need to start with Life on Mars, obviously, but really it’s so good that it’s hardly a burden, and you really should have already seen it. The two series run together, and by the time you reach the end, it will all seem to have fallen into place. This is brilliant storytelling, coupled with great characterisation, and fantastic acting in particular from Phillip Glenister. Gene Hunt is the classic, outdated copper. Sexist, bullish, very politically incorrect. But I defy you not to love him, when it’s all over.

This is fantastic drama, and fantastic entertainment, and proves that the BBC can still make the very best television around. It makes you feel all proud to be British!