Herbert, while praising the "decent majority" of officers whom he says do "brilliant" work, suggests that for too long the police have been shielded from criticism by a lack of accountability and an unhealthily cosy relationship with sections of the press that rely on officers leaking "juicy" information.
In a sign of how Mitchell's resignation as chief whip in October, after he was accused of calling officers guarding the Downing Street gates "fucking plebs", is causing continuing bitterness and division in government, the ex-minister also has a sideswipe at cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, implying that he failed to investigate the police claims thoroughly enough.
To recap, I proposed that what would happen after Leveson would be a function of what happened to the relationship between the three gangs - the press, the police and the politicians – whose mutually supportive relations had been partly exposed and disrupted by the enquiry. This is of course complicated by the fact that the government have been making a frontal assault on police numbers and pensions.
Leveson went very easy on the political and police gangs, which I presumed was an opportunity for them to unite against the press. This clearly hasn’t happened. Instead, we have a situation of open conflict between the cops and the pols, with the press playing a an apparently subordinate role, something which the Sun in particular seemed eager to do. That in turn may relate back to the government’s role in enabling Leveson. Hence Herbert’s allusion to ‘cosy relations’ between the cops and ,sections of the press’.
Even before that stage had been reached it was remarkable that very low ranking officers had come up with and executed what looked like a watertight scheme to verbal the chief whip out of office, as though he was some bloke in the street. That’s assuming they did come up with the whole thing by themselves, including the plan to activate Mitchell’s deputy and rival against him by posing as his constituent. If it’s the first, the politicians will be terrified that their personal protection squads seem to have turned against them. If they did it with a little help from within the government’s own ranks, that’s indicative of a state of permanent chaos.
Herbert seems to be hinting at using Leveson’s findings to set up a firewall between the cops and the press. That’s a logical move from the politics gang’s point of view, especially if the Prime Minister has just let DC Stitchemup bounce him into letting the man responsible for the integrity of his entire legislative agenda go. But it puts the cops in roughly the same position as Assad with his scuds. With the opposition encroaching on your territory you throw whatever you’ve got in the armoury at them. And given that the press are affected as well, the cops should be able count on enthusiastic support from that quarter.