The Orwell Prize committee this year introduced a new prize for political blogging. It has been won by an anonymous ‘English detective’ who calls himself ‘NightJack’. His posts are a mixture of general comment and diary accounts of apparently typical days in the lives of English policemen. They are vigorously written and sometimes perfectly reasonable. NightJack regrets that the police today are kitted out as imperial stormtroopers, he has little nostalgia for the old canteen culture, he laments the mass of paperwork that has been foisted on the police (like everyone else in the public sector) and fairly argues that if plea-bargaining is to become entrenched it ought to be formalised.
Thereafter, however, reasonableness ends. The police are surrounded by bad people who are constantly protected by political correctness, social workers, hypocritical greens, defence counsel and the legal system generally. Bad people practise innumerable legal dodges whose efficacy NightJack recommends to genuinely innocent persons (get your accusations in first – especially accuse the police of racism and homophobia). Above all, the system protects the ‘evil poor’, denizens of sink estates who have no morality. They are destructive parasites who contaminate all they touch. They are like the cast of Shameless without any of the redeeming features. In their dealings with these and other malefactors the police are perpetually inhibited.
You would never guess that the ‘evil poor’, whether called the ‘residuum’ or the ‘underclass’, have always been a favourite category of the political right – particularly those who think redistribution of income is a waste of time and money. Nor would you guess that the police (like the society from which they are drawn) have a long tradition of racism and homophobia, nor that they are probably the most coddled and legally protected of all our public services, nor that there have been a number of spectacular miscarriages of justice in the last thirty years. And did those policing the G20 demonstrations look very inhibited? The police do indeed have to deal with nasty people – some of whom escape the law – but NightJack’s tone of complaint has little to justify it.