Politics, at its most pathetic, is the Downing Street pack screaming at Prime Ministers, ‘Will you resign?’. At its best, politics and political journalism build up an unanswerable case against a miscreant and take a scalp.
The scenes at Clapham Common, last night, were shocking. I have, however, worked in TV news for long enough to know that the cutting room is a minefield. As with vox-pops, the selection and rejection of pictures and voices is one of the most powerful editorial forces in a newsroom.
I wasn’t at Clapham Common last night, nor were most in the mass-ranks of social media. Suffice to say, what I saw on social media and on network TV news bulletins appears to have painted a picture of predominantly peaceful protestors who were, nevertheless, in breach of the law of the land.
The laws they were in breach of may be wrong-headed, now out of date or eminently sound. That is a judgement. In enforcing those laws, some police officers appear to have acted in a pretty high-handed and even ill-judged manner.
Having also spent two years, in the 1970s, as Deputy President of the NUS, I know all protests are magnets for those with a broader agenda. There are those who will seize upon any mass event, whether the subject is student grants, housing costs, or gay rights, to make it about the downfall of bourgeois democracy and the destruction of capitalism.
Therefore, to hear Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins suggesting, on the Sunday round of political talk-shows, that what is needed is a fact-gathering inquiry, based upon interviews with police officers who were there, their commanders and, ultimately the Commissioner of the Met, seemed wise. Both the Labour Mayor of London and the Tory Home Secretary appear to have responded with the same measure.
No impartial observer can conclude other than that Dame Cressida Dick and her high command are in deep trouble. But if she or some of them go, it will be fact that does it for her – not the band-wagon braying of the mob.