Even in this bizarre year of Covid (for everybody) and ‘cancellation’ (for me), the last week or two has stood out as strange. Things began on a Friday morning with a brief and cryptic email from Toby Young. ‘Can you call me, David?’ it read. ‘I have a criminal solicitor for you if you don’t already have one.’ I replied with bemusement: ‘A bit lost on this one. What might I need one for?’ Toby, clearly surprised at my surprise, filled me in. Two days earlier the Met had summoned Darren Grimes for an interview under caution; threatened him with arrest if he didn’t show up and informed him that he was suspected of offences for broadcasting his interview with me. Which answered one question but posed another: why had the Met gone for the messenger and not for me?
It took until the following Tuesday for the mystery to be cleared up. Early that morning, the secretary of the Bow Group — an organisation with which I’ve only the remotest connection as a senior patron — forwarded me an email from a DC Shah which they’d received the previous week. The email, which bore the same date and was written by the same officer as the one summoning Darren, asked the Bow Group to put him in touch with me. But, the secretary added, ‘given its odd phraseology, grammar and the listing of only a mobile number, [we] assumed it to be a hoax, of which we receive many’. They only resurrected it after the publicity about Darren persuaded them that it might be genuine. ‘You’re being investigated by the Keystone Cops!’ Toby declared when he found out.
Very funny. But though DC Shah’s skills in detection didn’t even extend to finding out my contact details, known by every media intern in London, he had the ambition — and tried to behave as though he had the powers — of the Stasi.