Each man kills the thing he loves, wrote Oscar Wilde in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and in a more recent crime setting the old boy may well be proved correct. No one loves the Police Federation like my friend Jon Gaunt, the son of a copper who bragged about taking his truncheon to a mentally infirm arsonist, so one understands why the West Midlands branch hired Jon and his brother Jason, who trade in Coventry as Gaunt Brothers, as PR advisers over Plebgate. Who wouldn’t want counsel from the genius who included Rolf Harris in his Top 10 Greatest Brits? At first it went spiffingly after The Sun – another Gaunt Bros client, by weird coincidence – broke the Andrew Mitchell story. Gaunty had officers issued with “PC Pleb” T-shirts, and arranged a meeting between the Sutton Coldfield MP and Federation officials.
Alas, it now seems not only that the pleb accusation was false, but that the details of this meeting were finessed, in contradiction of a tape made at the time, to make Mr Mitchell look shifty and cocky. Until Gaunty’s role in the fiasco is fully investigated, let no one rush to judgment. It could prove that the Brothers Dimm – “Discover how the Police Federation ... have benefitted [sic] from our media training and advice”, their website insists – are no purveyors of fairy tales after all. However, if this government is inspired finally to dismantle the last great union barony, the credit will go to the man who literally loved the Police Federation to death.
If anyone has the balls to do so, it is Theresa May. Already the Home Secretary has proved impressively intransigent towards the police, and now we glimpse the cause. “I have been a Geoff Boycott fan all my life,” she laughingly tells the Daily Telegraph. “It was just that he solidly got on with it.” Whether domestic violence campaigners will approve of her worshipping someone with a French conviction for brutally assaulting a girlfriend is anyone’s guess. Either way, we look forward to Mrs May penetrating the corridor of uncertainty regarding Plebgate, and smashing the Federation to smithereens if required.
Curiously, The Sun has yet to say sorry to Mr Mitchell for being suckered by its sources. No one could blame it for that error. It’s hardly as if it has experience of police mendacity to ring the alarm bells, concerning rather more tragic results from the failure to open a gate at a football ground. But even Kelvin McKenzie will concede that there comes a time when an apology is warranted. With the Leveson kaleidoscope in flux, the demented arrogance is best kept hidden for now.
Strife on Radio 5 Live on Friday, when the film critic Mark Kermode rebuked Shelagh Fogerty for introducing him as “Commode” rather than “Cur-mode”, which he prefers. If being mistakenly saddled with a humorous-sounding name worries him, he could always revert to the original. Mark Fairie.
DNA evidence doubts
Elsewhere on BBC radio, I am outraged to find James Naughtie attacked for slovenly interviewing. David Balding, a genetics professor, lacerates Jim over a chat in July with the owner of an ancestors-tracing firm who claimed to have used DNA to establish that a 69-year-old Edinburgh woman is related to the Queen of Sheba, and a retired chap in the Highlands is directly descended from Eve. “Complete and utter balderdash,” says the Prof. “We were shocked by the pathetic lame interviewing...” A shameful slur, as is the imputation of a failure to declare an interest. Brevity is of the essence on Today, and Jim simply didn’t have the time to mention that Alastair Moffat, not a scientist himself, is the old friend for whose latest book he wrote the introduction.
Another sharp arrow
Fears that Sid Waddell’s absence would ruin Sky viewers’ enjoyment of the PDC world darts championships recede. John Gwynne does his utmost to replicate the verbal acuity that made Sid so beloved. “Webster, who in that leg bemused me beyond, well ... understanding,” observed Mr Gwynne on Saturday. This fresh insight into the meaning of “bemused” was brilliant, if unsurprising. Mr Gwynne used to teach English.