The panto season appears to have started early this year. Appropriately enough it relates to a Xmas party which happened at 10, Downing Street around this time last year. Oh, yes it did! Oh, no it didn’t! say others – mostly unmemorable junior Ministers. And even if it did no rules were broken. A big fuss about nothing, yet others will say. Hmmm ….. those who were fined for breaking the Covid rules might disagree. The hospitality venues who lost business last year might also have some thoughts on the matter.
Now, in an exciting new twist, the Met Chief and Justice Minister (Dick and Dom) have decided to join in the fun. Asked why the police are not investigating a possible breach of the Covid regulations, Cressida Dick has said that the police do not investigate “retrospective breaches” of the law. Well, that’s the end of the criminal justice system then. And, indeed, of the need for any police forces. What on earth does she think a crime is if not a “retrospective breach“. Perhaps poor Cressida – overwhelmed by all the scandals which have occurred on her watch (the latest being the Met’s policing failures at the Euros 2020 Wembley match) – has given up on any attempt at improving her force’s behaviour and has decided that removing its very purpose for existence is the only way to go. That way the police can never fail. Hooray! All those unemployed policemen can become HGV drivers. So there is that. Prince Charles will be relieved: no need for any unpleasant conversations about Royals trading their status and ability to confer honours for cash. Andrew too will be wondering whether this exciting new concept of not investigating “retrospective breaches” could be exported pronto across the Atlantic.
Clearly, Dominic Raab could see his position as Master of the Memorably Idiotic Phrase slipping from his grasp. So on Marr this morning he solemnly announced that “the police don’t normally look back and investigate things that have taken place a year ago“. Oh dear. Where to start with this? We could list out all the investigations the police have done into events happening years and years ago and the people convicted of crimes committed more than a year beforehand etc. We could also point out that, as a result of the repeated cuts to the Justice budget over the years, the average time between charges and trials is often 2, 3 and 4 years and that the crimes in question will have often happened months and years before then. But what’s the point? Adopting this one year approach would be a novel – but marvellously effective – way of dealing with all the trial backlogs. Just close all the cases. Backlog solved. Just like that! That’s the criminals’ vote sewn up. A bit tough on the victims of course. But do they vote Tory? That’s the key question.
Raab has quite an impressive CV – on paper anyway. A Jurisprudence degree from Oxford, a prize in International Law & a Masters degree from Cambridge and at the Foreign Office he led a team in The Hague dedicated to bringing war criminals to justice. If anything involves the police investigating events more than a year ago, you’d have thought that would be it. So why, with such a CV, does Raab give the impression of being really very stupid indeed every time he opens his mouth? One to ponder over the festive season.
Of course there is a serious point behind all this. Rules limiting social events were brought in last year to limit the spread of Covid. These affected people and businesses, quite severely in many cases. We expect our rulers to comply with the same rules as the rest of us (even when this feels like a triumph of hope over experience). This year we face the real possibility of fresh restrictions. Hospitality businesses are already facing the ill effects as Ministers and others in positions of authority speak without thinking of the consequences, without any single coherent message and, crucially, without any financial support if a crucial trading time is once again impacted for health reasons. None of us need incoherent and contemptuous nonsense from Ministers or the police.
But this seems to be what we will get. Wouldn’t it just be easier, quicker and more honest if the government announced that laws apply to everyone except members of the Tory party and their friends? It would have the benefit of being true at least and, God knows, truth from this government would be a welcome change. Consider it the Tory party’s Xmas gift to the nation. Meanwhile, the rest of us can get on with enjoying panto performances by professionals while we still can.