The Sun used the debate in parliament over the abuse of MPs to launch a scathing attack on public sector workers. And in a new low, the tabloid directed its bile at police officers. The same people who the paper was praising as “heroes” just weeks before.
Cut to the bone
On Tuesday 11 July, The Sun‘s Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn published a column called BLUE ON BLUE Police officers accused of joining hard-left activists to openly abuse Tory candidates during election. But the accusations the paper levelled at police officers were somewhat underwhelming. And in the context of public sector cuts, the police may well feel angry.
Since 2009 in England and Wales, 20,000 police officers have been cut; real terms budgets have been reduced by 18%; total employment in the force reduced by 17.4%; in 2016, the number of officers on sick leave increased by 11.5%; and the number of armed officers has halved [paywall] in the past 15 years.
The Sun ignored all of this context and screeched that:
Police officers are today accused of openly harassing Tory candidates during the election campaign – plunging the scandal of politicians’ abuse to a new low. Serving cops joined hard left activists to carry out vile insults and intimidation on social media and in person, Conservative MPs claim.
The Sun‘s accusations against police offers were that:
- One police officer called Conservative MP Guto Bebb a “Tory cunt” on Facebook.
- Another cop called a Conservative MP a “self-serving Tory wanker”.
- One Tory MP “claimed a series of alarming threats against him and his supporters that he reported were purposely not treated seriously because of his political affiliation”. But The Sun did not detail what the “alarming threats” were.
The Sun saved its peak outrage for one particular incident. It said:
In the most alarming episode, one serving police officer emailed Bebb directly to tell him: ‘While I still have an a***hole, I will campaign every day to get rid of you as an MP’.
The paper quoted Bebb as saying:
How can I have any confidence my complaints will be taken seriously when I receive these sorts of communications from an officer serving in my own local police station? Everyone has a right to be treated impartially by the police. Impartiality is part of their duty, and is expressly stated in their own rule book. But if I have no faith in them, how can my constituents?
Bebb is essentially implying that police cannot act professionally if they hold political opinions. But his own conduct undermines his complaints about the police. As The Canary previously reported, Bebb allegedly responded to this police officer by saying he was ‘talking out of his arsehole’. The alleged officer called Bebb’s response “churlish” and “childish”.
Moreover, just because a police officer has political views, that doesn’t mean they won’t uphold the law as required. And if their private views did interfere with a specific case, they would not work on it anyway.
The end of their tethers
All abuse needs to be condemned. Its effects can be devastating. But The Sun‘s extraordinary attack on police officers ignored the paper’s own history of abusive language. Not least the now-infamous Katie Hopkins column where she called refugees “cockroaches”.
And it was part of a wider criticism of the public sector. Newton Dunn’s article said that:
Cops are the latest in a series of public sector workers accused of showing extreme bias towards the Tories, in behaviour that it has been claimed cast influence on the general election result.
When the Tories cut the public sector to the bone, and cap its workers’ pay at a 1% increase for seven years, and millions of people find themselves at the end of their tethers, they can’t expect public sector workers to show no “bias towards the Tories”. However much The Sun thinks they should do.
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