Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Plebgate - The Bigger Story

The evolving drama around the Plebgate incident is catching fire again after the intervention of the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the subsequent refusal of the police chiefs to play ball. For those readers not from the UK, this is a domestic drama in which a senior government politician was effectively forced out of office by serving members of various British police forces. Some of these officers were acting on behalf of the Police Federation, which is the police trades union and which was in disagreement with government policy. And, it seems, these officers saw no problem with adopting a strategy of 'retoxifying' the Tory brand by suggesting that Andrew Mitchell, who was Tory chief whip at the time, had called serving offices 'f*cking plebs'.

Aside from the specifics of the row - and let's be honest here, the three representatives from the Police Federation outright lied and were stupid enough to have their lies caught on tape (standards of fitting people up are obviously not what they were) - the story illustrates an important princple that many people are apt to forget. It is that 'servants of the state' - police, doctors, nurses, teachers, civil servants etc - are not disinterested parties who put into play whatever policy we vote for. Civil servants of all stripes, those in uniform and those not, are special interest groups who work, like all special interest groups, to further their own interests.

There are plenty of people who are willing to seek out the special interests at work when they come from the corporate sector but who are blind to the same thing when it comes from trades unions, NGOs, charities and so on. It's the same thing at play in all cases, whether they work in the private sector or the public, for profit or for a 'cause' - special interest groups will work to further their own agendas. While this particular case is big news - because of course we are all wondering what the police can get away with when dealing with ordinary citizens who don't have the influence and power of a top politician to help them - there are lots more cases that are more damaging to society at large than this one.

How much government policy is being steered by special interest groups from green NGOs, charities and campaigning organisations (many of whom are actually funded by government - local, central and European)?

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