Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

The police are a law unto themselves

The journos weren’t very impressed with Nicola Sturgeon’s house. Never mind the plod staring like morons at her barbecue or heaving out sacks of half-completed pools coupons to their summer marquee on the front lawn – the southern hacks were more interested in the paucity of this real estate. Her house was, we were assured, ‘modest’ and ‘humble’ and ‘unfashionable’, and most damningly of all, a ‘new-build’. Actually, not most damningly of all – that would be ‘on a new-build estate’. They were clearly appalled that it wasn’t a Georgian rectory in three acres of manicured lawns with a cottage garden, or that it didn’t have a basement kitchen-diner.

It seems as though everything the police do these days is performative rather than, you know, useful

Are these people not aware that this is the sort of house where their readers, viewers and listeners live – if they are lucky – and so the scorn is both insulting and a bit of a giveaway? Sturgeon’s gaff is valued at £360,000 – almost double the average price of a home in Scotland and about £70,000 dearer than the average across the UK. It was the contempt or astonishment with which the phrase ‘new-build estate’ was used that did it for me, though – not least because almost everybody in the country seems to be demanding that the government build millions more of these on greenfield sites and particularly in the green belt. Everybody accepts that these homes are ghastly, but we need housing for the plebs and the Albanians.

The plod – the rozzers, the filth, your call – were doing their usual performative thing, looking like sacks of meat with mittens, shrouded in self-importance but still appearing dimmer than those new lightbulbs we are forced to use which will, in time, ensure we all need spectacles. A choreographed performance, one suspects, with both Peter Murrell and wee Nicola made aware that the raid was taking place. Couldn’t they just have invited them to the local cop shop? And why so many of the old bill – were they worried Nicola or Pete might try to stab them, or scream ‘You’ll never take me alive, copper’ while brandishing a sawn-off shotgun?

I suppose it is an exaggeration to say that absolutely everything the police do these days is performative rather than, you know, actually useful – but that’s how it seems. Charades like the one carried out in Uddingston carry no risk and the coppers get their mugs on the news programmes, much as they do when they are rolling out their new rainbow-coloured patrol cars with some uplifting message like ‘Hug a homo, hate a hater’. Persecuting people for imaginary hate crimes is also, as we know, a far more important imperative for the police than solving a burglary or arresting the person who stabbed you in the throat and made off with your iPhone.

Which is why, of course, they were out in force to apprehend the golliwogs. You can imagine the excitement when the call came through in the cop shop. Golliwogs on the loose! Cancel all leave! And so they swooped on the White Hart public house in ‘unfashionable’ Grays, Essex, where a contingent of 15 golliwogs were on display, some of them apparently valuable antiques. Actually, I assume they were pretty much all antiques: nobody I have heard of makes golliwogs any more – for some reason the bottom seems to have fallen out of the market.

This apprehension of the golliwogs business required no fewer than six police persons. Why? Were they worried that some of them might try to make a run for it? That there might be violent resistance from the ageing landlady or her hubby? How possibly can they justify this sheer waste of manpower? We are told, over and over again, that the police are low on numbers (although, Sir Keir, the numbers have risen quite sharply over the past four years).

And yet some halfwit in the Essex police headquarters thought that a valuable use of these scarce guardians of the law would be to hunt down a bunch of golliwogs belonging to a couple of perhaps bigoted disposition. Incidentally, the solved rate for theft from a person in Essex was 1.3 per cent in the most recent figures I’ve seen. Couldn’t a few more coppers be directed towards that kind of offence? The kind where people are seriously discommoded, rather than simply a bit miffed?

So, they swooped and in a benevolent act of manumission seized the golliwogs and took them down to the police station – where presumably they still reside. This brings me to the next question. Since when was it against the law to own a golliwog? Are the filth in Essex making up the law as they go along? Or is it more to the point that so ineffably dim-witted and progressive have they become that they could not possibly imagine that owning a golliwog was within the law?

Apparently, one customer complained to the police about the golliwogs being on display. The correct response would have been for the copper who took the call to explain, affably enough: ‘Ah yes, the things you refer to are known as golliwogs and they were once a much-loved toy for younger children back in the day. Some people still have a fondness for them. Indeed, they have, in a strange and ironic kind of way, become a kind of totem for those who resent the imposition of a po-faced sanctimony over our once-great nation. That being said, no offence was meant, I’m sure, so we’re going to do nothing about it whatsoever. There are 48,000 pubs in Britain and 47,999 have no golliwogs on display. I suggest you choose to drink in one of those.’

To her credit, the Home Secretary has reportedly gnawed the ear off the top copper in Essex – but I don’t suppose it will have any effect. In the meantime, the pub has found some more golliwogs and they are now on display.