Which was the event of more serious long-term consequence? Ken Clarke ballsing up his choice of words in a live interview? Or Theresa May getting a comprehensive thumbs down from the PoliceFederation?
If the media are to be believed, particularly the hysterical broadcast media yesterday, it is KC and the loose language. I suspect that for the public, it may be the sight of a Tory Home Secretary accused of endangering safety on the streets, and failing to stand up for the cops whilst claiming to be tough on crime.
However, because of the hysteria, very little was seen or heard of Teresa May’s problems. The Clarke story was universally deemed to be more significant. As someone said on twitter last night, she owes Ken a pint.
In part, this was because once the frenzy kicked off on a Radio Five Live phone-in, it became a story about the media, and there is nothing they love more than a story about themselves. Oh how happy was Nick Robinson … we start with moody shots of a BBC phone-in, we see Clarke watching PMQs from a BBC studio (Cameron is not very good at standing up for people is he? – bad trait), we then see Clarke seemingly begging to put his case to Nick Robinson, we then see a horde of Nick’s colleagues chasing KC around the Millbank studios where the BBC are based, and then busy busy Nick is called into action once more so that Ken can use another interview to explain what he really meant in the earlier interview about the earlier interview.
Amid it all, the issues of course get lost amid the frenzy. He ballsed up. True. But was he really saying rape wasn’t a serious issue? I don’t think so. What he was, I think, trying to do, was reflect the reality – that judges apply different sentences to different rapes according to the circumstances, the same as murder and other serious crime. But it all came out wrong and the frenzy was unleashed.
The Teresa May situation is different. Now first of all it is important to remember the Police Federation is a vested interest with a habit of being rude to Home Secretaries (Jack Straw was slow-handclapped there on the day Tony Blair was harangued by Sharon Storer and John Prescott lamped a voter).
But the scale of the cuts proposed by the government, and the impact that will have on policing, is a major issue, and for once I think we have to take seriously the linking of their own interests with those of the public.
The other point is this: since the coalition was formed, the media monoprism I referred to yesterday has shifted to the right. Getting Clarke, with his liberal views on prisons and Europe, is a good sport. May, on the other hand, is thought to be to the right of him, and therefore can get away with more, even if it means she is taking a whole load of coppers off the streets.
However, in a day or two, I think we will have heard the last of the Clarke/rape frenzy. The Teresa May/police cuts story has a long way to run. Public ahead of media, as so often.