Sunday, 8 January 2012


The Night Watch (Rembrandt)
The oft iffy relationship between law enforcement and the modern day inhabitants of Grub (Fleet) Street and alcohol is probably as old as law enforcement itself. Making yourself look good, presenting a coherent managed image and ensuring that it gets distributed via the media probably itself dates back to the days of Julius Caesar. He was the probable inventor and first practitioner of serious spin in its modern form and a dedicated practitioner of managed news.

So the news that alcohol is firmly off the agenda from any meetings between the police and journalists may lead to the shedding of more than a few tears of regret and leave a few people weak at the knees. This follows the not particularly surprising revelation (in a report by Elizabeth Filkin) that the close relationship between parts of Scotland Yard and the media has caused "serious harm".

And that information has been (in the past) given "inappropriately" to the press. The report went on to suggest that these nefarious activities had "compromised" the way police and the media scrutinised each others activities. New rules for officers about relationships with journalists would be brought in. Since the dark days of the 1970's the Metropolitan Police has been a dedicated practitioner of the managing its image, and to building useful working relationships with selected crime journalists and other members of the press.

Part of this is about managing the news and part of it about using the press to flush out information from members of the public in relation to particular enquiries and investigation. That's actually fine and practical, it's when the relationship moves beyond that to a cosy cash fuelled (in some quarters) one, where bad news is buried when it becomes truly iffy if not criminal.

There is a world of difference between an active free press (the traditional fourth estate) and a well managed press. Long gone (thanks to News International in part) are the days when the Independent could refer to the Metropolitan Police PR machine as the "mean machine". Now that alcohol and flirting are on the way out, its only a matter of time before the Christmas Party is cancelled.

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