Monday, 5 March 2012
Uncanny: Fry and Laurie predict the future
For your convenience and amusement, two old Fry and Laurie sketches - one which envisages the privatisation of the police force, as leaked to the press on Saturday, the other taking It's A Wonderful Life to explore a world without Murdoch:
The police privatisation story is a shocker. I have to say that I don't particularly care whether a company or an in-house mechanic fixes cop cars very much - but the plans include detention, patrolling, intelligence work and investigations: and senior cops (no doubt looking forward to fat directorships) are very keen on this.
British policing has always been a fraught affair: in the Victorian era, the police were widely viewed as working-class traitors, to the extent that an anti-garotte collar formed part of the Met's uniform. Since then, the police have become deeply politicised: despite the individual efforts of the many decent community peace officers, large sections of the police have been devoted to sleeping, bugging and burgling their way round the protest movement without any justification, enthusiastically smashing the miners and generally acting as the armed wing of the Conservative Party, and maintaining corrupt links with the Murdoch press. Minor issues like pursuing rape cases or racist crimes seem to fade into insignificance compared with the greed and reactionary politics of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
If the police become privatised, the bad days of 70s corruption will return. Community support will disappear once policing becomes a profit-generating activity. I certainly won't feel under any compulsion to co-operate with the Corporate Cops. Without public consent, ordinary policing will become impossible. What officer will risk his life for the minimum wage and a corporate uniform? Honest police officers sworn to uphold justice, the law and democracy are essential to any society: making them employees of some offshore corporation will entirely break the social bonds which hold us together. The upper reaches of the police force already believe that their job is to serve the 1%: now they're looking forward being part of it.
Still, it makes the Police Commissioner election very easy: my vote will go to whichever candidate promises to kill this idea.
Luckily, popular culture provides another depiction of life under a privatised police force: Robocop, quite left-wing films which explore the social effects of privatisation of public services including policing. Here's a clip from Robocop 3: