Refusing to pander to public opinion is a cornerstone of policing, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. But the principle has been entirely neglected with the investigations into Partygate and Beergate. Despite initially insisting it wouldn’t issue retrospective fines over lockdown breaches, Scotland Yard yielded to opposition pressure to “behave differently” towards Downing Street. Rather shrewdly, Tory MPs then tried their own hand at using the police as a “political tool”, successfully lobbying for an investigation into Keir Starmer’s curry. It means we’re now in a “preposterous position” where officers are holding the sword of Damocles over the Labour leader’s head. To make matters worse, there’s no uniformity in the punishments: Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case attended the same Downing Street gathering, but only Sunak has received a penalty.
Personally, I felt Boris Johnson should have resigned over Partygate long before the police stuck their snouts in. But this was a judgement I made based on evidence already publicly available. There was no need for the Met to reverse its stance on retrospective fines, a policy it had previously applied to everyone. Equality under the law is an essential component of any liberal democracy. But our politicians have proved willing to sacrifice this principle for a game of mud-slinging and political “tit-for-tat”. It’s a dangerous precedent – and a “hopeless way of policing a country”.