The messed up world of Dacre & co: now they accuse "the left" of not supporting the Countryside Alliance against the police five years ago!
Not a good month for the Daily Mail. And to think it all looked so easy at first.
The G20 demo looked like the perfect opportunity to unleash middle class fears about anarchists descending on London to set fire to the readers' 4x4s, or to conjure up pathetic headlines such as "anarchists using Google Streetview to target the City", a genius concoction of "anarchists" and that evil unknown gizmo known as the "cybernet".
When April 1 and the clashes arrived, of course the Mail knew all about it. They proudly announced that they'd even "infiltrated the group at the heart of the violence", with plenty of stuff added about leftists pelting the police while being generally crusty and obnoxious. Then the news of Ian Tomlinson's death came in. The Mail accepted without questioning the initial police statements that they had nothing to do with the man.
When videos lined with the word 'bollocks' began to pile up, the tabloid's tack changed. They referred to Tomlinson as "the homeless alcoholic", a "drifter and alcoholic" who "was uncooperative or said something offensive, at a time when police nerves were frayed by the G20 riots."
But that didn't quite work either. The fact that Tomlinson may have liked a drink puts him perfectly in line with large chunks of the British population and, anyway, it still doesn't give the rozzas any right to shove you to the ground. With plenty of people thinking that "it could have been myself there", the Mail handed Stephen Glover the noble task of writing that "Too few of us now spring to the defence of the police". Except that the point wasn't so much that some police officers lost the plot, but rather that the police lied. Again.
Two weeks on, practically everybody -even on the right- agree that, at the G20, the police fucked it up more or less big time, that new guidelines are needed and that the whole culture of policing demonstrations is in need of a review.
With nothing else left to clutch at, today's "Mail comment" (would you believe it) travels back in time. "Double standards", they write, as they now accuse the left of having a "muted response to the heavy-handed policing of the [pro foxhunting] countryside march five years ago". Five bleeding years ago, as opposed to "the howls of outrage from the liberal media over the assaults on Miss Fisher and Mr Tomlinson".
To beef it up, Robert Hardman argues that whereas "the April 1 riot had no real focus or purpose beyond smashing a few City windows, the 2004 [Countryside Alliance] demonstration was about preserving a way of life". "Where [were] the cries of 'Shame!' and 'Injustice!' from The Guardian or the usual gang of maverick Labour backbenchers?", the Hardman adds.
So, with your average Daily Mail reader unable to remember past the last time they filled up their 4x4 with petrol, here's a quick reminder of what happened five years ago.
The pro-foxhunting Countryside Alliance demo outside Westminster consisted of thousands of people pushing past the police to get into the House of Commons. A few succeeded in invading the Parliament, including Bryan Ferry's son Otis and a couple of Prince Harry's mates. Understandably that posed serious issues of security. "What if Al-Quaeda do that next time?" many asked.
Back then the Daily Mail dubbed it "the most dramatic security breach in living memory", reporting Tory MP Liam Fox calling for "additional security". On Sep 16, 2004 the Mail quoted the police saying that "there was clearly an attempt to break through the cordon. [The Countryside Alliance] were throwing placards and other missiles and picking up barriers and throwing them. Demonstrators were using violent tactics".
Evidently, for the Mail, Tomlinson stumbling away from the police with his hands in his pockets and demonstrators storming the Parliament deserve both the same treatment.
So go on Daily Mail, make up your mind: are the police justified in being heavy-handed, yes or no?
Also on the subject: the excellent 'Daily Quail'.