In a country controlled by charlatans, crooks, scoundrels and pathological liars it’s hardly surprising that every pronouncement from the UK government and its agents is saturated in mendacity, bullshit and shifty dissembling.
Examples are so numerous I’m spoiled for choice, but among the most wearily familiar are the statements routinely parroted by each of the UK’s 45 police forces whenever a murder occurs on their patch. These utterances from attention-hungry Chief Inspectors and Chief Constables follow such a rigid, formulaic pattern that they could be recited word for word before they’re issued. Invariably they begin with something along the lines of: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of xxx” – as if compassion and empathy have to be explicitly displayed and underlined lest we assume these public servants are cold, heartless bastards who don’t give a damn. Heaven forfend, we might even imagine they’re preoccupied with doing the dirty work of Home Secretary Ugli Patel like rounding up people trying to save the planet and randomly stopping black people in the street or, perish the thought, doing something disrespectful and cruel like posting pictures of the corpse or exchanging callous sexist ‘banter’ on WhatsApp. As if! Instead, we are asked to buy into the patently absurd image of coppers as delicate, sensitive flowers quietly contemplating the fragility of life and finality of death while gently weeping to themselves in grief at the death of someone they didn’t know.
This mealy-mouthed, pompous ‘police-speak’, oozing insincerity, awash with crocodile tears and riddled with corporate gobbledegook, is actually just derisory box-ticking that deeply insults the dead and the genuinely bereaved. A copybook example of the genre came this week after a double murder in Somerset. Some uniformed plod from Avon & Somerset Police regurgitated the following portentous, adverb-heavy, truism-filled, trope-stuffed pronouncement: “The thoughts of everyone in the force this morning are with the families of the two people who sadly died last night. Two young children were inside the property at the time of the incident and while thankfully they weren’t hurt, they are understandably distressed at what has happened. They are being looked after and specially trained officers have been deployed to support the victims’ families in what is undoubtedly the most difficult of times. We will carry out a full and thorough investigation and we will do all we can to achieve justice for the victims’ families. While this appears to be an isolated incident, there will be increased police activity in the area to provide the community with reassurance. Incidents like this are very rare but when they do happen we know they cause significant concern, so we would urge anyone with worries or questions to speak to an officer or contact their local neighbourhood policing team.” Not one word of this guff needed saying. Essentially it boils down to “We will be doing what we are paid to do” dressed up as a preening, self-promoting PR exercise. It just makes everything worse.
I am reminded of the apocryphal Police Constable straining for poshness while reading from his notebook in the courtroom: “I was proceeding in a northerly direction when I happrehended the suspect red-anded…” (a comedy staple since Music Hall days, I seem to recall Michael Palin doing it in a Monty Python sketch in the 1970s). Whenever the undereducated and overpromoted ‘respectable’ working-class Tories who are the UK police’s perennial recruiting fodder try to construct a coherent sentence it usually ends up an illiterate mess inadvertently exposing the bleak inadequacy beneath. To paraphrase the famous remark of Clement Attlee (1883-1967) to Harold Laski (1893-1950), a period of silence on their part would be most welcome.