Dead Men Left

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Compare and contrast: the Morris Report reported

London's Evening Standard has a long-standing monopoly for evening news in the capital. It's morning free-sheet, the Metro, is published by the same company, Daily Mail and General Trust, whose range of titles extends to the some-time voice of "Middle England", the national Daily Mail. The Mail, notoriously, briefly supported Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, and is widely regarded (not least by readers of this paper) as little more than a vicious reactionary pamphlet. The Evening Standard apes the Mail in both its design and its approach to the news, almost invariably taking an identical editorial line to its sister publication. It is peculiar that historically left-leaning, Labour-voting London should find its news sources monopolised by a right-wing Tory-inclined newspaper, particularly when the city is compared to other, often smaller metropolitan areas that run to a range of morning and evening newspapers, covering a spectrum of opinion, but this is perhaps a legacy of the transformation of British newspaper publishing through the 1980s and 1990s, when - led by Rupert Murdoch - the industry became massively more capital-intensive, allowing the few media corporations who had dominated the press since the 1950s to increase their grip on the market. This trend was further reinforced by persistent deregulation of media ownership by successive governments. Nationally, four firms control 85% of the British print media; the same tendencies have been, if anything, more pronounced in the local press, where local newspaper production has been monopolised by a very small number of large firms, issuing identikit titles in different regions.

This is offered by way of a partial explanation to understanding how reports on the Morris Inquiry into racism in the Metropolitan Police could differ so widely. The London daily newspaper market consists of one publication, whose editors have an extraordinary licence not to follow their audience. Left-wing, liberal London, then, found itself presented with this assesment by the Evening Standard:

Scotland Yard is today accused of discriminating against women and white officers in a devastating new report. ...

The report warns that Scotland Yard faces a backlash from its white officers over political correctness. Sir Bill calls for root and branch reform of the force's disciplinary structure.

Senior policemen are so scared of being seen as racist that they refused to tackle black and Asian staff who are incompetent. The same standards of conduct were not being applied equally to all racial groups, according to the report. ...

Sir Bill found that white managers "lack the confidence to manage black and ethnic minority officers without being affected by their race".

He added: "The statistics indicate clear disproportionality in the way black and ethnic minority officers are treated in relation to the management of their conduct. This represents a serious issue of discrimination which must be tackled as a matter of priority. The same high standards of conduct should apply to all officers and staff."

The liberal Guardian wrote on the same report, and even the same sections of the same report, like this:

Britain's biggest police force was castigated yesterday for discriminating against ethnic minority officers and paying lip service to diversity, in an official report that came five years after it was found to be institutionally racist.

The report by former union boss Sir Bill Morris found the Metropolitan police was more likely to subject ethnic minority officers to disciplinary investigations than white officers, which was "a serious issue of discrimination". ...

The report found that statistics showed "clear disproportionality" in the way black and minority ethnic officers were treated in relation to the management of their conduct. Sir Bill said outside bodies including the Commission for Racial Equality should be brought in to ensure the Met stamped this out.

Earlier in the Morris hearings, it became clear that previous attempts to reform London's Metropolitan Police resulting from the 1999 Macpherson Report had run into sustained resistance amongst white officers. They were unahppy at what they saw as "preferential" treatment of ethnic minority officers and some efforts being made to overcome what Macpherson called "institutional racism" within the Met.

The Evening Standard has chosen to follow the line of the white racist police establishment, spinning the Report as if it were black officers facing discrimination; reading the Report's summary and recommendations, it is hard to come to the same conclusion, whilst evidence of persistent institutional racism within the Met are easily found: for example, the figures on retention show ethnic minority police recruits are far more likely to drop out of training than new white recruits. This is not to even touch on the Met's habitual racism in its day-to-day practice, with stop and searches being disproportionately applied to ethnic minorities. Forty per cent of London's population are not white; the city is notably more diverse than other parts of the UK, and, as a rule, its inhabitants generally less tolerant of racism. The Standard is cutting against the grain of its target audience.