Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad ...
If there were any remaining doubt that the Labour government has taken leave of their collective senses, their reaction to the "loans for peerages" scandal has dispelled it. And the manner in which their grotesque mishandling of the investigation is blowing up in their faces means that there is less and less doubt that they will lose the next election as they richly deserve.
For years the Labour strategy whenever anyone crosses them has been to "shoot the messenger." From the 90-year old grandmother who Labour accused of being racist for complaining about healthcare, the parliamentary standards commissioner who didn't get her contract renewed after asking too many pointed questions in corruption inquiries, to rail crash victims who were accused of political motivation, if you say something New Labour don't like they will spin against you. Sometimes this works for them, sometimes it doesn't, but the fact that they didn't realise this was a really silly thing to try against the police demonstrates that Labour has completely lost it.
Our police force is not perfect - no human organisation is. Indeed, they are much less perfect as a result of some of the things this government has done to them. But we do have one of the best police forces in the world. And furthermore, if there is one thing which is guaranteed to get you into serious trouble with the British police, it is the least hint that someone is trying to improperly influence them, bully them, or demand special treatment.
If Tony Blair, and other present and former Labour ministers such as David Blunkett and Tessa Jowell had retained a strong grip on reality, they would have realised this. Instead, when Blair's key aide Ruth Turner was arrested on Friday on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, the Labour spin machine went into auto-attack mode. Various anonymous number ten spokesmen criticised the police, suggesting that the police actions were using "bully-boy tactics," were biased, and "behaving like the secret police." Jowell, Blunkett and Labour peer Lord Puttnam queried the police action quite openly.
The inevitable has happened: the police have seen this as an attempt to bully them, and there has been a very negative reaction which extends to Labour politicians associated with the Metropolitan police. The Chairman of the Metropolitan Police authority, Len Duvall (who is also chairman of the London region Labour party) has warned his fellow labour politicians to stop criticising the police investigation until it is complete, adding that "No one in this country is above the law."
Sir Chris Fox, former President of the Association of Chief Police officers, expressed concern at the attacks on the police inquiry. "I really find it quite depressing if politicans are smearing or coercing or trying to influence a police inquiry ..." he said. "If a chief constable can't investigate without this sort of media, coercive pressure I worry for a free democratic country." Glyn Smith, chairman of the Metropolitan Police branch of the Police Federation, expressed similar concerns.
I have no doubt why the Labour spin machine has panicked and started their ludicrous attack on the police. They are scared.
It was bad enough when Lord Levy and other people associated with the Prime Minister were arrested in connection with the laws against sale of honours. But Ruth Turner was not just arrested in connection with the investigation into the original offence, but on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. In other words, police are investigating whether there has been a cover up. In British political scandals, any attempt at a cover-up usually does far more damage than the original offence.
Last week Channel 4 put on a brilliantly savage TV programme called "The Trial of Tony Blair". I doubt very much that the prime minister will have been stupid enough to say or write anything incriminating enough to put him in the position of facing criminal charges himself. But the panic by those around him makes me wonder if all of his close associates are quite so safe.
And the manner in which the New Labour mafia have behaved will have triggered in the police team investigating "loans for honours" a vigorous reaction based on a principle that every good copper understands. When the people you're investigating start to bluster and threaten, the reaction usually means you're onto something and should examine them all the more closely.