You know those weirdos that are often hanging around railway stations? The ones that look like they still live with their Mother and are always scribbling into their little notebooks? Well they’re the British Transport Police (BTP). They’re exactly the same as regular cops. Same powers of arrest, rank structure, pension – everything the same. Actually not everything – they’re not as systematically racist as regular cops because it’s more difficult to stop search a train. (It’s okay some of these are jokes )
On 10th July 2020 the Guardian newspaper printed a story about a potentially offensive T-shirt.
I was going to send this Plod Blog in as a direct response to the article – but I sent in my piece on a police perspective in respect of the death of George Floyd and they wouldn’t print that and so I doubt they’ll consider printing a police perspective on this story either. Quite right too. Who wants to know what those whiny, pointy-headed, flat-foots think?
On June 3rd this year Jessie-Lu Flynn was in Oxford Circus, on her way back from a Black Lives Matter rally in company with a friend, when she was stopped by two British Transport Police officers. Jessie-Lu Flynn is white and so I’ve no idea what they were playing at. (Relax, I’m still joking).
Anyhow, one of the police officers pointed out that the slogan on the T-shirt she was wearing could be considered offensive to some people.
Now the T-shirt had the two-word slogan ‘F*ck Boris’. Which I believe was meant to be an insult rather than one of the goals on her bucket list. I’ve abbreviated the word, because I’m not a sweary type, but have included the picture that appeared in the Guardian for the sake of clarity.
So anyway, one of the police officers pointed out a possible offence under the Public Order Act 1986.
I believe that the officer was referring to Section 5.1(b), which relates to someone who: “displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening or abusive, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”
Once this was pointed out to Jessie-Lu Flynn she replied: “I’ve worn it a dozen times before without being challenged by the police”
In my experience that’s quite an unusual defence. When I’ve arrested shoplifters it’s not very often they say “I come in here and steal cheese twice a week every week and no one’s ever complained before.” Neither have I been told “I always drive at excessive speeds when passing primary schools” nor “I’ve murdered loads of people before…” You get the idea!
Incidentally, if Boris Johnson does make wearing of masks in retail premises compulsory I bet all the shoplifters will be shouting a muffled “YIPPEEEEE!”
So anyway, back to Jessie-Lu Flynn and her allegedly ‘offensive’ T-shirt. The cop said “I think you should zip up your top to cover it up” and so she did.
All sorted then? Not quite…
Following the incident Flynn did what any upright citizen would do: Uploaded onto YouTube a video of the incident (shot on her friend’s mobile) to go viral. Followed by features in Unilad, Metro and the Daily Mail. The video shows the officer being very polite and patient. In fact he’s so helpful that he even looks up the specific offence on his mobile device and shows her the exact wording.
Flynn then decided to launch legal process against BTP arguing that the police actions interfered with her right to express her legitimate political opinions.
No one likes protracted political statements, and as a comedian I’m a fan of the editing process to help create incisive satire, but even I reckon that ‘F*CK BORIS’ it’s probably a smidgen lacking in content to be considered legitimate political opinion. In the same way that if the Guardian theatre critic stood up at the end of my performance and gave me the middle finger – I’d get an idea they wasn’t keen but probably wouldn’t class it as a legitimate review.
I’m no prude. I’ve lived through the 80’s which means I’ve seen more risqué Frankie Goes to Hollywood T-shirts than you can shake a stick at. But if my 95-year-old mother-in-law had walked past Jessie-Lu Flynn wearing the T-shirt in question I’m pretty certain that she would’ve found the swear word displayed to be abusive and it would have caused her some alarm and probably even distress. Regardless of the context, political or otherwise.
With that in mind, Flynn’s legal action struck me as a little over-the-top and all a bit daft to be honest. Perhaps like me, many of you were fully expected Paul Crowther the Chief Constable of BTP, to write a reply something on the lines of:
“Dear Ms Flynn,
Thank you for your correspondence. But you must be joking! It’s my job to uphold the law and help maintain some standards of public decency.
I believe that the officer concerned was very reasonably and sensible in his interpretation of the Public Order Act and was very polite and professional to you. Moreover, as a senior leader it is my responsibility to support my staff when they are acting appropriately and in accordance with their duty, especially so when they are currently under attack from a targeted, cynically motivated, negative media campaign and police morale is at an all-time low.
All things considered I’m backing my cops. I will not cave in to police-baiting and pedantic point scoring designed simply to discredit our organisation. I’ll fight this all the way and if needs be we’ll let the High Court decide on the legal ruling,
Have a nice day,
PS Please remember to dress sensibly, especially as it starts to get a bit cooler”.
That’s what we all expected right? Wrong! Instead, one of our fearless leaders reverted to what seems to rapidly becoming their default position and Jessie-Lu Flynn received a letter of apology on behalf of the Chief Constable of British Transport Police. Informing her that the instruction to cover her T-shirt, and the brief detention to give that direction, were unlawful.
His letter also apologised for any distress caused. Because clearly having someone say – “Do us a favour and zip up your top please” is very distressing to a hardened political activist…
I bet when Jessie-Lu got home her Mom asked: “Oh dear why are you so upset? Did those nasty, fascist cops kettle you in Parliament Square for 6 hours? Did the Met’s TSG riot police ram their plastic shields in your face? Did the mounted section carry out long-handled baton charges?”
“No, a BTP copper asked me to zip up my cardie.”
According to the Guardian article the letter from BTP also gives an undertaking that “the wearing of the T-shirt alone will not lead to her arrest or any direction to cover it”.
Looks like I’d better tell my 95-year-old mother-in-law to either man-up and stop being such an oversensitive wimp or stay in her house where she can’t come to any harm?
Now I have no doubt that Paul Crowther gave his written response some careful consideration. I’d expect that he liaised with BTP legal team and lawyers before sending that letter and my response to that is:
I DON’T CARE! Let the courts make the ruling not you.
Back up your staff when a complex rule of law arises in the middle of them trying to do a good job for you – don’t hang them out to dry. Don’t humiliate them. Don’t help set a precedent that’s just made every street cop’s job considerably more difficult. Don’t cave in and take the easy way out – be a Chief Constable and put up a bit of a fight. (This is me not joking now ).
“Yeah but Alfie what about the expenditure and the responsibility to the public purse?” Yeah well, what about the quickly fading motivation and morale of every hard-working police officer in this country?
Jessie-Lu Flynn welcomed the police apology and admission the police had acted unlawfully towards her. “I’m thrilled,” she said. “Now I can be confident that I can wear the T-shirt without fear of arrest.”
Jolly good then. I’d guess you’re going to be wearing it quite a lot now. I’m sure there’s thousands already on order. People can now point them towards every cop they see and don’t forget to film if you get any more ‘bites’.
Why don’t you pop into the local Woman’s Institute Meeting – the old dears might give you a round of applause? What about wearing it for church on Sunday and if the vicar objects you can tell him to “f*ck off” as long as you add the word Tory afterwards then he’s not lawfully allowed to be offended. And if he objects you can show him the letter of proof you have from Chief Constable Paul Crowther.
Flynn’s lawyers, Joanna Khan and Michael Oswald at Bhatt Murphy solicitors released this statement:
“This should serve as a strong reminder to police officers that the freedom to express political opinion, and to criticise politicians, is fundamental to a free and democratic society, and that invoking the criminal law to limit that freedom will be unacceptable and unlawful in all but the most extreme circumstances.”
Any perverts out there with a propensity for indecent exposure must be very excited by this news. Perhaps the next time they find themselves walking down a busy street, gripping their genitalia firmly in hand, as long as they remember to shout “Boris is a wanker” it will probably qualify as a political statement. I certainly know of a good firm of solicitors who may be able to assist if they have a run in with the rozzers.
Hopefully you’ve managed to read this blog quickly before I get a letter instructing me to take it down and apologise for its contents.
In fact I will finish with an apology. To the conscientious, proactive BTP officer who dealt with Jessie-Lu Flynn very courteously and professionally – I would like to say that I’m sorry about the lack of support you’ve received – it’s pretty sad my friend.
That’s all from me. I’m off to order my Mother-in-law a bespoke T-shirt. Let me know if you’ve any suggestions for the slogan?
On Monday 25th May 2020, Derek Chauvin took the life of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a shocking thing to see and, like many others, I’ve spent the last few weeks doing a lot of reflecting on what happened – trying to make sense of it…
Did Derek Chauvin intend to take the life of George Floyd? With a street full of witnesses looking on, not to mention audio video recordings and no reasonable defence to be had, there would be no logic whatsoever in him doing so.
So if he didn’t intend for George Floyd to die then why would he casually, hands-in-pockets, ignore a man pleading for his life? The answer couldn’t be any simpler – because when George Floyd repeatedly gasped the words “I can’t breathe”, Derek Chauvin did not believe him.
A police officer not believing someone’s plea for life isn’t a great defence. It means that they are culpable. Very culpable. Maybe not for premeditated murder but there’s little doubt that Derek Chauvin will be convicted of unlawful killing and be sent to prison for a very long time.
For me the big question is why did Derek Chauvin disbelieve George Floyd?
Many people think the answer is that Chauvin is a racist and/or the organisation he worked for is systemically racist. I too feel that those could well be contributory factors to the actions and inaction of the police officers present that day – but I also think there may be other factors at play within the policing world that highlight a deep-rooted culture of institutionalised cynicism.
I was an impressionable 24 year old young man when I joined the police. Prior to that I’d been hidden away as an apprentice in the Sheffield steelworks and had led a pretty sheltered life. After my initial training I can remember turning up at Skegness Police Station all keen, bright and shiny. On my very first day an old-timer frontline veteran took me on one side and offered to give me his sage advice. Of course I accepted – in fact I lapped it up. He leaned forward, lowered his voice to a whisper and said: “If you want to be a good cop always remember the ABC of policing. Assume nothing. Believe no one. Confirm everything.”
This was an early indication that police officers are encouraged to have a suspicious mind-set. All coppers are bastards? Definitely not. All coppers are cynical? Definitely maybe.
Don’t get me wrong, this deep-rooted cynicism is not as bad as it used to be. When I first joined if a woman walked into the police station to report being raped it would not be uncommon for the on-duty Detective Sergeant to put the ABC of good policing into practice by shouting at the victim in order to test the robustness of her evidence. Sounds shocking doesn’t it? But that stuff used to happen.
We have tried to be more trusting. In fact some years ago police policy makers introduced a total turnaround – an investigative policy where our starting point was from a position of believing the victim. That’s another dangerous game to play as Carl Beech highlighted when we rather embarrassingly fell for his fairy stories about the perverted exploits of high level Members of Parliament.
I believe that the police as an organisation needs to seriously think about how we can encourage a culture of non-judgmental open-mindedness. However, to achieve this utopia of cynical-free policing there is another major issue that needs addressing and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s a massive problem – a street copper’s sceptical distrusting model of the world is reinforced constantly by the public at large because the public at large lie to them all day and every day.
Within a few years of joining the police I had become totally desensitised to hearing lies. Dishonesty and distortion of the truth became my workaday ‘normal’. The constant flow of lies endorse, encourage and validate a copper’s suspicious mind-set.
They usually came from the mouth of defendants but also sometimes, witnesses and ‘victims’ giving their personalised version of the truth – ask Carl Beech.
And don’t look for racial discrimination here. When it comes to lying to the police there is no bigotry, bias or prejudice – it’s a very level playing field – almost everybody does it. Black, white, male, female, working class, middle-class and well-off Government personal advisors – everybody.
Replies on arrest of “It’s a fair cop guv you got me bang to rights” went out of fashion with Dixon of Dock Green. I’ve shown shoplifters clear and undeniable CCTV evidence of them stealing items and even then they’ve responded “Nah I didn’t do it”. Sometimes it was a nice change to have a ‘no comment’ interview so I could have a break from listening to their lies.
Why do they do that? That’s easy – because they can. There is no penalty, no price to pay. We, the police, instantly forgive and forget all the lies and timewasting we’ve just endured. It’s extremely rare they will be charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice. But isn’t that exactly what lying to a police officer is?
And if I sound cynical it’s because I am. That’s my point really. I wasn’t at all cynical when I first joined the police. I was full of positivity and wanted to right all the wrongs in the world. So what happened? People lied to me. A lot.
It’s very common for a detainee to feign discomfort, perhaps complaining that the officer is assaulting them. “You’re hurting me” “I’ve got a bad arm/leg/back/wrist/shoulder…” The scale of this behaviour is often directly proportionate to the number of bystanders and number of iPhones recording the event.
Once in a police vehicle it’s common for a prisoner to complain “These handcuffs are too tight”. I would always check by slipping my little finger between the handcuff and the detainee’s wrist. They would usually be properly applied and double-locked, meaning they cannot self-tighten, and if not I’d quickly adjust. I’ve then watched dozens of times as the detainee bends their wrists deliberately against the metal cuff to cause red markings on their wrists. They can then show these marks to the Custody Sergeant to ‘prove’ the cuffs were on too tight. The Sergeant will record the ‘injury’ whilst unconcernedly rolling their eyes because it’s a trick they see every single day and three times every Friday and Saturday late shift. It’s just another form of lie.
But that’s a million miles away from Minneapolis, Minnesota, isn’t it?
No, not really because there have also been occasions when prisoners have collapsed in front of cops here in the UK and the police officers present have nonchalantly watched them die. Because they were cold-blooded psychopaths? No, because these cynical coppers had seen the scenario played out many times before. They didn’t believe them. They’d all had prisoners scream “You’re hurting me” when they hadn’t been hurt. They’d all had detainees say “I can’t breathe” when they could breathe perfectly well. I myself have heard that said many times.
But don’t think for one minute that I’m trying to defend Derek Chauvin. Let me assure you I have absolutely NO sympathy for him. He had had a duty of care to his detainee. A responsibility to carry out a dynamic risk assessment, which means checking he was using the minimum force necessary. Checking the detainee was safe, not in a dangerous position and not showing signs deteriorating health.
I’ve seen plenty of people on social media claiming “If you really can’t breathe then you can’t speak”. I’ve no idea if that’s true but in any case it’s a complete red herring inasmuch as there’s very little difference between someone saying “I can’t breathe” and saying “I’m having difficulty breathing” – both require an immediate risk assessment rather than a grammar check…
Derek Chauvin failed in his duty of care and in doing so made the job of police officers all over the world much more difficult and dangerous for many years to come.
Do I hold George Floyd in anyway culpable for the events that followed? Absolutely not. Once he became a compliant prisoner he had every right to expect his safety was guaranteed.
However, I do point an accusing finger at every prisoner before George Floyd that lied to Chauvin. Every one that feigned injury, every one that said “You’re hurting me” when they were unharmed and every single one that said “I can’t breathe” when actually they could breathe fine. I hold them all personally responsible for helping create and reinforce the cynicism that Derek Chauvin harboured.
I believe the UK police are the finest in the world. But we do need to address our institutionalised cynicism and the system needs to support us in that culture change. There’s no difference between lying to a police officer and lying to a judge. We’re both servants of the crown trying to uphold the laws of the land. Let’s make lying to a police officer an offence of perjury and let’s use it.
Maybe that’s setting the bar a little high. Busy cops having to prove additional offences to charging standard – that’s a big ask. Could we instead put the onus on our courts? I know that we already have credits given to defendants for early guilty pleas – but what about sentencing guidance to incorporate benefits for being honest with cops from the outset and serious consequences for not doing so?
We need to find a way to change behaviours. We need to stop normalising dishonesty – it’s helping to perpetuate the institutionalised cynicism within frontline policing.
And many will say that cynicism is justified because it’s the most effective way of policing criminality. That could well be true. Maybe that’s exactly what the public want – and we police by consent in the UK . The police are public servants and the community are entitled to have any policing style they choose. But who knows? The choice may be out with the cynical old ABC and instead let’s All Be the Change.
‘Super Saturday’ or ‘Stupid Saturday’? Depends who you ask really. But I’m leaning towards the latter on the grounds that Saturday just can’t be a good day to reopen the pubs for the first time in 14 weeks. Dealing with the fallout is more of a slap than a clap for NHS paramedics, A&E staff and frontline coppers.
Then the day before there was news that they would be open from 6 a.m. Was this a carefully thought out decision after liaising with Police Chiefs? Or a thoughtless stupid, last-minute knee-jerk announced after police forces had already organised their Operational Orders and staffing? Once again I’m leaning towards the latter.
Number 10 said it was a “precaution against midnight parties”. No mate it’s not a “precaution against midnight parties” it’s an extension of midnight parties!
I wasn’t tempted to go to the pub but the irresistible allure of barber shops reopening was a much bigger carrot… or more of a pineapple in my case. Something had to be done as I realised that I was turning into Vincent Price – or was it Vincent half-Price?
So I chanced it and went into town but I now regret asking for a Tin Tin
“Officer it was a vicious robbery – he attacked me from behind, made a right mess of my head and then took 15 quid off me!”…the crime report should have read.
My wife took one look at me, tutted and said “it’ll grow”, but I’m not sure if she meant the hair or the resentment.
As it was Saturday afternoon I decided to put my feet up and switched the telly on for some very physical testosterone fuelled live action. No not the football – the live Wetherspoons updates!
And it was pretty disappointing to start with. A few turned up for a 6 a.m. bacon butty washed down with a pint of Guinness (hard to resist I know) but not many.
Then people started to hit the pubs and bars and it became a very busy night for the herd immunity volunteers.
I’ve not always been a fan of police kettling tactics but I think it could be the answer here. Simply kettle them all in and see how many are left after a fortnight. The survivors get a bottle of Peroni and a free mask.
Seriously – that can’t be good though can it? If evolution continues to reverse at this rate then we’ll all be single-cell organisms clinging to a rock at the seaside before the century is out.
Maybe it’s Boris Johnson’s plan to kick-start the economy by converting Nightingales to Wetherspoons? I bet ventilators make cracking real ale pumps.
A lot of people felt that the media were focusing on the negative – and that disorder and assaults weren’t much different to a normal Saturday. But it’s not a ‘normal’ Saturday is it? And there shouldn’t have been ANY assaults (outside of your own ‘social bubble’ that is) because we have social distancing in place due to a pandemic. Leaving economic imperatives aside, this was an opportunity for folk to go out for a drink whilst respecting social distancing – and it’s quite difficult to assault anyone when you’re two metres away.
People said “it’s nothing to worry about, just calm down and get off the outrage bus”. Well I’m sorry I can’t, because I got too pissed, fell asleep in my kebab and missed my last stop!
I do try and be open minded and in the interests of balance there’s another side to this. It’s become clear over a number of weeks that a growing substantial minority were no longer prepared to adhere to any lockdown. Would that have calmed down or got much worse? Once again I’m afraid I’m going for the latter. I’m not one to jump to the defence of Boris but I can’t help feeling if lockdown hadn’t started to officially be eased, then one way or the other people would have continued to take ‘liberty’ into their own hands – and that could’ve meant serious disorder on the streets and the police potentially losing control.
I do hope that all will be well and there won’t be a ‘second spike’ but at least the second wave will mean the barbers shutting again and me getting some hair back…
Anyhow- what’s the best way to get kebab stain off a face mask? #AskingForAFriend
Keep safe out there people,
Article originally appeared in The Sun newspaper and republished here for your consideration ... For full disclosure this article was commissioned but my views on the series are 100% fair.
We’ve previously seen Daniel Mays, Stephen Graham and Anna Maxwell Martin team up together in Line of Duty and now they’re back. But the ‘H’ they’re looking for this time is hilarity.
For although Mays and Graham play cops again, this series is a comedy drama with a bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure.
The action is fast-paced from the off. So fast that it’s less than two minutes before one of the show’s main characters is murdered. That can’t be right can it? Well yes and no, because DI John Major (Daniel Mays) is brought back to life using experimental Artificial Intelligence.
It’s a slightly different John Major now as he’s only 90% human – and believe me that in my policing experience 90% for a Met copper is a pretty high score.
It’s just like the Six Million Dollar Man: “We can rebuild him. Better. Stronger. Faster”. The only difference being that he’s not at all better, stronger or faster. In fact in many ways he’s quite a bit slower. Especially in the thinking stakes. In the words of Anna Maxwell Martin, who plays his long suffering wife Kelly: “John was a bit of an idiot before, now he’s even more of an idiot”
The good news is that Major can once again team up with his Met Special Investigations Unit (SIU) policing partner DI Roy Carver who’s played by the extremely talented Stephen Graham.
However, although it’s nice to have a hi-tech version of his old mucker back again, it is a bit awks because in his 12 month absence Carver has started up a relationship with Major’s widow – who all of a sudden is his wife again!
As Kelly puts it: “I wasn’t seeing someone behind your back. Technically it was over your dead body”.
And so a cop, cop’s wife, part-cop/part-robot love triangle ensues.
It’s tightly written with typical high-end Sky production and with the talent on display it’s hard to see this failing to be a hit.
Stephen Graham’s been seen in a one quality drama after another in the last couple of years but he grabbed at the chance to throw himself in to a comedy role declaring: “Danny is one of the funniest people I know. To spend six weeks with him just messing about, to me was a no brainer really”.
Speaking of no brainers, DI Major has some technical issues and the software updates aren’t always helpful, although often hilarious. Mays’ character has a strong screen presence and dressed in a long black coat he looks rather like Neo in the Matrix, albeit with a zip-up cardie.
Mays has naturally funny bones and the physical comedy he gets out of his character gives genuine laugh out loud moments. I mean all cops sometimes get bored at work and we’ve all thought about giving ourselves a short blast of taser, you know just to see what it’s like, but not in the face John! What were you thinking?
His hard drive may be misfiring but the jokes aren’t and they come thick and fast, often around his deliciously random unpredictability.
But it’s not all slapstick there’s plenty of drama and the onscreen chemistry between these two best buddies feels gritty and authentic. Carver may be the straight man but he knows how to dish out a perfectly timed throw away insult.
That’s one of the things that makes this show so realistic for me – if you’ve got a close police buddy who’s having a few problems there’s only one thing for you and the rest of the team to do – get stuck in and rip the piss out of them…
The relentless gallows humour just made me think that I was back at work – it’s part of police culture. In my CID Team one of the detectives was nicknamed ‘Badger’. For years I thought it was because of the white Mallen-streak in his otherwise dark hair. Turned out it was because he’d been off sick with TB!
Don’t get me wrong, Code 404 did stretch the imagination in places – two Detective Inspectors leaving their desks to get some actual police work done? Don’t make me laaarf.
The dark cloud hanging over our detective duo is that the augmented DI John Major is still in his trial phase and the AI Ethics Committee is looking for a reason to switch him off and render him dead for good.
I can relate to that. I’ve been in briefings where I’ve yearned to switch off the Detective Inspector, or at least find the mute button.
Roy Carver is a conflicted man, torn between loyalty to his partner and longing to resume his interrupted relationship with Major’s wife. One thing he’s not conflicted about – doing everything he can to not lose his best buddy again and that means covering for his all too frequent cock-ups.
No matter how thin the blue line gets comradeship will never die and taking a bollocking for a teammate is just something you do in policing. When my mate scraped the police car I put myself in the line of fire by gathering all the Tippex in the nick to cover up the scratch.
With DI Major determined to hang around long enough to investigate his own cold case the drama continues to unfold…
That’s a 10-4 from me. Don’t you dare switch off DI John Major – this show is far too much fun.
Sunday March 29th
I’m pleased to report that my wife’s ‘fear of running out of bread’ phobia has now been replaced with ‘fear of missing Tipping Point’
‘What time is Tipping Point on?’
‘The usual time’
‘Have you recorded Tipping Point?’
‘Are you sure?’
In less pressing news the police, so far, have been very tolerant of those failing to social distance. The official Coronavirus policing policy defined by the ‘Four E’s’:
Personally I think that it’s gone on long enough and if I stopped a driver who said: ‘I’m absolutely fine to travel 50 miles for a daily seaside walk because I’m not showing any symptoms.’ I’d be tempted to give them a three second blast of pepper spray and enquire: ‘What about now?’
I mean it must be annoying for the thin blue line when people are jamming their phone lines with sensible questions like: ‘Can I go out for a second walk if I’m dressed as a dog?’
I tuned in to the daily Coronavirus briefing to see that they’d wheeled out the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick. As usual, salivating number-hunting journos kept repeatedly asking: ‘how long will the lockdown last?’ His co-host Dr Jenny Harris momentarily let her guard slip and actually answered!
‘It might be 3 to 6 months’.…The journalists all responded with frenzied scribbling and you could see in her eyes the dawning realisation that she’d walked into the trap, especially as Jenrick could be seen in the background palm-slapping his own forehead!
Sure enough the very next day….
Monday March 30th
‘6 MONTHS OF LOCKDOWN!’ is the headline news. When did journalists decide their job was to ‘create the news’ rather than report the news?
And it was also time for the mainstream media to stick the boot into the police. It’s really not been too difficult to predict the news cycle:
The papers were full of stories of police drones pestering dog walkers and police searching people’s shopping bags for Easter Eggs. You should not be going out for Easter eggs as they are non-essential items.
Should you choose to defy these instructions can you pick me up one of those Cadbury Twirl ones?
Now I’m sure some of this stuff is fake news – although let me tell you that there are a sprinkling of ‘no common sense’ cops out there. Not so much on the streets, to be fair, because the really stupid ones tend to get promoted to senior management and put in offices with their name on the door.
Here’s the thing – coppers don’t want to be the shop police. They’re policing robustly because that’s the order from the Home Office. Instead of hanging our police out to dry let’s have the Home Secretary do today’s Corona briefing to give clarity to public and police. Not wishy washy terminology but clear instruction…
I switched on the Coronavirus briefing in eager anticipation but no Priti Patel, instead Dominic Raab. The most interesting thing was the sudden very abrupt end – he didn’t so much wrap it up seamlessly as suddenly swivel around on the spot and walk away…”hello, hello… Dominic… Dominic…where’s Dominic gone?”
Tuesday March 31st
Had a nice early walk and returned to find the press still plod bashing for policing social distancing robustly. It seems the UK boys and girls in blue can’t win and they’ll be criticised either way, whilst in contrast social media is full of clips of Italian police singing merrily in the street.
I think that ‘Policing Coronavirus’ would make a great ‘It’s A Fair Cop’ show. It’s got all the required ingredients – everyone’s got a view, there are consequences for every decision and there’s no right answer!
The phone rang and it was the Home Secretary Priti Patel. She’d been made aware of my tweets challenging her to take some responsibility and ordered me to come and see her directly for a bollocking. Fortunately I’ve already had my daily walk and that would not be considered essential travel.
Time for the tea-time Coronavirus briefing and it’s okay – everyone can relax Michael Gove is back! And at this point can I say well done to Robert Peston for the longest question asked in the history of television broadcasts? I’ve had full tour shows that were shorter!
Tonight’s journos were interested in testing or rather lack of and the response was Gove using the term ‘ramping up’ like the needle was stuck.
I’d never heard the term ‘ramping up’ a fortnight ago. I’ve ‘stepped up’, ‘damped down’ and ‘rolled out’ before but I’ve never ‘ramped up’! But all of a sudden everybody seems to be ramping up all day every day!
It seems to be that if you’ve promised to deliver but you’re woefully short of where you need to be and the media are attacking you then you can just hide under the term ‘ramping up’ like it’s a Klingon cloaking shield.
The good news is that today’s Tipping Point was very exciting and a lady won the £10,000 jackpot on the very last counter.
Wednesday April 1st
An email lands from Scotland informing that the iconic Edinburgh Fringe Festival will not be going ahead this year. Great shame, including for me as I was booked to go up this year, but very sensible. Many comedians have been unexpectedly thrown into financial hardship recently and well done to the Fringe for refunding their application fees.
My income comes from tour shows and corporate work all of which has been postponed for the foreseeable future. Thank heavens that I kept my old police badge so I’ve been able to dish out on-the-spot social distancing fines. And for those of you worrying that I’ll be breaching any rules – it’s OK I’m using one of these to collect the cash.
The Coronavirus briefing was a bit of a damp squib with Alok Sharma unashamedly batting most of the questions off to Dr Yvonne Doyle and more of the same wishy washy waffle.
Conversely President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines was much more direct with his ‘ramping up’ policy – anyone in the Philippines that ignores social distancing rules will be shot dead in the street! Don’t panic though, the Philippines are a week ahead of us with the virus – rest assured this tactic will not be rolled-out in the UK for the next 7 days. I suppose we could tag that on as the fifth ‘E’?
Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce … Execute.
Thursday April 2nd
I realise that it’s wrong for me to dish out unofficial on-the-spot social distancing fines to subsidise my income and so instead today I managed to find my old police jacket and decide to seize Easter eggs from anyone that looks a bit dodgy. (The uniform still just about fits but probably won’t do by the end of the day..)
The first grab went okay – once I’d explained the importance of ‘essential shopping only’ the 9-yr-old handed over his Smarties Egg – although his younger sister but up a bit of a fight…
Friday April 3rd
Episode 2 of my BBC Radio 4 show, about privacy, aired. I can’t help but listen with a critical ear but I was pleased with it.
On television every man and his dog seem to be doing their own presenting from home. Although I’m tempted to start my own home online broadcast I can’t because I don’t have a bookcase to sit in front of…
In the interests of balance – given that I’ve been critical of some of the waffly rambling bollocks at UK Daily Coronavirus briefings, credit where it’s due, I thought Professor Jonathan Van Tam was superb tonight. Just tells it like it is. More of this please
Saturday March 4th
Today’s news theme is ‘face masks’. Should we? Shouldn’t we? I get the reluctance around advising people to wear them. You know what some folk are like – the sun will come out this weekend, they’ll grab a face-mask, head for the seaside and forget social distancing.
Donald Trump has said that he will not be following US medical advice to wear a face-mask as he thinks the tan lines would look ridiculous.
Congratulations to the new Labour Party leader. If the name Keir Starmer sounds familiar to you it’s because he was Luke Skywalker’s uncle in Star Wars.
One of the Coronavirus conspiracy theories is that 5G radio signals are spreading COVID-19 and consequently news breaks that 5G masks have been torched in Birmingham and Liverpool.
Can I ask for anyone who believes that 5G spreads Coronavirus to help social distancing measures by wearing this official believer ‘T-shirt’..
I switch on the daily briefing but just switched it off again – life’s too short for Michael Gove twice in one week.
And while we’re talking about dafties I think I’ve found someone dafter than Trump: The Belarusian football league has kicked off with more than 3,000 spectators. President Alexander Lukashenko labelled coronavirus ‘a psychosis that can be fought with vodka, saunas and driving tractors’.
Ridiculous! Everyone knows it’s vodka, saunas and Tipping Point!
Sunday 22nd March
My latest BBC Radio 4 series IT’S A FAIR COP re-starts later this week. Hard to believe that this is ‘Series 5’, although I might go all Americano and start saying ‘Season 5’ as that sounds really cool.
I discover that the show is Pick of the Week in the Mail on Sunday and the Times – these posh folk love a bit of rough don’t they? I have to admit in all those years rolling about the pavement with aggressive drunken types outside Club 2000 in Scunthorpe I occasionally doubted that one day I’d be the radio programme of choice in the Sunday Times Culture magazine.
In other news the Prime Minister tells me that I can only have one walk (or other outdoor exercise) a day.
Monday 23rd March
My wife and I start the day with a nice walk. By the afternoon I begin to think I may have a problem with authority as I never have more than one walk a day, but on the very first day the Prime Minister tells me that I can only have one walk a day I now want a second walk more than anything I’ve EVER wanted in my life!
My wife (who also has a problem with authority) and I discuss the pros and cons of flouting the law and going out in disguise for a second walk… (the rest of this paragraph has been shortened in order to avoid incriminating myself)
The PM has taken on board the fact that the daily Coronavirus briefings are getting a bit repetitive and so the rumour is that tonight Theresa May and Michael Gove will be paying tribute to the passing of Kenny Rogers by singing a duet of Islands in the Stream accompanied by Boris on spoons.
Sadly, these were just rumours as there was no singing, no spoons and no Boris…
Tuesday 24th March
People are handling social isolation in different ways and I’ve no idea what the specific phobia: ‘fear of running out of bread’ is called but my wife seems to have it pretty bad.
Consequently I find myself cutting large amounts of mould off the Paul Hollywood part-bake rolls (that I found on top of the kitchen cupboard) before slipping them in the oven – my standards may be deteriorating quicker than I’d anticipated…
I’m bored and so I put the following opinion poll out on Twitter:
‘I have a very energetic dog that insists on going for a walk twice a day – what should I do?’
1: Ignore Govt guidelines?
2: Take a longer daily walk?
3: Eat the dog?
I’m only joking (I think) but I’m contacted by a concerned lady who implores me not to eat the dog but instead suggests that my wife and I alternate doggy walks. I tell her ‘It’s okay, I don’t have a dog………… anymore’. (Let me say at this point that I really don’t have a dog nor have I eaten one lately!)
Wednesday 25th March
Lots of debate in the media about when a ‘cure’ will be discovered and if a cocktail of other anti-viral drugs already available may help. I know that scientists all over the world are working hard for a ‘cure’ and I of course realise I’m no expert – however has anybody considered that green Swarfega your dad used to have in the shed? I think that stuff will kill anything.
Even if it’s not guaranteed to stop infection, if you strip naked and give yourself a liberal coating then if you do get stopped by the cops on your second walk they’ll never be able to grip you!
More stories in the press about people ignoring social distancing rules, including West Midlands Police breaking up more than 20 people at a public BBQ. Is anyone else really surprised that the human race has managed to, so far, avoid becoming extinct?
News breaks that Prince Charles has tested positive for Covid-19. Lots of social media outrage because he’s managed to actually get a test. I wonder if it’s anything to do with him being the 71 year old heir to the British throne?!
Boris gives the tea-time brief but he looks a bit ropey and I start some Chinese whispers that he may have got the Corona lurgy. I discover that Chinese whisper games are less fun when there’s just you and your wife in self-isolation.
Thursday 26th March
I wouldn’t say that I’m starting to get institutionalised but I’m considering asking my wife to give me a facial teardrop tattoo using biro ink and a paperclip.
The results are in for my ‘should I eat my dog? poll’. I’m pleased to say that a mere 40% of the public wanted me to take that extreme course of action, whereas 50.4% of participants suggested ‘a longer daily walk’.
On the one hand it’s reassuring to know that most respondents are sensible but it has scuppered my planned next poll question: ‘Curry or stew?’
News breaks that Boris has tested positive for Covid-19. I look to my wife for some crumbs of credit for my impeccable observation skills but instead I just get a tut and am asked ‘how many slices of bread have you had today?’ I’ve had some quiet gigs in my time but this is a really tough crowd!
Rishi Sunak delivers the daily Coronavirus briefing and this time opens his bag of money for the self-employed. They can have 80% to encourage them to stop at home – but can go out and get another job if they like! Might be me but I don’t get that at all…
At 8pm we go outside and clap to say thank you to the NHS workers. Lots of clapping all around us – feels nice.
Fri 27th Mar
I’m up early excited that my new Fair Cop series goes out at 11.30am. I attempt to draw attention to it by childishly scribing on pictures of important people!
The show is well received and people say nice things which makes me very happy.
That afternoon I watch a TV interview where Tony Blair tells the Government exactly what they should be doing to deal with this pandemic. Whenever there’s a crisis these former Prime Ministers become expert advisers – just a shame they didn’t peak a bit earlier really.
Speaking of the politically astute I tune in to the Coronavirus briefing. It’s not very often you’ll hear me say that I’m missing Boris Johnson but having listened to Michael Gove for half an hour…
At 8pm I was outside clapping for 5 minutes entirely on my own – thanks for leaving me hanging ya bastards!
Sat 28th Mar
It’s the weekend but you can’t really tell…
Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, did the teatime briefing. He’s a little bit Westworld and to be honest I’m missing the Boris briefings, simply because I’m a big fan of random unpredictability – you never know when he’s just going to stop mid-sentence and just blow a raspberry.
At last some good news as the Government announce a special concession that we can all spend an hour less in lockdown – by that I mean the clocks will all go forward an hour.
The next IT’S A FAIR COP episode, 11.30 am on Friday 3rd April, is all about privacy laws – which given the current times and the fact that the NHS is developing a Covid-19 Tracking App, it’s probably a discussion we need to be having.
Anyway that’s all for now, I need to nip out for a loaf…
Afie’s Coronavirus diary 15th – 22nd March 2020
Sunday 15th March
I wake up in Staffordshire after the previous night’s tour show in Leek. As the Coronavirus is continuing to spread the official Government advice is to ‘wash your hands, stay at home if you have symptoms or you’re aged 70+’. That means if things get really desperate we can’t even bring in Dad’s Army as they’ll all be self-isolating!
I drive to Nottingham and begin that evening’s tour show with a very silly gag: ‘Thanks for coming out for the last time in 2020’ – it was such a ridiculous thing to say that everyone laughed…how little did we all know what was coming?
Monday 16th March
Travelled onward to Lincoln for that evening’s corporate engagement. When I arrived at the hotel it was pretty lively, in fact I only just managed to grab the last parking space. There was sunshine, shoppers, and a buzz around the city. Although I did notice people were waddling about with bags crammed full and shelves starting to empty.
I was instantly drawn in to the herd hoarding mentality and made the decision to panic buy! And let me give a belated apology to those behind me in the Greggs queue – I now realise that two sausage rolls and a steak bake was just plain greedy!
As I relaxed in my hotel room I was too wrapped up in the adrenalin rollercoaster that is back-to-back Tipping Point followed by the Chase, to bother with the news, and so, when I turned up for pre-dinner drinks at the corporate function I was surprised to hear everyone panic gossiping about the Boris Johnson Coronavirus briefing.
I was overhearing snippets such as ‘everyone should stop all unnecessary travel’. During dinner I learned he’d also suggested that we ‘avoid pubs, clubs and theatres and work from home where possible’. I have it on very good authority that if you’re married to a comedian the very last thing you want is for them to work from home!
As soon as my hilarious after-dinner speech was done I said my goodbyes and went back to my room, washed my hands, opened up my laptop and began to soak up the life-changing news. Social media was full of outrageous tales of greed and panic buying….
Forty eight hours ago we were a society that discretely followed the Asda staff person around the store tasked with sticking on the ‘whoops!’ labels…and now…we’re hunting in salivating rabid packs threatening Edna at the deli if she doesn’t throw you a bag of off-cuts!
Tuesday 17th March
I awake and switch on the telly to see the world was changing before my very eyes and things we took for granted were now beyond our reach. They’d even suspended EastEnders filming after the Coronavirus had refused to work with Phil Mitchell.
There were tales of doom, gloom and bankruptcy. On a personal level, cancelled gig emails started to fill my inbox – everything I had in my diary for the next few weeks had suddenly disappeared. I make my essential journey home to begin my new life of isolation.
The day’s Coronavirus briefing sees Boris introduce the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who gives an impressive assured performance – promises of tax breaks, grants and loans. In response people say ‘thank you’…for about half an hour and then immediately go for the jugular and say ‘that’s not enough’. They were right it wasn’t…
Wednesday 18th March
I catch a bit of Trump announcing he’s got Coronavirus completely under control. I’m starting to think that man may have a complex relationship with the truth.
The police are given emergency powers to detain infected people. This seems to cause a ‘police state’ stir on social media but I for one don’t believe the cops will be driving around throwing the elderly and vulnerable in the back of van if they look a bit ‘peaky’ – as they will probably be a smidgen busy doing other stuff. And in my policing experience bringing those infected with deadly viruses back to the nick doesn’t make you very popular!
At Boris’s teatime briefing everyone was hoping that the Chancellor would turn up again with further cash promises but instead Boris appeared with the two medical honchos and announces that it’s time for the schools to close.
Not for everyone. Schools will remain open for children of the following key workers: police, NHS and toilet paper makers.
There follows an instant social media panic and Mom’s being interviewed on TV, worried that their sixth-form child genius (who’s been an idle bastard for the first eleven years), will not now be getting his well-earned university place.
I put out on social media the fib that the Government have just announced that GCSE and A-level students will be awarded grades using an ‘honesty box’ system where students will be asked ‘what do you think you would’ve got?’ I’m sorry to say that some people believed I was actually telling the truth!
Okay, my bad for fibbing but that particular piece of fake news is the equivalent of me saying that Elvis Presley has just ridden into Westminster on the back of the Loch Ness Monster bringing five magic beans that are the antidote for Coronavirus! Although Boris would probably try one just in case…
Thursday 19th March
The Queen steps in and tells the commoners to ‘calm down calm down’ – you tell ‘em Ma’am!
I watch a TV press conference with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Science Adviser. There’s a room full of journalists and someone coughing almost incessantly for at least 15 minutes and no one addresses this in any way – I found this almost surreal.
Everyone is waiting for the Boris briefing which is now getting the sort of viewing figures that Simon Cowell would chew his own arm off for -providing his veneers hold firm. Everyone is hoping to see the Chancellor flashing the cash but instead it’s the medical honchos again.
Boris is putting in his usual passionate performance and I’m sure he’s saying something really meaningful but the sound quality is so bad that it actually sounds like he’s talking through comb and tissue paper and no one seems to have the technical ability to sort it…
I was aware that there was a new number being thrown about ‘Twelve weeks – with careful planning we can crack it in twelve weeks’. Mate – how can you sort out the world’s deadliest virus when you’ve not even got the careful planning to sound-check the lectern mic!
Boris was still insincerely thanking everyone for their efforts, although he and the chemical brothers were informing that some people are being a bit naughty and they need to take social distancing more seriously. He was being a bit nicey nicey for my liking – I wanted him to throw in slightly stronger phrases like: ‘Try to think of others’ and ‘You’re killing innocent people you ***king morons!’
Fri 20th March
Some of the licencing sector decided to fight back and the Guardian ran with the story: ‘Tim Martin vows to keep his 867 branches of Wetherspoons open’.
I agree that Wetherspoons should stay open. In fact I think they should have one big lock-in with other like-minded individuals. CCTV coverage of this social experiment should be beamed into our homes daily until we open the doors in 3 months and see who’s left alive.
Mr Martin seems to know best and he is confident that ‘closing UK pubs will not stop coronavirus’. Perhaps it’s a well-known medical fact that Stella and reformed scampi makes the immune system invincible?
Boris seemed a tad upset with ‘nice but dim Tim’ and decided to go all alpha and announce that all pubs, clubs and theatres will close indefinitely, as soon as possible and in any case before midnight.
Boris Johnson 1 Tim Martin 0
At last the Chancellor makes a reappearance and offers to splash the cash for workers with the promise of up to 80% of wages paid direct by him. Okay, he still has to sort a deal for the self-employed but let’s face it – in one week he’s gone from ‘who the hell is that guy?’ to the most popular politician of the century.
And as much as it pains me to praise a Tory – Boris does appear to be listening. Certainly in comparison to the last one – can you imagine Theresa May at the helm? She wouldn’t take advice from anyone and would’ve instantly been the self-appointed Coronavirus expert telling us to all ‘eat cakes while remaining strong and stable’
As I write this all my live work has been postponed for the coming months. I was a little concerned but now I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just landed a commission as gag writer for Michael Gove.
And as if things can’t get any worse the said news that country legend Kenny Rogers has died. My dad Big Alf was a massive fan and so I do hope he gets to see him perform live at the Heavenly Arena soon.
The press was full of pics of people having a ‘last hoorah’ in Wetherspoons. Because if you have to have soak up one last night of intelligent conversation, fine dining and culture, don’t look beyond Wetherspoons. In the history of capital punishment no death row prisoner when given the last meal option has ever said: ‘get me an early bird burger and a drink deal’.
After the news of theatres closing my solo tour has just come to an abrupt halt (dates currently being rescheduled). But never one to think of myself I decide to utilise my time and do my bit for the local community by visiting the addresses of elderly residents and shouting a gag through their letterbox.
It’s not like a normal Saturday – there is no sport. No wait – the Irish have dug-in and they’re having behind closed doors horse racing in Thurles. Seven races but no photo-finishes as the horses have to keep 2 metres apart.
After reading that there are plans to recall retired cops to help police the crisis I’ve began to watch Rambo re-runs to get me in the right frame of mind whilst waiting for the call.
After four days of isolation my hair has already started to grow!
I don’t wish to be all negative – there’s always a positive if you look hard enough. I’ve just traded my eldest son for a 12 pack of Andrex quilted so there’s still bargains to be had.
Speaking of bargains – I’ve also managed to pick up a Groupon for 3 months cheap gym membership…
Do have a listen, it’s been a funny old week and I think we all need a laugh …
Alfie Moore applies his investigative skills to find the person or person’s responsible for the current political farce. It’s definitely a crime but who dun it?!
Brexit – I’ll tell you who’s to blame….
The country may be catastrophically divided but we can unquestionably agree on one thing ‘Brexit is a shambles’.
Our great nation is in pain and I propose we start the healing process by doing what we always do best: ‘find someone to blame’. Where shall we start?
Johnny Foreigners: They came over here from their war-torn countries, applying themselves, working hard and becoming more successful than the lazy local indigenous types. Some people didn’t like that which created the perfect opening for this man…
Nigel Farage: A true man of the people. Providing that your ‘people’ are a pub full of angry EDL supporters serving out their football banning orders. Say what you like about Nige he could talk, and people hurting from recession then austerity, began to listen. That started to pile the pressure on this man…
David Cameron: ‘Call me Dave’ craved love and of course power. Yes, he was PM but when he saw that Farage was building an audience, he devised a cunning plan to quell the threat in one foul swoop – an EU Referendum! Hooraaaahh!
So, it’s all Dave’s fault then? Well, maybe and then again maybe not, as although Dave was a bit smarmy and over-confident in his remain campaign he should’ve been entitled to expect a bit of back-up from other political leaders, for example…..
Jeremy Corbyn: ‘Jeremy, JERRRRREMMMMYYY! Has anybody seen JEREMY!? Where the hell was Jeremy’s Remain Campaign!? There didn’t seem to be one. There was a rumour that he was a closet Brexiteer – either that or he had a really sore throat for 9 weeks. Shall we blame Jezza (aka Whispering Sid) then? Perhaps, but what about the…
Leave Campaign: Aka ‘Fibs on a Bus’ team. Led by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. Interesting pairing these lads. They possessed the sum total of two charismatic politicians, although Gove had none! Which meant Boris was very entertaining and more importantly, believable…and some of us did believe, or to be more precise…
17,410,742 Leave Voters: That’s a big number but blaming those dozy dafties may not be conducive to national healing.
No sooner was the last vote counted than Dave announced: ‘Bugger this for a game of soldiers I’m off….ta-ra’. It was always going to get very very messy at this point. Surely no one was daft enough to take the job and press their own political self-destruct button? But wait….what’s that running through the corn fields eager to grab the poison chalice with both hands?
Theresa May: Article 50 (soon to be renamed ‘Article Shifty’) was invoked. Now in fairness to Theresa May, and as much as I hate being fair to Theresa May, by now we’d lost the remain battle, but we still had the opportunity to cut some sort of semi-amicable deal with our EU comrades. And so, with all the charm and interpersonal skills of an angry rattle snake with toothache, Theresa skipped off to Strasbourg to make a deal. It was proving very challenging but it takes two to tango and so should we put some blame on this man….
Michel Barnier: Still angry at being given a girl’s name, Michel wasn’t playing ball and his vague responses were like listening to fellow iconic Frenchman Eric Cantona at a post-match press conference.
May repeatedly asking: ‘What’s your best deal please?’ And Barnier just coming out with abstract seagull bollocks.
Although Barnier fell short of delivering a two-footed kung-fu kick he continued the football theme: ‘If you choose to leave the club then go on a free transfer’.
Can we blame Barnier and the EU then? Maybe not. Their club, their rules.
Theresa put her best compromise, the withdrawal agreement, to the House of Commons, three times. And three times John Smircow and the House laughed in her face. So, shall we blame…
MP’s: For not bending? Either way, Theresa was a broken woman and the Tory faithful voted in the only chance to save the day…..Boris! Boris! Boris! Boris!
Boris Johnson: ‘What’s your plan Boris?’ ‘We’re leaving on 31st October 2019’ ‘But what’s your plan Boris?’ ‘We’re leaving on 31st October 2019’ ‘Yes, but what’s your plan Boris?’ ‘We’re leaving on 31st October 2019’
As I write this Boris is in Luxembourg banging the table and telling Barnier and Juncker ‘how it’s going to be’. With all the street cred of a PM who has suffered more first week Commons vote defeats than any other in history. Parliament might be prorogued but that guy could fill the commons benches with inflatable MPs and still get voted down.
The nightmare continues and I’m still not yet sure who to blame…
“The perfect crime was committed last night, when thieves broke into Scotland Yard and stole all the toilets. Police say they have absolutely nothing to go on” – Ronnie Corbett
That’s a fantastic, timeless classic, that’s guaranteed to raise a smile whether you’re nine or ninety years old. And another from the king of the silly police gag:
“West Mersea police announced tonight that they wish to interview a man wearing high heels and frilly knickers, but the Chief Constable said they must wear their normal uniforms” – Ronnie Corbett
Cop jokes are funny – it’s an irrefutable fact. But just what is it about the boys and girls in blue that make them such good gag-fodder?
My grandparents grew up laughing at the Keystone Cops, my parents grew up laughing at Carry on Constable, and I grew up laughing at Officer Dibble. There were similarities: Keystone Cops were bungling fools, the Carry on Constables weren’t much better, and Officer Dibble was always being outsmarted by Top Cat.
Cue the first distinctive stereotype that form the basis of police jokes.
1: Cops are a bit thick.
Me: I got stopped last night by a policeman.
Cop: ‘I’m going to follow you to the nearest Police Station’.
Me: ‘What For?’.
Cop: ‘I’ve forgotten the way’- Tommy Cooper
This stereotype has been running for over 400 years and I tell you who I blame – Shakespeare! One of his ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ characters was a Police Watchman called Dogberry who was so thick that he used more malapropisms than a Donald Trump late-night Twitter rant! Who can forget the Dogberry thigh-slapping classic:
“We will spare for no wit, I warrant you. Here’s that shall drive some of them to a nonecome. Only get the learned writer to set down our excommunication, and meet me at the jail” – William Shakespeare
Even through your hysterical laughter I’m sure that you spotted the gag? Yes, he used the word ‘excommunication’ instead of ‘examination’. Okay, that joke could’ve done with a bit of an edit. I mean, far be it for me to criticise the Bard, but that man had longer set-ups than Stewart Lee!
To be fair, I could be said to have kept the stereotype running with this little beauty:
“I was speaking at a police conference the other day and a very senior police officer actually walked out. Turns out he was offended…after some of my jokes had been explained to him!” – Alfie Moore
So, is it really true that coppers are a bit thick? Put it this way – I’ve been a cop for over 20 years and I had to Google the meaning of the word malapropism!
2: Cops are a bit fat.
In this country we’ve always subscribed to the image of the rotund, avuncular, red-faced village bobby (with the exception of plain-clothes detectives – who are all portrayed as alcoholics!) For the experts on ‘fat cop’ jokes we have to go across the pond where the association between cops and doughnuts has been running for decades. There are various theories behind this – cops working 24/7 had limited food options. Although, ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ founder William Rosenberg actively encouraged officers into his premises to protect the stores. Tough gig! Whatever the reason the gags came thick and fast:
Cop: ‘Where are you going?’
Driver: ‘The donut shop’
Cop: ‘Why were you driving at 110mph?’
Driver: ‘Because if I don’t beat you there, there won’t be any donuts left’ – Anon
Once again, I’ve sometimes reinforced the fat cop stereotype on stage (but mainly in KFC outlets):
“I realised I was overweight when I recently chased an elderly shoplifter around Tesco …..and she lapped me!” – Alfie Moore
3: Cops are aggressive
‘How many cops does it take to throw a prisoner down the stairs? None, he fell Sarg’ – Anon
An aggressive police officer may even set their dog on you and if that happens try and follow this advice:
“If you’re being chased by a police dog try not to go through a tunnel, and then over a little see-saw, then jump through a hoop of fire. They’re trained for that”. – Milton Jones
Ironically our American friends seem to think the concept that UK cops are aggressive is ridiculous:
“In England the Police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime the police will say ‘stop, or I’ll say stop again!” – Robin Williams
4: Cops are corrupt
I’ve just got one response to this unfortunate stereotype:
“Anybody says that the police are corrupt can kiss my Rolex!” – Alfie Moore
5: Cops are a bit racist
Those with a nervous disposition and a penchant for political correctness should stop reading now:
“How many cops does it take to change a light bulb? None. They’d arrest the bulb for being broke and beat up the room for being black” – Anon
Stereotype? What stereotype?
Now, you’ve probably noticed that these stereotypes feel a tad on the negative side and you may be wondering how I feel about that?
The answer is that I’m absolutely delighted.
I believe that the British tradition of poking fun at authority figures is very healthy. The police represent power and authority and that attracts humour. We are allowed to make the jokes, and laugh at them, because we have freedom of speech. That’s why we share videos of the Baby Shark song playing over our Prime Minister dancing like she’s being tasered. It’s funny!
Sadly, not everyone has this basic human right. The most controversial joke, in fact the only joke, in North Korea today would probably be:
“Why did the Supreme Ultimate Leader cross the road? To get an official Democratic People’s Republic of Korea state approved hair cut” – Alfie Moore
I bet Dogberry would find that gag absolutistly hilarious… (as he realised that it was a clever malapropism callback :-))
Long live our love of police jokes and our freedom to tell them.
Finally……….. a newsflash just in:
“After a series of crimes in the Glasgow area, Chief Inspector McTavish has announced that he is looking for a man with one eye. If he doesn’t find him, he’s going to use both eyes.” – Ronnie Corbett
The new series of the hit comedy show It’s a Fair Cop returns to BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 31st May in its new time slot of 11.30am. The first episode kicks off with Barry the Burglar – which will surely resonant with all those who believe that an Englishman’s (and Woman’s!) home is their castle.
Once again former Detective Sergeant Alfie Moore swears the studio audience in as cops for the duration of the show and, as he reveals one of his true-life cases, invites them to say what they’d have done – often with hilarious results. Using his trademark blend of humour and experience of the law Alfie provides fascinating insights into the dilemmas that police officers face every day – with plenty of laughs along the way.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up (unless you’re driving of course – because that would be illegal!) and prepare to be thoroughly entertained.