The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore's notes: A matched pair of popes, and a patronising judge

Why does Mr Justice Mitting hold PC Rowland to such low standards? Is it because he thinks he’s a pleb?

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

Pope Francis is favourably compared to Pope Benedict in the media. I hope it is not being slavishly papist to admire both of them. For Francis, the chalice is half-full. For Benedict, it was half-empty. But one attitude is not superior to the other. The Church needs both, like Christmas after Advent, Easter after Lent. Things are, in the Christian view, very bad, yet all shall be well. Put the two men together, and you have most of what you need.

In paragraph 135 of his judgment in the Andrew Mitchell ‘Plebgate’ case, Mr Justice Mitting says that P.C. Rowland, the police officer whom Mr Mitchell was suing for libel, is ‘not the sort of man who would have the wit, imagination or inclination to invent on the spur of the moment an account of what a senior politician had said to him in a temper’. In paragraph 174, however, the judge says that Mr Rowland did give a false account of how members of the public reacted to the incident. He goes on: ‘Embellishment of a true account by a police officer on the defensive is, of course, not acceptable, but it is understandable if done for that purpose.’ So he doesn’t make things up on the spur of the moment, but does later, and that is sort of all right: a striking doctrine, especially from a judge, of what is permissible in police evidence. I think what Mr Justice Mitting is really saying, if you strip out judicial phraseology, is that P.C. Rowland is a pleb, therefore to be judged by low standards. Because the judge believes that Mr Mitchell used that wicked word, he (Mr Mitchell) is now £2-£3 million poorer. Mr Justice Mitting is just as offensive to Mr Rowland as Mr Mitchell is alleged to have been. His career, however, is unimpeded.

P.C. Rowland, says the judge, ‘was determined to do his duty as he saw it, whoever he might inconvenience’. It was ‘to maintain the security of Downing Street, by upholding the policy which he believed applied’. This may be so, but the policy itself is stupid. The best way to uphold security is to get ‘buy-in’ from the people you are protecting. You will not do this if you take pride in inconveniencing them. Good security, such as prevails in Israel, concentrates on real threats, not on petty-foggery. Downing Street protection is ill-prepared for an actual attack, but accomplished at snarling up daily business. If you doubt me, walk past the gates and see how often the fat, unshaven policemen are talking to one another, and how often they are actually watching.


The death of Jeremy Thorpe reminded me of a different era. My father worked for him in the early 1970s, so I used, as a schoolboy, to visit his office in Parliament. Often I walked into the Commons unimpeded, without a pass. If I was stopped by the smart, polite policemen on the gate, they used their own judgment to assess the risk I posed, rather than bureaucratic rules. Thorpe himself I liked very much. He had that famed quality of charm — apparently total interest in the person spoken to. Party leaders did not seem very busy in those days, and once or twice he took me to lunch or tea and made me laugh. He was good at teasing. The Speaker at that time, Horace King, said he knew when Jeremy intended to launch an attack on a Tory minister, because he would arrive in the Chamber wearing an Old Etonian tie. Thorpe was thrilled when he contrived to get Megan Lloyd-George and Violet Bonham Carter, the daughters of Lloyd-George and Asquith, who had feuded since 1916, into his car at the same time. He said, ‘I think you know one another.’ Lady Violet looked at Lady Megan, and said: ‘Slightly.’ Now that I know more about politicians, I can recognise in Thorpe their quite common trait of addiction to risk. I wonder if homosexual affairs became boring for him once they became legal.

In recent BBC weather forecasts, there has been even more talk than usual about ‘temperatures struggling’. They are always struggling upwards. This example of the ‘pathetic fallacy’ is anti-Green. If, as we are assured, global warming is the greatest threat to the survival of the planet, we want to try to persuade temperatures to struggle downwards. The Met Office is a leader of the catastrophist school of climate commentators. Why does it not instruct its broadcasters in the correct, gloom-laden lingo?

Early this month, the temperatures finally gave up the upward struggle. I went hunting on the marsh in crisp, clear cold. We stood about in a muddy field as hounds tried to puzzle out the trail. Perhaps it was the unwonted sun after a month of murk, but suddenly a horse went down and started to roll, narrowly avoiding its rider. Then a second, threatening its 73-year-old owner, who could be heard shouting ‘You bastard!’ from underneath it. And then a third, this time throwing a teenage girl. There was something Christmassy about this collective equine madness and the general mirth at serious misfortune narrowly avoided.

It has been a sad year for our family, because three of its much-loved members have died. One, my dear, funny and truly sainted aunt, Meriel Oliver, was the victim of myeloma. Her reaction to the diagnosis was: ‘People sometimes say “Why me?” but really, “Why not me?”.’ Then she said, ‘Well, it’s not the end of the world.’ Pause. ‘Though I suppose for me, it is.’ I was glad Hereford Cathedral was full for her memorial service, and heard this story. Most of us learn too late that one has the right attitude to one’s own death only if one has the right attitude to one’s own life, so we badly need the best examples.

Some kind readers who did not notice my original Note have been asking where I have gone. I am trying to finish volume two of my life of Lady Thatcher. I have promised the editor that this column will return weekly in the spring.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • Sean L

    Good. You are always worth reading.

  • BigCheddar

    Yes you are always worth reading and having sone so for many years, at last I find something to disagree on:

    “The best way to uphold security is to get ‘buy-in’ from the people you are protecting.”

    Sorry, incorrect. As you make allowances, so standards slip and so security is compromised. The plan has to be followed to the letter no matter who it inconveniences..

    • Mr Grumpy

      Did you make it to the end of the paragraph?

  • owl

    Yes I wonder how Pope Benedict is getting on in hiding in the Vatican after the warrant for his arrest went out in February 2013 in response to the documented crimes of child torture, trafficking and genocide linked to Pope Benedict and Vatican officials. After he fled to beg for immunity from the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on February 23rd 2013 the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church & State (ITCCS) called on Napolitano “not to collude in criminality”. Pope Benedict then went into hiding on Vatican soil – from which he cannot be arrested.

    • Basil Damukaitis

      You have it entirely wrong. Pope Benedict did more to stop paedophilia than any bishop. He changed the laws of the Roman Curia that accused paedophilia come directly under the CDF and removed several priests and bishops (66+bishops and hundreds of priests). He fastracked their laicization, so you are entirely incorrect.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Uncle Fester meets ……
    Complete the caption competition.

  • justejudexultionis

    I’ll stick to my evangelical Protestantism, thanks. Why don’t you Romanists start taking the Word of God seriously?

    • Basil Damukaitis

      Why don’t you Protestants? It’s pretty clear what John the Evangelist’s “Bread of Life discourse” means, yet you reject the Eucharist, the Petrine ministry (also scriptural). All Protestants have done in denouncing the papacy is make every pastor a pope…he/she gets to determine what Scripture means and is it’s official interpreter. Why don’t you let the people who codified the books of the Bible interpret it, the successors of the Apostles (bishops) who codified it at Nicaea in 325.

      • owl

        Amazing – here is monotheism in action – one single male rules supreme and every other male is wrong – in other words, endless war, the addiction of male culture. Meanwhile the female is the greatest threat to this concept, so the Great Goddess Eve is reduced to mortal status and Her Garden reduced to a war torn wasteland. But, needing a womb – as Barbara Walker (1983:258) and Bruno Bettelheim observed, womb envy becomes the fixation of patriarchy, and all early patriarchal gods are male mothers, In Islam men ritually dance around the Kaaba at Mecca – the Womb Stone of the Goddess Allat, The mythology of these Bronze and Iron Age religions have continued to legitimise the control of the womb by men throughout history. In the twentieth century men have been trying to give birth since the 1930’s and in the twenty first century Radio 4 announced that a man had bought a baby to term – not alive. In the Times in 2009 it was announced that womb transplants would be available by 2011 – and I wondered if these were for the rising number of transexuals (who still have 100% male DNA) – “The Female Man” of Joanna Russ’ prophetic novel. Now I hear that thousands of poor women in India are being forcibly sterilised, and wonder if their wombs are being sold as transplant organs. As Brian Turner notes (1983:2,13) “religion lies at the crucial interchange between nature and culture in the formation of societies and the creation of human attributes…a materialist interpretation of religion does not, therefore, regard religious data as mere ephiphenomena of more fundamental social processes; on the contrary, it locates religion at the centre of social production and reproduction”.

  • Basil Damukaitis

    It is Pope Francis who sees the glass as half empty, and Pope Benedict who saw it as half full. Pope Benedict’s first encyclical was entitled “Hope”. Benedict was always encouraging and spoke of the joy of the Gospel (see the Annuario Pontificio from his pontificate). This pope ironically is entirely dour and loves to point out what priests and bishops do wrong, rather than encourage them. He also loves to point out negative actions and talk about how wrong they are (gossip, etc…) Not that what he says is bad, but it is consistently negative. Pope Benedict always seemed to find an encouraging word in homilies, Angelus addresses, etc….

  • owl

    Basil – A copy of the complete text of the ITCC’s letter follows: “In response to the documented crimes of child torture, trafficking and genocide linked to Pope Benedict and Vatican officials, the ITCCS will be sponsoring a series of ongoing protests and occupations of Roman Catholic churches and offices through its affiliates around the owrld beginning in Easter week, March 24-31, 2013, and continuing indefinitely. These actions will accompany the legal efforts to bring Joseph Ratzinger and other Vatican officials to trial for their proven complicity in crimes against humanity and criminal conspiracy. The Easter Reclamation Campaign will seize church property and assets to prevent their use by child raping priests, who are protected under Catholic canon law. Citizens have this right to defend their communities and children when the authorities refuse to do so, under international law. Rev. Kevin Annett and an official delegation from the ITCCS Central Office will also be convening a formal human rights inquiry in Rome commencing the week of May 13th, 2013, to consider further charges against the Vatican and its new Pope for crimes against humanity and obstruction of justice. Rev. Annett and his delegation will be working with organizations across Italy in this investigation. In 2009 and 2010, he held rallies outside the Vatican and met with the media and human rights groups across Italy to charge the Vatican with the death of more than 50,000 aboriginal children in Canada.” For more information contact ITCCS and Rev. Annett at itccscentral@gmail.com and see http://www.itccs.org I hope this is of some use, Basil. I, myself, wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in 2010 to ask, “how old was the Virgin Mary when Jehovah had sex with her? I had been studying Moon Gods and discovered that, worldwide, they were considered to rape or have sex with young girls to bring on menarche. This would put the Virgin Mary at about 11 or 12 years old. Although the Archbishop would not comment, I was interested to discover in the end notes of his ministry that he had distanced himself from the Nativity and was now calling it a legend. Studying the construction of power for my MA I discovered that ‘authority’ is the cheapest way to have power and this is obtained and maintained by religion and art. Thus in Islam the Prophet Muhummed, aged 54, marries and has sex with a nine year old girl, Aisha, and this has legitimated the Ayatolla Khomeni to set the marriage age for girls at nine – to old men. Watching the Nativity, performed by little children is quite creepy. After God – depicted as an old man – had sex with the Virgin Mary, she was married off to another old man. The Bible is full of sexual abuse against girls and women and this legitimises paedophilia all around the world. Burn this book.

    • alfredo

      If any ‘institute of learning’ has awarded you an MA, or indeed any educational qualification whatsoever, they need their heads examining.

  • Joey Edgecombe

    Pope Benedict could never walk by a cat without stopping I once read.
    But Pope Francis is my favourite.

Close