Let’s think this one through. We all know that the Metropolitan police has a culture of misogyny and racism. That’s accepted by almost everyone. Even the Met. Now imagine someone who is so far above the abusive norm that he is given the nickname of “Bastard Dave” by his fellow officers. A man beyond the pale even for certified wrong’uns. The Bastard’s Bastard. That someone was David Carrick. A man whose obvious unfitness for the job seemed to be a cause of celebration rather than shame.
Not once does anyone appeared to have had second thoughts about Bastard Dave. Quite the reverse. Every time he was linked to another crime against women he seemed to get another promotion. The Met’s very own Bastardised version of confirmation bias. If Carrick was out there, committing all these crimes, then he must be “one of us”. On the side of the angels. The kind of copper to make London proud. He wasn’t even suspended when he was finally accused of rape.
Nor was Bastard Dave a one-off who slipped through the cracks. There was also the Met officer who murdered Sarah Everard. Not to mention other Met officers linked to countless other acts of sexual violence.
And those are just the ones who have been reported and we know about. Many more must have slipped under the radar, with the women involved being too frightened to speak about it.
That’s not all. There must be thousands of officers who know colleagues who are guilty of violence against women but choose to say nothing. Anything for a quiet life. It makes you wonder. The chances of being stopped by an officer in London who isn’t in some way complicit in misogyny and racism must be slim to vanishing.
So it was a decidedly sombre House of Commons that gathered to hear the home secretary’s verdict on the Carrick case. Here was Suella Braverman’s chance to act the stateswoman in front of a home crowd. MPs on all sides had gathered to give her a fair hearing and to get some answers.
And yet she blew it. Braverman can talk tough on asylum seekers. Cheer at pushing rubber dinghies back to France. Dream of deporting people to Rwanda. But she can’t bring herself to criticise an obviously dysfunctional police force. At heart, she’s got a soft spot for the Met.
Braverman began with a list of Carrick’s crimes. Twenty-four rapes and dozens of other lesser sexual offences. Something had to be done. But not very much. An ongoing inquiry should be reannounced and widened to include Bastard Dave. And possibly another inquiry should be established to investigate something else. She wasn’t sure what. But it sounded like a good idea. And that was about it. The Met had been a very naughty boy.
Understandably, this didn’t really impress Labour’s Yvette Cooper. Was that it?, she asked. How about some urgent action on the vetting procedures? It wasn’t as if Carrick had gone out of his way to cover his tracks. Quite the reverse. It had been almost as if he had been glorifying himself. Hiding in plain sight. Daring senior officers to take him down. It was as if tackling misogyny in the police was in some way surrendering to the forces of woke. And if a serial rapist was the price of winning the culture wars then so be it.
Most of the rest of the chamber seemed to side with Cooper. Priti Patel could barely conceal her contempt as she observed that she was still waiting for Braverman to act on recommendations she had made as home secretary.
But it was Harriet Harman who spoke for everyone. She wanted heads to roll. Who dreamed up the regulations that prevented the police from sacking a rapist? And wasn’t it time to say sayonara to the senior managers who had time and again promoted Bastard Dave?
Next up was the Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, to give a statement on why he had issued a section 35 order to refuse royal assent to the gender recognition act passed by Scotland’s parliament. He looked as if he would rather be anywhere than in the Commons. He rarely looked up to catch anyone’s eye, and kept his answers short and vague. As if he was going out of his way to be as unhelpful as possible. Or more likely was just terrified of saying the wrong thing.
It was like this, he said. The Scottish bill strayed on to the question of equalities, which was a reserved matter. He couldn’t say why because that was a tricky legal issue that was very boring and would be released in a letter later. He didn’t want to comment further in case he said something wrong. But it was something to do with men becoming women because they were desperate to get a lower salary. Or something.
And please don’t ask him anything about gender or equalities as he knew nothing about them. Those questions should be directed to the equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, who was sitting next to him but wasn’t allowed to speak. He was just there to discuss the constitutional issues. Though he did want to reassure the Scots that he had their best interests at heart and this wasn’t personal.
The shadow Scottish secretary, Ian Murray, was equally eager to distance himself from the whole thing. So much so that it was impossible to tell if he was for or against the government’s decision to implement section 35 of the Scotland Act. At times he appeared critical of Jack and others of the Scottish National party as he rattled through a long series of questions. He appeared delighted to have finished and to remove himself from the firing line.
Some female Tory and Labour MPs did try to raise issues of equality, the need for safe spaces for women. But they were largely shouted down by the SNP. Silencing women is not the greatest of looks when parliament is trying to have a serious debate. If you can’t talk about sensitive subjects in parliament, then where can you?
The Tory male MPs merely said that the Scots should like it or lump it. Section 35 had been in the devolution settlement and they had voted for it. So there. So grown up.
Meanwhile the SNP continued to cry foul. This was an attempt to disfranchise a nation. The bill had been put out to multiple legal consultations and none had concluded that it impinged on UK law.
The former Westminster leader Ian Blackford was adamant. This proved the case for independence. For the first time all afternoon, Jack smiled. “I’ve just won a £10 bet,” he said. Back to the lawyers.