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Editorial The spycops scandal shows the state is not neutral

IF THE key feature of its political strength is the Conservative Party’s famed unity then its domination is guaranteed no longer. Throughout the centuries of its evolution the Tory Party has been the political instrument in which our rulers’ various tendencies resolve their differences the better to ensure that the essential foundations of their power remain unchallenged.

Today its hegemony is threatened by a Labour Party that may well escape the strait-jacket of bipartisan politics more completely than ever before. The door to elected office has been opened by the rupture in Tory unity exposed by the parliamentary antics of the last few days.

Even when it has been expedient to concede office to Labour the notion that full control over the state apparatus should slip from the reliable hands to which it is entrusted has never been entertained by those who hold those powers.

This double standard that lies at the hypocritical heart of the British political system has rarely appeared more apparent than today when environmental campaigner Helen Steel — duped in a double deception by predatory police — exposed a system which shields its paid servants and denies protection to its wronged citizens.

Every chink in the armour of the privileged has been prised open by the determined actions of people like Steel. It is on such rocks that the wheels of the repressive state will be broken.

Liberal legend has it that the state stands above partisan conflict. The readers of the Morning Star are not an audience that needs wearying with chapter and verse on the instances which expose this a myth. Only the wilfully unsighted or the innocent believe that actions and words that challenge the power of capital pass unnoticed by its paid guardians.

No group of workers need less convincing than the 265 building workers who shared the £10 million compensation won by Unite for the decades of victimisation they suffered. It was police collusion with the big monopoly construction firms that serviced an industry-wide blacklist.

According to Inquest, over the last two decades almost 1,700 people have died in police custody or following contact with the police. Black people are more than twice as likely to be victims.

Even though coroner inquests occasionally reach unlawful killing verdicts police officers have rarely been successfully prosecuted. The first in 48 years was sixty years ago when two Leeds police were jailed for the death of David Oluwale.

The police are what might be called the customer-facing part of the state apparatus and it is inevitable that attention should be focused on their interactions with the people.

But the police are a human agency made up of officers, many competent and professional, many motivated by a spirit of public service, in many cases commanded by people conscious of the contradictions that inevitably arise when policing a society riven with class divisions and by the dual nature of their calling.

At senior command level the police are integrated — sometimes uncomfortably — into the top echelons of the security state and it is here that the relative autonomy of the deep state is apparent. To discover the extent of its real independence from the executive, and from parliamentary oversight, will be a test of a Labour government’s resolve.

At a formal level a Labour government and its prime minister, home and foreign secretaries will have very extensive powers over these instruments of state. Much of this power will remain purely formal unless the operations of these bodies become truly accountable. No-one who wants a Labour government of a new type should lose sight of this inescapable truth.

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