I’m not exactly as ecstatic as Guido is over Lord Levy’s “perp walk” – relishing in political scandal as Mr Fawkes does is part of the problem (feel free to call me self-righteous in the comments section). But I will defend the police’s decision to arrest Levy, which Labour politicos are lining up today to denounce as “theatrical” (yet were strangely reticent to condemn Sir Ian Blair’s impersonation of Cecille B De Mille when the Metros descended on Forest Gate last month).
The truth is, justice is – and has to be – theatrical. A barrister friend of mine gave me an impassioned defence of the practice of wearing wigs in court a couple of weeks ago. His point was that the courts should have a degree of other-worldliness to them because the decision to deprive someone of their personal liberty is a serious business. The courts should be intimidating because that discourages people to hold them in contempt.
Jonathan Freedland has a fairly balanced article about the Levy affair today (the headline is misleading), making the point that white collar workers in the US can expect to be dragged out from their offices in handcuffs if they get caught with their metaphorical hand in the figurative till. That this – and Lord Levy’s arrest – is regarded as shocking while the indiscriminate handing out of ASBOs to kids in council estates doesn’t register the merest flicker of the political establishment’s collective eyebrow says a lot about how class is alive and well in the 21st century UK.
When “great” men like Lord Levy are accused of doing wrong, it is vital that we see them humbled. One of the most fundamental principles of our society is that justice must be seen to be done. A cosy fireside chat between the the Prime Minister’s tennis chum and Yates of the Yard doesn’t cut it I’m afraid.