Look at the face of the police officer in the film as he casually slaps a young woman in the face with the back of his hand. Have you seen such an expression before? The casual, confident thuggery? The absolute sense of entitlement? It can be seen all the time on the faces of government officials, spokesmen for the "causes" supported by the government, people from the protected groups which constitute the new aristocracies of New Labour's New Britain. It's the shameless look on the face of Sharon Shoesmith, the woman who perhaps best represents New Labour's New Woman, just as Damian McBride and his control freak boss perhaps best represent New Labour's New Man. It is a look that can now even be seen on the faces of non-government busybodies "empowered" by New Labour's culture of continual, personal interference.
A fish rots from the head. New Labour has been in charge of "our" public servants for more than a decade. It is they who have put the inverted commas around the word "our." In my working life, I have observed how people naturally, albeit subconsciously, copy their leaders. Leadership carries power, but also responsibility, which is why there must always be morality at the heart of its exercise. Lying, spinning, smearing brazen thuggery has been the way in which our country has been run for so long that many public servants now know no other way. Some will fall naturally into line when and if a new style of government arrives. They will be the weakest and/or the most cynical ones. But it will take sustained, strong, moral leadership - and not a few tough examples set - to bring those like the police man in the movie back into the fold of decency.
Prodicus summed it up yesterday with a sporting metaphor - "They only go for the man, never the ball". He makes a fair point well, but too mildly. Rachel says "shame on you" and she's right, but not completely so. The real shame is on us, whether we became the people with the cold dead eyes, or whether we submitted to them. The message needs to be delivered by each of us - not just to this government but to all future ones - that there are limits, ethical limits, to what government is entitled to do and say. Without those limits to naked power, the cold, dead look in that policeman's eyes will be the fate of us all.