THERE was a very bleak humour to be had in learning that Simon Case, top civil servant turned Whitehall-Christmas-party-investigator-extraordinaire, had stepped down from the position following revelations that he allegedly threw a festive bash of his own for 20 members of his staff.

It was certainly funny enough that I felt compelled to interrupt a family dinner on Saturday evening to break the news to dark laughter. I’ll leave you, reader, to speculate on what the results of Case’s investigation might have been, given it appears he took on the job in the full knowledge that he himself was guilty of the very thing he was investigating.

READ MORE:  

That aside, at this point it would probably be faster to compose a list of who within the British Government was not breaking coronavirus guidelines at the tail end of 2020 – and with each new revelation we get a clearer image of a government that believes itself to be operating above the rules that govern us mere mortals.

Yet with each new turn of the screw, the question comes back again and again: why have the police declined to investigate apparent rule breaches with such determination?

Unmoved by a growing pile of photo and video evidence, the Met increasingly looks wildly removed from a public whose trust in the government has rapidly plummeted, citing instead that they don’t investigate retrospective breaches of the rules – an odd stance for any policing institution to take outwith the movie Minority Report.

So hesitant have they been, in fact, that I’m almost expecting the next leaked photo from Whitehall’s 2020 holiday bonanza to be of Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (pictured) necking a bottle of port with Priti Patel.

Of course, the real reason is far simpler. People like Johnson – those with wealth and power – act like they live under a different set of rules to the rest of us because, quite simply, they do.

The institution of policing has always, primarily, been used to protect the wealth, property and interests of the upper classes, regardless of the motives and intentions of individual police officers – though the recent sentencing of Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis for taking and sharing photos of the murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry suggests individual officers have their own issues.

It’s why shiny police boots will callously stamp through a vigil for someone murdered by one of their own while remaining a respectful distance away from the doorstep of Downing Street, even in the face of mounting evidence of rule breaking.

And the Met is not the only institution guilty of protecting the powerful while bringing the baton down on those who challenge them, be they striking miners, gay rights activists or environmentalists.

A report released this week by police monitoring network Netpol into the tactics used during Glasgow’s COP26 summit suggested were overbearing, unnecessarily aggressive and discriminatory.

Having peacefully marched alongside 100,000 others during the November conference, I found out only after reaching Glasgow Green that sections of the non-violent march had been kettled by police, a controversial process in which officers circle and hold members of the public in place for hours at a time without reason.

I recall the frustration of watching videos of bystanders chanting to let the detained marchers go, only to have that frustration turn to disgust when Police Scotland later issued a statement online in which it claimed it was the marchers themselves who had stopped the procession – directly contradicting the eyewitness accounts and video evidence available.

Netpol’s report says accounts relating to two separate kettles on November 3-6 allege that police held infants, adolescents, elderly people and people with serious health conditions and disabilities for hours, without access to food or water, alongside rampant examples of unjustified stop and search practices and racial profiling.

The report also claims that some women were forced to urinate in the streets, having been held for so long that there was no longer any other option. Police claims that those kettled were free to leave runs counter to the experiences of both those detained and witnesses on the ground.

There’s no denying that Britain has a policing problem, and the Tories are set to make it much worse with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. For all their quips about so-called cancel culture being a great threat to the freedoms of the four nations, in reality the Westminster government is preparing to hand police forces sweeping powers to crack down on any form of protest and to allow further discrimination against already heavily policed black communities and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities – something the UK government claims is “objectively justified”.

READ MORE: 

In Scotland at least we are somewhat shielded from the autocratic leanings of Westminster’s right-wing government, but our own police system is far from innocent.

Whether it is protecting the powerful from facing the consequences of rule-breaking, or the forceful cracking down on the protesters who challenge them, this past week should have left the general public questioning more and more – just who are the police truly protecting? The answer is not so clear.

This column originally appeared in our sister title, The National, in Scotland. 

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.