Andrew Mitchell and The Wrong Note ‘I’m now going to go in and get on with my work’. A week after the incident in Downing Street which prompted Plebgate, Government chief whip Andrew Mitchell MP sought to sign off on the whole sorry business. Approaching his office, he addressed the ensuing company of journalists and camera operators, repeating for their benefit his personal apology to the police officers concerned. As Mitchell finished making his statement and moved across the wide Whitehall pavement towards his office, he hoped he had done enough to remove himself from the news agenda. But the grain of his voice didn’t make for an easy escape. It was most noticeable in that last sentence, after he had completed the scripted apology: the how-now-brown-cow vowels; mouth shaped in a choirboy’s ‘o’; purity of tone. Having shown you people around, the Captain of School seemed to be saying, I must now go to the Pavilion and get on with the Game. Good of you to come and visit, his tousled hair appeared to add. It wasn’t yer actual Hooray stuff (in any case, BoJo shows this is passable as long as you make a point of hamming it up). Simply something extra in his voice: surplus and virtuous. Spoken in all sincerity, most likely; but hard to credit when so many are feeling pinched and grubby, or said to be. Schooled at Rugby, the Royal Tank Regiment and Jesus College, Cambridge, Andrew Mitchell gave voice to British authority, the way it used to sound. Sounding like that in 2012 he was always going to have to resign.
Deborah Glass, Independent Police Complaints Commission Wide-eyed through rimless glasses, high-vaulted eyebrows drawn into a look of continual surprise. But the default expression – Shock! Horror! – of Deborah Glass, deputy-chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is offset by the calm authority of her voice, as she reads a lengthy statement on the Commission’s new inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. The biggest ever inquiry into police activity. Begin by reviewing 450 000 pages of documentation. Precise, deliberate diction of someone accustomed to high stakes: Glass worked in Zurich as an investment banker, before becoming a financial regulator, and, latterly, police complaints commissioner. Occasionally the sandpaper sound of her Australian upbringing (Monash U, LLB 1982, couldn’t wait to get away from her first job as a solicitor in Melbourne), but hardly enough even to call it a twang. Earrings and a pearl necklace above an oddly informal white top (bunching up beneath her linen jacket, more T-shirt than blouse). Fine hair (needs volume) and a wonky parting; but the heavy metal coiffure favoured by many professional women, would only have done her a disservice. Here, we are told, and we can see and hear it for ourselves, is human frailty tempered by due process. A personal, personable metaphor for the painstaking work of the IPCC, allegedly.
George Entwistle, BBC Does he normally wear a tie? In his new job (Director General of the BBC), probably; but the tie George Entwistle’s wearing today might have been made to look like it doesn’t belong to him. Similarly the suit, which says of the wearer: he’s got one on but don’t think of him as ‘a suit’. Certainly not a pinstripe or chalk stripe, red braces and Tag Heuer ‘suit’. None of that ‘neo-liberalism’ in here, thank you. This is the present-day face of UK ‘public service’ management: spectacles which look to Europe (surely seen on Borgen last year) rather than the USA; so too, his haircut – Dutch modernist typographer, or, if you’re not attuned to such things, just plain short (but fluffy short; not even a wafer-skinned waif could describe it as bristling); ditto the management style – emphasis on procedurerather than Reithian personal authority, or equally Reithian subordination to a greater cause. (BBCprocedure now dictates that we should have access to the Director General’s written declaration of personal interests, in which he declares that he has none.) The D-G – insiders still refer to the ‘D-G’, pronounced as two long syllables to match the duration of ‘B-B-C’ (short, short, long) – is holding a press conference to announce two inquiries into the fallout from Sir Jimmy Savile (a third inquiry into sexism and harassment at the Beeb, may be announced shortly). Oddly, Entwistle appears before a blank canvas (no image projected onto it, not a BBC logo in sight); unless it’s a ploy to keep the BBC brand away from such toxicity. Tight around the mouth, during the opening section of his statement he keeps looking down, maybe at a list of keywords he’s brought with him. Perhaps not used to limelight of such intensity, after only a few weeks in the top job; or is he partly distracted by the thought of losing it, if he doesn’t succeed in getting a grip?