Damage is done

On Saturday, the news broke of the arrest of six street cleaners in Westminster on suspicion of plotting to kill the pope. The Daily Express was in tabloid heaven: MUSLIM PLOT TO KILL POPE was the screaming front page headline.

Not a plot by terrorists, I note, or even by ‘Islamic terrorists’ (as the first words of the Express article describe them). No, the headline has to point the finger at all of us; it is a ‘Muslim plot’.

Now, I don’t know any more about the background to this case than I have read in the papers. I have no idea how seriously or otherwise the police should have taken the information they received. And no doubt many people would understand a 'better safe than sorry' approach. But on Sunday, I read that the police decided there was “no credible threat” and released all six men without charge.

In short, the police received information, arrested some suspects, questioned them for a day, and then released them. On the face of it, it sounds like a normal criminal investigation.

So, now it is Monday, and I am looking at the Daily Express. Is there a front page headline screaming “NO MUSLIM PLOT TO KILL POPE AFTER ALL”?

No, I didn’t think there would be either. The damage has been done.