The Asian policeman who got uppity

Tarique Ghaffur is claiming that he was discriminated against in the police service, and some in the

In normal circumstances, there are few sins that the right-wing papers are not happy to pin on Sir Ian Blair. The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police usually appears in their pages as politically correct, accident-prone, a Labour crony, incompetent, obsessed with minorities, outspoken on the wrong subjects and fundamentally not a "copper's copper" of the kind they claim to prefer.

Yet when it came to the choice between Blair and Tarique Ghaffur, the little-known assistant commissioner who has accused his boss of race discrimination, some on the right suddenly swallowed their objections. The case hasn't even reached the industrial tribunal, but it seems the Asian officer is already in the wrong.

Amanda Platell, writing in the Daily Mail, gives a flavour of his crimes: "The Ghaffurs fled Uganda, settled here, and he went on to become the third most powerful police officer in the land, on a salary of £180,000 a year with an £85,000-a-year pension, plus a lump sum payout of £522,000. That enabled him to comfortably raise two children and support two wives and one mistress. Now he claims to be a victim of vile racism. What a hypocrite."

The implication seems to be that immigrants in well-paid jobs (like, say, the Australian-born Platell) are not entitled to invoke the laws against discrimination, but should just count themselves lucky - especially if they are not living in model families.

The Mail likes to imply that Ghaffur did not even get where he is on merit, commenting slyly, for example, on "how rapidly he had been allowed to move up the ranks" (my italics). In fact Ghaffur's rise was no swifter, for example, than Blair's - they both joined the service in 1974, and it happens that Blair has gone one rank higher - though somehow nobody comments on how rapidly Sir Ian "was allowed" to move up the ranks.

And the Mail also quotes Ghaffur's ex-wife, who told the paper: "I think he [Ghaffur] has benefited from positive discrimination." Again, having risen so high, supposedly with help from the colour of his skin, it seems that Ghaffur should simply be grateful for what he has. (And we should certainly not pause to consider if, perhaps, Ian Blair derived any advantage from the colour of his skin - would he be commissioner, for example, if he was black?)

Over at the Sunday Times, Rod Liddle shed a characteristically helpful light on this affair by informing his readers that Ghaffur's name was "pronounced 'guffaw', and with good reason". (These people insist on having funny names; it's such a gift.)

Liddle argued that politically correct people such as Blair ask for all the trouble they get in the industrial tribunals. "The more an organisation is in hock to the doctrine of affirmative action and what have you," he wrote, "the more likely it is that opportunistic members of staff from our ethnic minorities will use the institutionally anti-racist culture to screw some money for themselves, or a better job."

It's the old story, apparently. You let these people into the country and you even give them a leg up in life, and what do they do? They turn around, opportunistically, and accuse you of discrimination.

But it's even worse than that, because they don't just operate as individuals: they're organised. "Well-placed sources have suggested the case has been hijacked by militants linked to the National Black Police Association," says the Mail, which noted that when Ghaffur gave his press conference, he "sat between two expensive lawyers".

The same things used to be said about Doreen Lawrence. The implication was then, and is now, that while the person making the complaint may appear honest, others with sinister political motives are pulling the strings.

Well, Mrs Lawrence was no puppet, as those in the Met who underestimated her found to their cost. And as for the assistant commissioner, those expensive lawyers are quick to point out on his behalf that "Ghaffur is not stupid". (Is there an implication here, by the way, that someone in his position should really be using cheap lawyers? Now that really would be stupid.)

So, is Tarique Ghaffur justified in bringing a case of racial discrimination against Sir Ian Blair? I have no idea, though I am counting on the industrial tribunal to inform us. Do I believe that it is possible, in Britain today, for an educated, successful person from an ethnic minority to be subjected to discrimination by educated, successful white people of the kind who routinely insist they don't have a racist bone in their bodies? Oh yes. I am certain of it.

Now fancy that

My headline of the week comes from the Guardian: "House of Lords has south-east bias, says report." I mean, you just had to read on.

Brian Cathcart is professor of journalism at Kingston University