Channel 4 was bullied by Yorkshire police into withdrawing a documentary scheduled for Friday 21 May, at 9pm, a prime slot. Titled Edge of the City, it tells of the procurement of under-age white girls for sex. Among those who do the procuring are Pakistani pimps. Enter Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn of West Yorkshire Police. He demanded that Channel 4 withdraw Edge of the City because it risked triggering violence in Manningham, Bradford, "a racially tense area". Channel 4 duly obliged.
I have spent the past 25 years broadcasting for Channel 4 and not once has a programme triggered violence in a racially tense area in the UK. Riots are by their nature spontaneous. You need two opposing sides in the same physical space, eyeballing each other, hurling insults. No one would raise himself from his couch at 10pm, having seen a TV programme, and then proceed with petrol bomb in hand spontaneously to burn down a Pakistani restaurant or a mosque.
And if Chief Constable Cramphorn and his men genuinely believe such nonsense, they have a duty to act to prevent crime, by gathering intelligence and pinpointing targets. It is not the duty of police officers to charge into Channel 4 demanding that a programme be withdrawn.
Cramphorn claims that the British National Party may use the June elections to cause trouble. On its website, the BNP had called the programme "a party political broadcast". He fears, I suppose, that the BNP will march into Manningham. But he has dealt with this type of thing adequately in the past. Three attempts by the BNP to march into Manningham have been brought to a halt with bans imposed by the Home Secretary.
But Cramphorn's autocratic behaviour, and Channel 4's craven response, are indeed to do with the elections. Labour is on the run in some of its northern constituencies. The BNP is expected to win council seats in Bradford and its leader, Nick Griffin, threatens to steal an MEP seat in the north. Labour feared the BNP could exploit the programme to win votes. But that is Labour's fight, not the police's. The chief constable's job is to keep order, not to keep out programmes from the schedule.
Last week in this column, I criticised the Commission for Racial Equality for behaving as though it were a constituency of the Labour Party. Now Channel 4 does the same. Heaven save us from any more manipulation and censorship.