We mostly talk about the Spycops scandal – the revelation that undercover police officers, while infiltrating political groups, stole the names of dead children, and impregnated the women they were spying on before vanishing into the ether – as one scandal: one relating to the treatment of the women involved, the lies they were told both by the police officers in question and by the state, in which they were robbed of their ability to give informed consent.
And that is, of course, a big part of the Spycops scandal. But now, thanks to fantastic investigative work by the Guardian we know that Spycops is not one scandal, but two: the second relating to overall police and government priorities. Why? Because we now know that the far left was hugely over-represented in the political groups chosen for infiltration. Over a 37 year period, 121 groups across the anti-war, environmentalist, anarchist and Trotskyist left were infiltrated by the police: but just three far-right groups (Combat 18, the British National Party, and the United British Alliance) were infiltrated.
That matters, albeit for different reasons than the treatment of the women involved. We know, too, that Prevent has been sluggish – although there has been an improvement in recent years – to recognise and monitor far right radicalisation. Part of the reckoning for the Spycops scandal has to be about how the state treated the women involved. But another part has to be about a state that is far more keen to investigate and fear the far left than the far right.