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.