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James Anderton

Ed Glinert here:

As the journalist who did more pieces (for City Life and Private Eye) than anyone on James Anderton, the former Greater Manchester chief constable who died on 5 May aged 89, can I remind younger readers just how ridiculous he was.

When Anderton became chief constable of the newly-formed Greater Manchester Police in 1976 he quickly announced that he had a direct line to God and stated that he might be the living reincarnation of Oliver Cromwell. He sent coppers in motor boats flashing torches underneath the arches of the Rochdale Canal looking for men having sex with other men. He later denounced AIDS sufferers as “swirling around in cesspit of their own-making”.

Farcically, he sent out officers disguised as likely victims of mugging (shades of Charles Hawtrey in Carry on Constable here) to entrap possible felons. Joking aside, his officers committed dreadful attacks on two students demonstrating against the appearance of the Tory home secretary Leon Brittan at Manchester University.

His main schtick was that if people lived by his Biblical puritan moral code there would be less crime. Yet his force had the worst clear-up rate in the country and in terms of crime has never recovered from the embarrassment he caused the area.

One of my favourite pieces on the chaos within GMP during his tenure was how a friendly copper was sat in the car park at GMP HQ, Chester House, early 1990s, bugging Anderton’s office upstairs on the top floor and sending me the transcript of his meetings, parts of which we published verbatim. He went mad, called in his main lieutenants and in his soft burr announced:

“Gentlemen, we have a mole . Someone is bugging this office and sending the conversations to Ed Glinert.”

The next issue we printed that very conversation.