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MERGER MOST HORRID!

Byline: By Matt Withers Wales on Sunday

There are many strong arguments against the merger of the four Welsh police forces.

It's going to be an expensive, bloated, bureaucratic mess. The sheer cost of rebranding and relocating them into one body is going to have a huge impact on council tax. And rural areas will see the centres of power move further away into towns and cities.

But the strongest argument is this: those people running North Wales Police might end up running operations across the whole country.

Be afraid...

North Wales Police, led by Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom (pictured below), demonstrated once again last week that its prioritising is, to say the least, er...a tad on the erratic side.

First of all, it emerged the force had written to newspaper columnist Allison Pearson after wrongly accusing her of making racist remarks on television.

Daily Mail rentaquote Pearson received a letter from the force about a complaint that she used the apparently offensive phrase 'little Welshies' during an appearance on BBC One's Question Time.

The supercops in Old Colwyn swung into action, launching an investigation into Pearson, forgetting that (a) She didn't actually say that on Question Time; (b) She wasn't even on Question Time the date in question; and (c) she is herself Welsh, so was effectively being accused of racially harassing herself, which poses an interesting philosophical question. The force has now apologised.

Second, it appears the force is STILL pursuing an investigation into PM Tony Blair, seven whole years after he apparently uttered the phrase 'F***ing Welsh' while watching Labour get drubbed during the first National Assembly elections.

Despite announcing several months ago the investigation had been dropped, North Wales officers have apparently travelled to London in the past few weeks to interview Pat McFadden, a Labour MP who, as Blair's former political secretary, was in the room at the same time as the potty-mouthed PM was using the language of the snooker hall.

They also questioned Lance Price, the former spin doctor whose otherwise deadly dull book made the allegations and who now lives in France, and have made a request to speak to Blair's former press supremo and Lions tour ruiner Alastair Campbell.

Confirming the probe was still under way, a North Wales Police spokeswoman told me last night: 'The investigation has been live for three months.

'We're hopeful of reaching a conclusion next month. The issue of sanction will be considered when it is complete.'

Apparently, Downing Street insiders are 'relaxed' about the investigation.

Well, of course they are. Does anybody really expect to see Tony Blair being frogmarched out of Downing Street in handcuffs by North Wales officers and charged with race-hate crimes? There's more chance of seeing him skip hand-in-hand with Gordon Brown down Whitehall singing Bring Me Sunshine.

So why bother with the investigation, other than the fact London is quite a nice place to have a day out (even allowing for two hours interviewing Mr McFadden, that still leaves a good afternoon to visit the Planetarium or the London Eye)?

This is what will happen: the case will be quietly dropped, enterprising journalists or MPs will find out how much it cost and, once again, North Wales Police will be left looking very silly indeed.

Five years ago, the same force spent pounds 3,800 and 96 hours investigating comments made by TV presenter Anne Robinson on her show The Weakest Link, a case to which four senior officers had to be assigned. She had referred to the Welsh as 'irritating and annoying'.

If she had used those words to describe North Wales Police she would probably have had a point.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 9, 2006
Words:613
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