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Gavin Haynes Sleepless Nights

How Paris Brown's 'Pikey' Tweets Expose the Modern British Generation Gap

Or why police should never work with children.
April 8, 2013, 2:15pm

It would be reasonable to assume that Paris Brown – Britain's first "youth police commissioner", a 17-year-old hired on a wage of £15,000 – hasn't enjoyed the early days of her tenure. Brown spent her Sunday sobbing a wounded penitence into national TV cameras, after some questionable tweets dug up by the Mail turned into an unguided missile of boomerang PR hurtling back into the face of the woman who hired her: newly-elected Police Commissioner for Kent, Anne Barnes.

It must've seemed like a wonderful idea around the planning tables. How are we going to get young people interested in policing issues? How are we going to "engage" with "the community"? Simple. We'll get a youth. And then that youth can be like an S Club Juniors version of the actual Police Commissioner. Just like a little Mini-Me of 67-year-old Barnes, who can explain to her what "ikr" means and which types of K-hole are no fun, and which ones have a kind of likeable quality to their strangeness. Skip to the end… youth engaged…. society changed… no more youth crime. Easy.

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Unfortunately, at no point throughout the interview process via which Brown beat some 164 other candidates to the post, did anyone stop to ask that most fundamental of interview questions: What do you think of pikeys?

Not very much, is Brown's apparent answer. The Mail went back and scrobbled through her Twitter account. Some very patient journalist read through years of the witterings of a very standard teenage girl who's probably as much a racist as she is a subscriber to The British Journal of Political Science, and every time this journalist found something they felt was offensive, or just quite sweary, or maybe just that Paul Dacre could have a good little giggle over, they'd harvest it into a Word doc. Before long, they discovered the pikey problem:

“OH MY GOD WILL YOU PIKEYS STOP NICKING THE FUCKING TRAIN TRACK METAL. I'm on a fucking replacement bus, fucking stupid moronic fucks”

And the gay problem:

“Everyone on Made In Chelsea looks like a fucking fag”

And the condoning violence problem:

“I don't condone violence but I'm so pleased that my brother thumped the fat little shit that gave his friend a black eye”

And the drugs problem:

“I really wanna make a batch of hash brownies”

And the foreign-speaking pizza delivery guy problem:

“‘Fucking hell why are the people from Direct Pizza so difficult to talk too!! IT IS CALLED ENGLISH. LEARN IT.’”

And the inflated sexual expectations problem:

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“Worst part about being single is coming home from a party/night out and having to sleep alone. BAD TIMES.”

As Paris was led away from her tearful press conference, arm in arm with her dad, they both looked traumatised. The cameras tracked them hobbling down the high street. It looked like they were walking home from the vets, off to bury a cherished family pet in a quiet corner of the back garden. Instead, it was just Brown's stillborn political career.

And more than that, those of hundreds just like her. The Kent project was supposed to be the jump-off for an entire nation of these youth cops. Brown was seen as a pilot project. Pretty soon every region would've had an analogue of her. A girl with curlers in her hair for Liverpool. A trackie-wearing one in Swansea. Some lass with hypothermia of the knees in a spangly minidress for Newcastle. And so on. All of them wearing a big hip-hop ring saying "Youth Power", and thus by the magic of "engagement with the community", these community-engaged types would tell The Brass what The Youth wanted. Less homework. Justice for Lee Nelson. Policemen to have dress-down Fridays and dance on Notting Hill floats with renewed vigour. Alas, it would now be a surprise if any of these initiatives ever come to fruition.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the background of all of this, someone was having to do an emergency Stalinist purge on the archived history of Paris. Overnight, Brown's back-catalogue of tweets has gone from 4,000 to 166. Brown herself was out front, meeting the press and being professionally sorry all day, so it seems likely that in the early-hours scramble, someone else had to take care of it all. Either someone in the Kent Police PR department was seconded to tweet-deleting duties. Or perhaps Brown's own mother had to sit there all day: deleting tweet after tweet after tweet after tweet. Click the garbage can. "Are you sure you would like to delete this tweet?" Click yes. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Another 3,831 times.

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It must've given Mrs Brown some time to wonder. Through her soft tears, as she deleted her daughter's minor slurs and sexual innuendoes, a parent must have time to really think about what it is they've brought into this world. 'Is this my own flesh?' she probably wondered. 'Where did we go so wrong that I am spending my Saturday night individually deleting some 3,834 social messages about the life of a daughter I once cradled in my arms, a tiny fleshy pot of absolute need, that I laid mouth-agape to my bosom, and now has written – what's that one say? "OMG your fucking kidding me the bus driver looks like a rapist lol”?'

Delete. Click. Repeat. Sigh. Delete. Click. Repeat. Three thousand eight hundred and thirty-four tweets: the approximate size of the generation gap in Britain today. And for all her idiocy, it's a hole that Kent Police should – and could – really have avoided dragging Paris Brown down into.

Follow Gavin and Marta on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes / @MartaParszeniew

Illustration by Marta Parszeniew

Previously – How to Defend Yourself in Court and Get DIY Justice