A dream job for a chancer on the make

The Hollywood producers said to be competing for the story of the fake eco-warrior Mark Kennedy will have to work hard to turn his sorry tale into a feelgood film. All those involved have emerged with some degree of discredit: the failed undercover cop, his incompetent employers, and the faintly absurd environmental campaigners.

Film-makers may see in Kennedy’s story a 21st-century version of Spielberg’s larky tale of a fantasisingconman Catch Me If You Can, perhaps with a saucy Mata Hari vibe added,but what is more likely to emerge is a nasty little saga of moral compromise and primness.

Has there ever been so much general whingeing and blubbing at the end of a police operation? Within days of a court case collapsing because he had offered to appear for the defence, Kennedy – or “Flash” as he liked to be known when in disguise – has claimed to be in fear of his life, while busily selling his story for all it was worth (not much, one hopes).

The police, meanwhile, having botched a misguided operation, have blamed their former employee, while the environmental activists, who can normally be depended on to show abit of defiance, have scurried straight to the heart of the establishment, the law courts. The women who went to bed with Flash Kennedy, it is claimed, have been traumatised and deserve damages.

It is not difficult to see why this operation would appeal to a man like Kennedy. He was bored, looking for adventure. For a good liar, being a fake revolutionary must have seemed like a dream job: no police discipline, the chance to grow his hair and get his arms tattooed, access to eco-babes willing to do their bit for the cause, and a very decent salary of £50,000, topped up by another £200,000 from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

Kennedy is clearly a chancer. Maybe the police force has always attracted people who put excitement and self-interest before any genuine interest in law and order, but an extraordinary self-dramatising mindset seems to have gone unchecked. Increasingly, officers behave – and talk – as if they are characters in a TV cop drama. There is a sense that law enforcement generally is becoming over-excited and melodramatic. What, for example, is this shady outfit the National Public Order Intelligence Unit? If it is paying idiots like Kennedy £200,000 a year, how much are all of its adventures costing the public purse?

Few have embodied the action-hero fantasy quite like Flash. He revealed to journalists that he is now so in fear of his life that he barricades his doors with chairs at night. “I have been told that my former bosses from the force are out here looking for me,” he has said, providing an entirely new perspective on Sir Paul “The Hitman” Stephenson.

Alongside the James Bond antics, though, a weird kind of political correctness has been in evidence. Flash’s cushy number came to an end when his employers discovered, to their profound horror, that he was sleeping with the enemy. What used to be a basic part of a spy’s duties now caused trills of moral outrage. “He was having sex with another activist,” gasped a scandalised copper. “That was the first concrete evidence that he had been going too far.”

On the matter of sex, at least, the activists are at one with the police. Several of Kennedy’s lovers are said to be “deeply upset” to discover they had slept with a policeman. Another claims she feels violated. There is serious talk of a civil action against the police. It is absurd – men never lie more than when they are trying to get women into bed – but no sillier than the rest of the case. Forget the excited news stories about “ghosts”, “warriors” and “going rogue”. Flash’s story is a pathetic Boys’ Own fantasy, set up by the police and financed, at huge expense, by you and me.

Independent, Tuesday, 18 January 2011