Line of Duty: Who is the Ted Hastings of Westminster?

Line of Duty: Who is the Ted Hastings of Westminster?

There was a time when all our politicians wanted to be in the US political drama The West Wing.

Everyone in Westminster aspired to be as idealistic, witty and worthy as the characters in Aaron Sorkin’s fictional White House.

If you lingered for too long in the corridors of Parliament, you risked being stampeded by young staffers trying to emulate the show’s famous “walk and talk” set pieces.

Then came Brexit, where the parliamentary machinations, backroom negotiations and vitriol drew Game of Thrones comparisons.

Suddenly, MPs wanted to be Tyrion Lannister – the clever, cunning and cynical power behind the throne.

This week, it seems, politicians are fighting over who is Westminster’s answer to Ted Hastings.

Attacking the government over alleged cronyism, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was time to call in the upstanding, seemingly incorruptible police chief from the BBC’s crime series Line of Duty.

Boris Johnson told MPs that it was his government that was “getting on with rooting out bent coppers”.

Conservative MP William Wragg also weighed in, saying he was “more than happy to take up the role of the AC-12 of Whitehall”.

But which politician can really claim to be the true Ted Hastings of SW1?

The former Conservative minister Eric, now Lord, Pickles, has said he would be happy to take on the Ted Hastings role, after watching Line of Duty on a Sunday evening with a cup of tea.

He already chairs the AC-12 of Whitehall also known as Acoba (the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments).

That’s the body which advises former ministers and civil servants on outside employment and warns them against taking on inappropriate roles.

But unlike AC-12, the anti-corruption unit at the centre of the show, Acoba has no legal force and cannot impose harsh fines on those who don’t abide by the letter of the law.

Lord Pickles told MPs that if they wanted Acoba to be as forceful as AC-12, the committee needed more staff.

He admitted to feeling envious of Ted Hastings’ workforce, sadly telling MPs he only had four members of his team.

MPs who chair select committees often like to see themselves as fearsome inquisitors in the Ted Hastings mould.

And there have been a handful over the years that have inspired real fear in the witnesses hauled before them.

For many years, Labour MP Margaret Hodge chaired the Public Accounts Committee – and her brutal questioning of witnesses made an AC-12 interrogation look like a tea party.

For Ted Hastings, it’s rooting out police corruption, for Ms Hodge it was tax avoidance and wasting public money.

She tore a strip off executives from Amazon, Google and Starbucks for not paying a “fair amount of tax”.

She called BBC bosses “either naive or totally incompetent”.

And she told HMRC senior civil servants she wanted “to put a bomb under you guys”.

When it comes to accents alone, the DUP MP for Strangford, has a strong claim to be the real Ted Hastings.

Not only that but like the copper, played by Northern Irish actor Adrian Dunbar, he is also interested in the secretive, dark corners where few of his colleagues will venture.

Ted Hastings explores the seedy underbelly of police corruption. Jim Shannon attends the end-of-day Commons adjournment debate.

By the time the adjournment debate begins most MPs have long-since left the chamber, but Mr Shannon can usually be relied on to be sitting on the green benches, listening intently and expressing an interest in the topic no matter how niche or seemingly parochial.

He is also the MP who has most often used the word “fella” apart from…

The former Commons Speaker left Parliament more than a year ago but he gets an honourable mention for his dedicated and consistent use of one of Ted Hastings’ favourite words.

Mr Bercow has called his colleagues “fella” a massive 70 times – far more than any other MP.

So those are just some the contenders for the Ted Hastings of Westminster.

But who is the “H” of Westminster?

Well, at this point several of the BBC’s lawyers have suggested we don’t go any further…

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