It’s often said that there are no new news stories – everything is essentially a variation on what has gone before.
Fortunately for those of us in the trade, that is not always the case.
The extraordinary story of Alderman Mike Olley, a firm of pawnbrokers and a classic Lanchester car which once belonged to the Queen’s father is a clear example of a unique event.
The curious case of The King’s Car, The Alderman and the Pawnbroker – surely a great title for a Conan Doyle short story or a ‘70s Genesis bootleg – raises rather more questions than answers.
But there are certain indisputable facts, principally that the BBC has pulled a primetime programme at a few days’ notice amid concern at the content, namely the apparent pawning by Mr Olley of the car.
The Beeb footage was there for all to see on a website last week, with Mr Olley haggling over a deal for the Lanchester with one ‘Gez’ Pountney of Uncles pawnbrokers.
An on-screen handshake confirmed the circa £50,000 deal, with Mr Olley declaring: “Both get to walk away head-up”.
Gez was shown sitting proudly in the former Royal car, declaring: “It once belonged to King George VI. It now belongs to Gerry the Second.”
Nothing could be clearer for the BBC website viewers. Mr Olley had agreed a deal with a pawnbroker, with both parties seemingly content.
Or had he?
For Mr Olley suddenly chose to backtrack and said the programme was a “not for broadcast pilot” and Auntie had undertaken “a degree of licence”.
None of this would matter too much if Mr Olley was plain Joe Soap from Sparkbrook. But he is not.
He is Broad Street manager, a former Labour city councillor of many years’ standing, and has thrown his hat in the ring for the West Midlands’ first £100,000 a year Police Commissioner’s role.
The police job is, in some ways, more critical to Birmingham than an elected Mayor.
If Mr Olley landed the job, he could hire and fire chief constables for the West Midlands.
Mr Olley has strenuously denied any deal with a pawnbroker, declaring: “It was symbolic of the reality that was going on behind the scenes.”
If Mr Olley gets the police job, he will have to address the rank and file in rather clearer terms than that, and may well be advised to avoid any future contact with pawnbrokers, at least while the BBC are filming.