Let's imagine for one moment, Karen Matthews had been holidaying on the Algarve and one of her children disappeared while she was having a drink at the bar. Would she have received the full backing of New Labour? A personal spokesman, Family Liaison officers from her home town, a visit from the Portuguese Ambassador? Would we still be here 10+ years on, with those who see a miscarriage of justice being sued and threatened with imprisonment for not believing?
We all know the answers to those questions, which is why Madeleine's disappearance and the establishment's handling of it, became so emotive. In a nutshell, the non believers were unattractive chavs, jealous of Kate and Gerry's good looks and success.
For many years, the issue of 'class' has taken a back seat in this case, but it shouldn't. We all know that if the McCanns hadn't been PLU (People Like Us), representative of that first generation of working class professionals, who went to University and have moved on from the Council estates. 'We all do it' they shouted in unison, while defending the obvious neglect and child endangerment, 'what happened to them could have happened to us'. They empathised with Kate and Gerry in a way, they never could or would, with Karen Matthews. With K&G, they played down the crime, with KM there would have been outrage.
And this is the crux. To believe two doctors, well a group of doctors, conspired to cover up the death of a child, changes the paradigm. Crooks wear masks and carry swagbags, or they are dirty, smelly lowlives, covered in tattoos and off their heads on drugs and alcohol. They are the threatening faces of crime that we are all familiar with. Gerry and Kate are the opposite, middle class, law abiding church goers, smart, articulate and trustworthy. It's like looking at a picture of an orange that has been labelled 'apple'. It doesn't make sense.
Most of us like things the way we are, our villains and do-gooders clearly labelled. Life is complicated enough without having to think the unthinkable. In doctors we trust, we turn to them for our major life decisions, we address them with their title, the Doc is the good guy, he's on our side. We often forget that they are just as human as the rest of us, and just as prey to life's temptations.
With Karen Matthews, we all shook our heads, and said 'well, what do you expect', she was a perfect example of the hated underclass, while Karen was bunking off school and producing babies, Kate and Gerry were studying and saving lives. Karen comes from a society that barely scrapes by, a society that has had hope and ambition torn from under them by consecutive Tory governments. Gerry and Kate come from good working class stock, families of achievers with good solid values who reinforced their respectability.
I don't think anyone can deny that the social standing of the McCanns has had an impact on the way in which this case has been handled. If Karen Matthews had lost a child in Portugal, is it likely the police, the politicians, and the media would be still be pussyfooting around 10+ years on? Afraid to offend her or her high priced lawyers?
Which brings us back to the money. Within days Gerry and Kate were armed with an enormous fortune with which to protect themselves. I think Karen got a free delivery from Iceland. They engaged lawyers within days, if not within hours. Their first thoughts were not to look for their daughter, but to prepare a Defence.
The UK Government, knowingly, or unknowing, helped to build a wall around the McCanns that exists to this day. Their refusal to accept that the affluent middle classes could be involved in such a heinous crime was almost in danger of becoming law. The McCanns were the poster family, representative of everything that is good about the UK, high achievers, pillars of the community and church goers. The acceptable face of draconian libel laws and roughing people up at the borders.
Karen Matthews was no better than she ought to be - the police had no hesitation in investigating her and those around her, there were no government calls to back off and the crime was solved quickly. The interference of the UK government led to loss of valuable forensic evidence, the clothes Madeleine wore that day, the beads she had in her hair, the blue bag, the pink blanket, and who knows what else.
Believing Gerry and Kate were involved in their daughter's disappearance, is a hell of a knock to our faith in human nature and for many of us, we will never be able to look at the world in the same way again. That's how devastating it is. But to believe a lie in order to make us feel better, is far more corrosive. Pretending reality doesn't exist, doesn't make it go away - we are quite literally setting ourselves up for a fall.
We accept without question that Karen Matthews is guilty because she comes from a background of poverty and anti social behaviour. We cannot accept Kate and Gerry are guilty because they come from an affluent background and know which knife and fork to use. White collar crime is not pursued in the same way as blue collar crime, because there is an assumption of innocence. The wealthy have no need to covet their neighbour's goods or lust after his wife, they have yachts and hookers.
Most crime is committed out of poverty. Those dashing young things on Made in Chelsea have no need to put a brick through a car window to steal the radio. They have limitless credit cards. On tough council estates, where 10 quid makes all the difference, it's a different kettle of fish. Prisons are filled with an illiterate, uneducated, underclass, there are very few, if any, billionaires and professionals. As Norman Stanley Fletcher pointed out in the iconic Porridge, he didn't expect the Judge who gave him 5 years to move into his cell with him.
The case of missing Madeleine is, or will become, the most extreme example of the way in which the Law differentiates between the social classes in the UK. People should not be above the law because they have money and influence, Gerry and Kate should have been subject to the same scrutiny as any parents who claim child abduction without any evidence. Those in high places who ruled them out because they are not the 'type' have much to answer for.