We’re all in this together?

pg-18-may-reutersYesterday in Bournemouth a senior representative of a deeply unpopular sector of society used all of the authority and power of her role to challenge another group of people who she claims are deeply unpopular with the public. The Home Secretary as an MP and senior Government Minister wields power on behalf of you and me, as a result of the votes that have elected her as MP for Maidenhead and the collective votes for Conservative and Lib Dem MPs in May 2010. However we are largely untrusting of our Political leaders as the turnout in todays European election will help to illustrate. The Police and their Federation are also unpopular with some in society as Ms May stated “If there’s anybody in this hall who doubts that our model of policing is at risk, if there is anybody who underestimates the damage recent events and revelations have done to the relationship between the public and the police, if anybody here questions the need for the police to change, I am here to tell you that it’s time to face up to reality.”

Arguably one of the greatest mistakes by the Police Federation over the last 3 years was to involve itself in Party Politics when it sought to end the career of Andrew Mitchell. By the same token, historically our Politicians dispel any confidence we may have in them whenever they act as if they are experts in operational crime reduction, teaching or social work, to name 3. There are a lot of parallels!

In announcing that she as Home Secretary was intending to withdraw funding from the Federation, she was signalling the end of a contract with these officers. The funding in question was not a lot of money in terms of either the Government or indeed the Federation. A previous decision by the Home Office under the coalition to cut the funding from £320,000 a year to £190,000 has now been overtaken by this decision to cut the funding altogether. The decision to change the basis on which officers join the Federation from an assumption of joining, to an assumption of staying out also provides a challenge to the officers who are members of this group of officers of all ranks up to Chief Inspector. As Ms May explained, the Police Federation was established by an Act of Parliament and if it does not change its practices, she is threatening to abolish it. This is a threat that exceeds any challenge that has been discussed with other politicians as was made clear by Keith Vaz “What the home secretary has done is go beyond the Normington review and indeed beyond our recommendations.” Not only does this threat exceed anything which has been discussed with senior members of Parliament, but with less than a year to go before the General Election, it is empty as there is not time to achieve primary legislation before next years General Election.

The reason why the Federation was established in 1919 was because the right to Strike was removed from Police Officers. They are almost unique within the civilian workforce in this country as being unable to Strike. However such a restriction was established by a Government that made certain concessions to the Police Officers of their day including the establishment of the Federation. By threatening these concessions, it seems inevitable that some Officers will consider what would happen to the right to strike. To make this threat in such a hollow and public manner, one can only assume that Ms May is playing politics. Let us hope that her tactics do not threaten a fragile relationship which all of us depend on. No one I have met within or outside of the Police Service doubts that the Federation needs to be reformed. The same is true regarding Politicians. Every Politician I have ever spoken to accepts that they are unpopular and that they too need to be reformed. We need to see reform in both groups of people yet at present the Police appear to be more open to change than the Politicians. Let us hope the Politicians like Ms May get the message that she needs to lead change, not simply impose it on others. Perhaps if the Home Secretary had acknowledged the extent to which both the Police and the Government need to change, just as both called to serve the same population, utilising authority and power that depends on the consent of the people who pay their wages, she would have alienated less people in Bournemouth.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
This entry was posted in Community Safety, Parliament and Democracy, Police & Crime Commissioner, Policing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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