Tories and the police – it’s like an acrimonious divorce

Confrontational: Theresa May has made an enemy of the police. They'll be taking solace from the thought that one day they might be asked to arrest her. [Image: Daily Telegraph]

Confrontational: Theresa May has made an enemy of the police. They’ll be taking solace from the thought that one day they might be asked to arrest her. [Image: Daily Telegraph]

Does anybody remember when the police were the Conservatives’ best friends? This was back in the days of the Thatcher government, when she needed them as political weapons against the unions.

She gave them generous pay and pension deals, let them move out of the communities they policed (providing a certain amount of anonymity – people no longer knew their local Bobby personally), and put them in patrol cars rather than on the beat. In return, she was able to rely on their loyalty.

The same cannot be said today. Current Home Secretary Theresa May wants you to think the police service is out of control.

In fact, it isn’t. The problem for Ms May, whose position on human rights makes it clear that she wants to be able to use the force as a tool of repression, is that our constables have found better ways of upholding the law.

This is why May’s tough talk on reforming the police rings hollow. She wants to break the power of the Police Federation, our constabularies’ trade union – but her attack is on terms which it is already working to reform.

She has demanded that the Federation must act on the 36 recommendations of the Normington Report on Police Federation Reform in what appears to be a bid to make it seem controversial.

But the report was commissioned by the Federation itself, not by the Home Office. It acknowledges problems with the organisation that may affect the wider role of the police and makes 36 recommendations for reform – whether the Home Secretary demands it or not.

One is left with the feeling that Ms May is desperate to make an impression. She has been very keen to point out that crime has fallen since she became Home Secretary – but this is part of a trend since Labour took office in the mid-1990s. Labour brought in neighbourhood policing, police community support officers, antisocial behaviour laws, improved technology and (more controversially) the DNA database. These resulted from Labour politicians working together with the police, not imposing ideas on them from above; they brought the police back into the community.

Theresa May’s work includes her time-wasting vanity project to elect ‘police and crime commissioners’, and her time-wasting project to replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency with the almost-identical National Crime Agency.

She has taken a leaf from the Liberal Democrat book by claiming credit for changes that had nothing to do with her, suggesting that police reform only began when she became Home Secretary in 2010.

Is it this attitude to history that informs Michael Gove’s attempts to revise our attitude towards the First World War, as was reported widely a few months ago? If so, it is an approach that is doomed to failure and derision, as Mr Gove learned to his cost. Ms May deserves no better.

There is much that is wrong with the police service – and most of that is due to interference from Conservative governments.

Thankfully, with the service and the Police Federation already working to resolve these issues, all Ms May can do is grumble from the sidelines where she belongs.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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17 thoughts on “Tories and the police – it’s like an acrimonious divorce

  1. Guy Ropes

    When I saw your headline I desperately wanted to take you to task but you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. One thing that needs to be added I think is the fact that whilst she castigated the Federation in her speech (in theatrical tones) for any and all manner of disasters, she omitted to mention (or indeed take any blame for) the parts played by all recent Governments in those scandals and others that have assailed various Forces throughout the land. (At least) Hillsborough and Tomlinson were covered up with the active connivance of Whitehall and of course many other incidents. Shame that The Guardian had to jump on the bandwagon and say that it was one of the greatest speeches …… blah, blah.

  2. Sue Casely

    It is extremely short sighted for an unpopular government to upset the police on whom they depend to keep outraged citizens from lynching them.

  3. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    I remember when the Student “riots” were taking place against tuition fees and the police were manhandling the students (some deserved it I’ve no doubt) a skinny framed, floppy haired student shouted at the police “Why are you doing this to us, don’t you realise, you’ll be next!” Be careful what you wish for eh…

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  5. Guy Ropes

    Just a fact; the biggest post-war ‘raise’ in wages the Old Bill got was via Labour Government in something like 1978

    1. Mike Sivier

      We’re not talking about pay rises, though, but about improvements in conditions that made the police much more comfortable than they had been previously. There’s no doubt that Thatcher bought their loyalty.

  6. Guy Ropes

    Please name ‘an improvement’ whose worth any Police Officer would place above a generous pay rise. Tasers? Water cannon? Faster ‘patrol’ cars? Bent Courts? Prettier, sexier WPCs? (oops!). For those with a humour by-pass that last one was a joke. Not funny? Ask a Policeman.

  7. Guy Ropes

    One doesn’t get a better pension without better pay. You get to speak to people when walking the beat – not just the farting, burping lard ‘arse you happen to have been lumbered with for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Sometimes they’re so bored with life they shoot their own brains out. By walking you can combat crime (where crime exists) just as effectively as you can in a car, if not more effectively – if you want to. In inner city areas this is a given. Ah yes – other improvements, like filling out an endless stream of ‘forms’ – it’s what they complain about most. Arresting people involves lots of form filling. There just might be a correlation here: arrests equal form filling: no arrest, no form filling and more time for sitting in comfy cars watching the local totty.

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