Posts Tagged ‘police’

Ed’s right, small state socialism can still be radical – but Labour needs to govern better next time

02/07/2013, 07:00:11 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Whisper it, but governing is the boring part of politics. Ironic, really, given so many would-be ministers would scramble over broken glass on their hands and knees for the sniff of a chance of becoming a parliamentary under-secretary for paperclips and sustainable date-stamps.

It’s not that governing – sitting behind a desk and running things – is pointless or unrewarding; it’s just that it’s hard and time-consuming and politicians are easily distracted by the thrill of the chase. Tony Blair, of course, famously did sofas rather than desks. So Labour’s approach to government for 13 years was, crudely, to announce things then throw money at officials and assume change had been made. Job done.

This approach was tested to destruction. For public services to improve, more state spending was always needed. To make them improve a lot, spend a lot. As a result, ministers often overspent and over-legislated, but, paradoxically, under-governed too. Of course you have to put money into the Whitehall fruit machine to make the lights come on, but you still need to know which buttons to press. That’s what governing is all about.

When the buzz of the press launch has faded and the television cameras have gone away, all that is left is the spadework of navigating bills through parliament, rolling-out new programmes, retraining staff to implement the changes to policy (which invariably takes a fiendishly long time), listening to the gripes of one lobby group or another and sitting in meetings. Lots of meetings. All this slog takes time and commitment and, frankly, a few Labour ministers found themselves bewitched by the Age of Spin last time around and didn’t do the hard work that real change demands.

Take the police. Measurable crime halved under Labour (for a variety of reasons, not least the longest unbroken spell of economic growth in 200 years) but anti-social behaviour, the bureaucratic term for describing thoughtlessness and thugishness, flourished. Police numbers also swelled, while Parliament passed twenty odd pieces of criminal justice legislation.  Although the police had everything they could possibly need from Labour ministers, they still barely made a dent in tackling anti-social behaviour.

Not enough was demanded from them. In fact, unlike other public services, police performance targets were actually scrapped, apart for the single watery invocation to ‘raise public confidence’. Yet ministers didn’t ask why there had been a catastrophic loss of public trust in the first place. No chief constables were sacked for poor performance. The focus, especially after 9/11 was on security and no-one much bothered what the plod was doing – or not doing – on other fronts. It’s only now we get a sense of the rottenness at the heart of parts of our police force.


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Riots: you need police officers for a police surge

21/08/2011, 11:02:26 AM

by Dan McCurry

Cameron’s contradictions continue to baffle. Crowing before a packed parliament for the riot recall, he hailed the police “surge” as if it was all his own idea. No wonder the police are furious, he wasn’t even in the country when they formed their strategy. Not only did he not invent the police surge, he doesn’t even understand it, judging by the contractions he made.

David Cameron is at his most passionate when making sweeping statements about the waste that comes from officers engaged in back-office tasks. It is true, that having a police officer responsible for neighbourhood watch is more expensive than hiring a civilian to do the task. But the civilian is unlikely to understand the role, as well as being unable to don a uniform, at a moment’s notice, to face down a riot. If you lose the officer, you lose the ability to surge.

As for the neighbourhood forums; are the police wasting their time, speaking to the public, when they should be out there nicking people? This is arguable, but the job of being a police officer is not simply to enforce the law, but also to reassure the public that there is a system in place protecting them.

When serious allegations of child abuse in a dysfunctional family emerge, it is normal practice for social workers to meet with police officers and the CPS in order to decide the best way forward. If the police are to be removed from this back-office task, can a civilian worker fulfil their role, and what would be the training and qualification for this civilian worker. If a former social worker was qualified, what’s the point of the meeting without the input of an experienced officer?

Would it be possible for the civilian worker to be trained in public order policing, in order that she can assist when a terrorist incident creates the need for a surge? If so then the savings made by employing a civilian worker, would be lost by the expense of having to provide extensive training.

There are situations where expensive police officers should not be deployed. Having one hundred officers slowly walk across a field in search of clues to a nearby murder, probably isn’t the best use of resources, when civilians could do the same task equally well. But to claim that officers are only doing their job if they are actively engaged in answering 999 calls, is failing to recognise the wide range of duties that they undertake.

A reserve list, and better incentives for specials, would help with wide fluctuations in ebb and flow. But the ability to rapidly take officers from office activities and deploy them quickly in the field would be seriously undermined by the determination to seriously reduce their overall numbers.

Mr Cameron believes that he can cut police numbers and guarantee future police surges. Many Labour MPs, and much of the British public, cannot reconcile these two opposing statements. The prime minister must rethink this short-sighted policy.

Dan McCurry is a Labour activist whose photographic and film blog is here.

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Memo from Croydon to Westminster

12/08/2011, 11:08:21 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Walking down, past Reeves Corner in Croydon on Thursday evening, one thing was crystal clear.

The government doesn’t get it.

Cameron’s proposals in the parliamentary statement didn’t come near addressing the reality of what has happened.

And while Labour did slightly better, particularly on police numbers, the response didn’t give a clear sense of an alternative.

When David Cameron talks of a sick section of society and the need for a moral fightback, he sounds like an opposition politician.

‘Broken Britain’ was a decent routine two years ago, but he’s in power now. Government’s job in this situation is to identify what failed and fix it – not opine impotently on social morality.

Instead, the prime minister’s parliamentary statement gave us some irrelevant commentary, a pointless inquiry on gang culture and a re-heat of existing plans.

There’s nothing new in the police being able to force people to remove facemasks or in social landlords evicting tenants found guilty of looting. Councils across the country are already pushing ahead on this front.

Ed Miliband was cautious in his response. He asked pertinent questions, but didn’t frame a narrative for how Labour would make a difference. The net result is a political vacuum from our leaders.

It shouldn’t be this difficult. All our leaders need do is to listen to their constituents. (more…)

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The government is spinning crime rates rather than tackling them

14/07/2011, 05:58:51 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

Earlier today the Home Office published the annual crime figures for England and Wales. The Spectator blog informs us that ministers are trying ‘to spin the figures as a vindication of their nascent reform programme’. This is foolish: their only big reform, elected Police and crime commissioners, will not come in until next spring at the earliest. The other policies ministers are fond of citing, like online crime maps, local beat meetings, and a reduction in top-down targets, are all broadly welcome but are incremental developments of initiatives begun under Labour.

Meanwhile, the only major changes in today’s BCS figures which the statisticians judge to be statistically significant are a 9% fall in vandalism – this is the extent of the good news – and a 14% rise in burglary, a 38% rise in assault with minor injury, and a worrying 35% rise in domestic violence. The raw BCS figures also show a 6% rise in all violence, and a 1% rise in overall crime, but neither is judged to be statistically significant.

It is too early to say whether these increases are blips; or a sign that the long downward trend in crime since 1995 has flattened out; or the start of a belated surge in crime associated with the state of the economy. The second is the preferred hypothesis of Home Office statisticians; the third has some grounding in past experience, in that burglary and domestic violence are particularly prone to rising in tough economic times.

At the start of the downturn in early 2009, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats reacted to a much smaller increase in burglary by, first, accusing Labour of complacency, and second, predicting a ‘recession crime wave’. They were wrong on both counts: far from being complacent, ministers had already been working with the police to try to pre-empt a rise in acquisitive crime; and the increase in burglary turned out to be a blip, in marked contrast to the pattern in the last recession in the early 1990s – as I set out on this site two weeks ago.

I hope these latest increases will also be a blip. But it would be more reassuring, as well as more consistent, if Tory and Lib Dem ministers showed the same concern as they evinced in 2009 in reaction to today’s figures, and rather less complacency. The real test of their reforms – and of the impact of their cuts – will come in the equivalent figures in 2012 and 2013.

Matt Cavanagh was a special adviser on crime and justice under the last Labour government.

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The old cancer at the heart of the student riot

11/11/2010, 09:00:18 AM

by Luke Akehurst

THE SAD lesson of the hijacking of part of Wednesday’s NUS demo – by a small minority who turned it into a mini-riot – is that some of the iron laws of left politics from the last time there was a Tory PM still hold true.

The mainstream left, whether that’s the Labour party, its affiliated trade unions, NUS or other organisations campaigning against the cuts needs to know that the bad guys are not all to our right on the political spectrum.

Idealistically, we might have thought that the sheer horror of the cuts being proposed by the Tory-Lib Dem government would mean all forces on the left in Britain could unite to protest and fight to protect key public services and benefits.

Wednesday’s behaviour killed that idealistic dream as it probably killed the political enthusiasm of some of the 50,000 ordinary students on the march.

On the plus side 49,000+ of them marched peacefully. By any stretch that’s a remarkable political mobilisation. The entire membership of all the student political organisations in the UK plus non-student supporters and non-partisan student union activists does not get anywhere near 10,000 people. So 80% or more of the marchers were “real people” driven to political protest by the government, not long-term political activists.

This should therefore have been a marvellous opportunity to get an entire new generation involved in politics, inspired by participation in a powerful protest that would have got their case all over the media and put fear in the hearts of the Lib Dem MPs who betrayed their erstwhile student voters. This should have been the start of a campaign that would have seen those 50,000 marchers go back to their colleges and work to either stop a government policy in its tracks or failing that contribute to mobilising their fellow students to evict Tory and Lib Dem MPs in university seats in the next general election. (more…)

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