Police restructuring

Christmas is relentlessly approaching – and I’m not ready! Panic.

But not today. Today am on the front bench for the police restructuring debate in Parliament. As I arrive in my office, I find a sweet message from David Cameron on my email, inviting me to join him. Such a nice boy!

I reply thus:

Dear David,
Thank you so much for your very sweet invitation to come and join you and your colleagues. However, I must decline.
I wondered if the invitation is a sign that you are already feeling isolated. If it gets too bad, you can always come and join us.
Merry Christmas

So now we know – all that baloney about new politics – and he is barely out of the starting blocks with a not very clever stunt. No change there.

More importantly – the police debate. The Government wants to merge police forces across the country so that they all average around 4-5,000 police officers – on the basis (they say) that current small forces don’t have the capacity for dealing with serious or organised crime. Now there may be a very good argument for restructuring on the basis of making the specialist resources pooled to serve a wider area than just one force – but wholesale restructuring to the size and distance the Government is talking about is bonkers. Everyone knows that the more local the police force is, the better the intelligence and the policing. To have a Chief Constable (incidentally the Met is not changing) miles and miles away and who has no knowledge of the territory is, as I say, bonkers. And if it isn’t bonkers – then the Government did not put forward any rational arguments to support their proposals. Moreover, the deadline for police forces to put in their views is 23 December and they will have had next to no time for something this momentous.

Mark Oaten was leading for us – as Charles Clarke led for the Government. I ‘covered’ the front bench. The chamber was full of those wishing to make their constituency case – whichever party they were from. Backbench speeches were cut to 10 minutes – and virtually every single speech begged for more time, and asked what benefit would really be delivered from such a merger. None that couldn’t be gotten a better way in my view. However, for reasons I truly do not understand the Government seems determined to railroad this through regardless of common sense or argument and at a punishing pace. And the police are against it – yes, the same police the Government said we had to listen to their advice re 90 days detention or die as a consequence.