There was an Opposition day debate yesterday on ‘crime and policing’ – an opportunity for Labour to lay out their angst about the Coalition plans for policing.
But that is not the focus of the first part of this post.
During the opening speech from Alan Johnson, former Labour Home Secretary, he said this:
”The Home Secretary (Theresa May) has been careful to have only one LibDem in her team, and she is a very good Minister (me), but the Government have not allowed her anywhere near the important stuff in the Home Office.’
(I was on the bench with Theresa May and the other Home Office ministers for the debate).
So – Alan Johnson is saying that ‘equalities’ is not important. Now Alan Johnson is a decent man and I have no doubt if you asked him he would say he was completely committed to equality etc. So the point of this post is not to have a go at Mr Johnson but to demonstrate how deeply embedded is the attitude that ‘equalities’ is somehow not important.
It is very very important. And I am sure – or at least I hope – that Alan Johnson believes that too – but what a very long way we still have to go to a point in time when a throw away remark does not reveal such a disappointing reality. Prejudice is still alive and well and living all over the place .
On the substance of the debate – Labour (unsurprisingly) attacked the coalition plans for policing reform and we defended them: directly elected individual police commissioners elected locally to hold local police to account; the ending of the retention of the DNA of innocent people on the DNA database; the re-organisation of the policing landscape with the ending of SOCA (Serious Organised Crime), the proposal to bring i regulations to control the use of CCTV cameras properly and the setting up of a new National Crime Agency.
There was also a great deal of argee bargee as to how the comprehensive spending review (the cuts) would (or would not) hit front line policing. Obviously Labour said they would and we said that front-line policing would be as protected as possible and that as currently only 11% of police were actually on visible duties – we would be cutting the bureaucracy enabling more time on the street.
The actuality of the spending review will be announced on 20 October – we will undoubtedly be in a better informed position to have the debate then.