It’s now about police v politicians

A dust storm is blowing up over the riots but not entirely along conventional party lines. It’s much more like a stand-off between the police and politicians. With the police taking a second political battering in almost as many weeks, you’d have thought they’d be bound to emerge as losers. They still might, if the politicians have useful answers. But have they?

ConservativeHome does a great roundup of reaction to the riots and the recall debate. What strikes me is the gap between rhetoric and reality. The Economist column Bagehot scents political advantage for Cameron.

It is a steelier, more moralistic Mr Cameron who is emerging from the riots, an incarnation that has not been seen since he became prime minister. He is likely to make policies such as welfare reform and elected police commissioners a bigger part of the government’s narrative. Outside 10 Downing Street on August 10th, he described areas of Britain as “not just broken but frankly sick” and called for a “clearer code of values and standards that we expect people to live by”. Liberals, understandably, will worry about all this. But deep down, this is who Mr Cameron really is. After the riots, it might also be what his country wants.

So then what happens to them when you’ve cut their benefit and evicted them from social housing?  In contrast The Times ( surprisingly) has found Cameron to be spinning heavily.

A “spin obsessed” David Cameron pushed for military involvement in the  operation to quell the riots but met stiff resistance from ministers, police  chiefs and the Mayor of London, it was claimed yesterday

I wonder who gave this hostile briefing of the Cobra meeting to the Times? The police? Perish the thought. Whoever it was, it was our boy Hugh Orde who again spoke out, more boldly than ever. His behaviour grows ever more fascinating.

The fact that MPs had come home from holiday was “an irrelevance”….May had “no power whatsoever” to cancel all police leave, Orde said. “The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political interference; they were a function of the numbers being available to allow the chief constables to change their tactics,” he told BBC’s Newsnight

Meanwhile at the coal face or court face, we have a glimpse of reality at last.  A Guardian analysis of more than 150 cases before magistrates courts so far has found the majority of defendants being remanded in custody – even when they have pleaded guilty to relatively minor offences.

People facing court charged with riot-related offences are overwhelmingly young, male and unemployed. Those who are found guilty are receiving prison sentences – or being passed onto higher courts for sentencing. Out of the 1.7m cases heard in magistrates courts last year, only 3.5% were remanded to jail. These figures from this week show a rate of 62%.

Update . This morning Hugh Orde softened his language.

 Mrs May said she had spoken by conference call to all police chiefs on
Wednesday and “ordered that all special constables should be mobilised, all
police leave should be cancelled and the robust tactics used on Tuesday by the
Metropolitan Police adopted by all forces dealing with public disorder”.

But Sir Hugh – who is seen as a leading contender to become the next Met
Police commissioner – told the BBC on Thursday that the subsequent restoration
of calm on Tuesday night had not been down to political intervention.

“The fact that politicians chose to come back [from holiday] is an
irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing,” he told BBC
Two’s Newsnight.

“The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political
interference; they were a function of the numbers being available to allow the
chief constables to change their tactics.”

On Friday, he insisted there was “no rift” with government and said the home
secretary had been “quite outstanding frankly”.

“She has praised police officers. She understands the complexity of the world
in which we live and I think she very clearly understands that we cannot get it
right all the time,” he said.

“But let’s be very clear on one thing – the vital distinction between
policing and politics remains. The police service will make the tactical
decisions, and quite rightly and robustly, we should and must be held to account
[by politicians].”



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  • tuatha

    One of Thatcher’s first actions was increasing police pay by almost 50% and nearly doubling their numbers, in anticipation to the reactions to her plans.
    Camoron, on tuther hand, announced cutting their numbers and limiting their pay increases.
    Pure genius. And they say he has no feel for politics!

  • “clearer code of values and standards that we expect people to live by” .. David Cameron

    DC is on exceedingly dodgy ground with this pontification; he’s clodding stones from a glass house.

    Peter Oborne lets rip in the DT: “I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.

    It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington.”

  • Framer

    The coppers are getting their response in early to fend off attention over the disaster that the killing of Mark Duggan was, that and their early attempt at a cover-up. They should button-up rather than whine on about cuts that haven’t happened yet.

  • Banjaxed

    Framer is correct. Between the gallons of useless excreta the politicians are mouthing about ‘mindless’ thugs and thieves and this faux-fight started by the police about who’s in charge – both are doing their level best to sideline the thing that sparked off the whole shooting match in the first place, that of the shooting dead of an apparently unarmed man and the disinformation that was issued afterwards.

    And it also looks like the character assassination has started already. The Daily Mail has a headline that says Mr Duggan was related to a Manchester gangster. Now I wonder where they got that info from?

  • There is a sense out there that this is a weak prime Minister what with failing to win outright the general election fifteen months ago and it being too soon for a reshuffle (think Lansley), U-turns on unpopular policies aplenty (trees, sentencing), embracing Mr Coulson and misreading News International, involving himself with popular trivia and flying Easy Jet (If there’s a vote in it, he’ll do it).

    The police know he needs their support and they will exploit it.

  • Orde seems to think he’s a spokesman for the Met. This is the longest job application in policing history.