Chairman's Blog

Previous Blog Entries

May 2014 - Home Secretary - Political "Shock & Awe"

October 2013 - Is the big question, are the IPCC fit for purpose?

August 2013 - Police Integrity

January 2013 - Police Pensions - Sold Down The River?

September 2012 - Taking Any Active Part in Politics!

July 2012 - Causual Overtime - Myth Buster

June 2012 - Best "Man" for the Job or a Piece of Ill-Judged Provocation?

20 April 2012 - Police Privatisation - A Threat to Policing by Consent - Myth or Reality?

Current Blog Entry

Home Secretary - Political "Shock & Awe"

A week ago (21/5/14) delegates from the 43 police forces of England & Wales waited patiently in Bournemouth to hear from the Home Secretary. This would be her last address to a Police Federation conference before next year's General Election. Would she come with any "presents"? Would she encourage us to adopt our reform programme? In reality, nobody anticipated the onslaught we were later subjected to

I have attended Conference since 1993, the days of Kenneth Clarke MP and the Sheehy Inquiry into police pay. Never before have I listened to a speech as delivered by Theresa May MP that day. It was devoid of discernable positives focusing almost exclusively on a "shock and awe" attack on police officers, policing and the Police Federation. Never before have I listened to such a lack of balance.

It was a politically loaded speech for an audience outside the conference hall, and not for those she had been invited to address. She effectively trashed the reputation of every police officer, policing in general and the Police Federation. There was to be no allowance for any "rotten apples in the barrel" as she catalogued every current controversy from "plebgate" to Hillsborough with every officer being tarnished whether they were involved, or even born, at the time of each one.

When it came to the Independent Review the Home Secretary was right to highlight what the Government would do if we didn't embrace reform later that day. However, she took an approach that was completely unnecessary and unhelpful to that debate. It was an approach designed to score maximum political points for her; an approach designed to portray her as a "strong" Home Secretary who had forced the Police Federation into reform. The Home Secretary was there as our guest and she abused that invitation for personal, political gain. The casual observer could have been forgiven for thinking we had already rejected reform.

The sensible approach would have been to have encouraged us along the reform pathway. It would also have been the responsible thing to do. If the Home Secretary's intention was to bully us into reform, she came within a cat's whisker of having the total opposite effect. Police officers deal with bullies everyday - we don't respond to bullyboy tactics. Thankfully, Sir David Normington calmed the atmosphere; he reminded us this was our reform programme, instigated by us; he reminded us of the need to retain control of the detail; he did what the Home Secretary failed to do and encouraged us to finish the job we had started. We were always going to embrace the reforms. We weren't bullied into accepting reform by a belligerent Home Secretary but rather encouraged by the voice of reason, Sir David Normington.

I also suspect the Home Secretary will regret ending the "closed shop" for Police Federation membership. That closed shop was created for a very good reason - to provide police officers with one voice and frustrate any desire to be a member of another representative body. Let's not forget, the Police Federation was created as a consequence of the police strikes and membership of a union. Who will represent police officers who decline to members, subscribing or otherwise, of the Police Federation?

In 2010 at her first Police Federation conference, the Home Secretary said, "I will always back you, I will always support you, I will always fight for you." After last Wednesday I feel further comment is surplus to requirement.

Ian Pointon
Kent Police Federation