Today was the top of bill day for the Police Federation National Conference in Bournemouth. This was the day that the keynote addresses were given by the Federation Chair Mr Paul McKeever and the current Home Secretary Mrs Theresa May.
The Federation have been streaming the conference via the main website. This gives many of us who don’t have the opportunity to attend a chance to see the events without being edited by TV companies or interrupted by adverts.
The address started with a moving depiction of officers that we have lost recently accompanied by Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations. A thoroughly moving and beautiful piece of music.
Paul McKeever then addressed the conference with his keynote speech. Last year I sat and watched his speech in awe. He made a tremendous impact and spoke with passion, commitment and without notes for 45 minutes. He left himself a tall order to better that this year. He DID. This year he addressed the conference, again without notes and in a manner that befits a true leader; with determination, confidence and aplomb. A written record of todays address can be read in pdf on the Police Federation Website. I have no doubt that it will be online in video format in due course.
Home Secretary, you should know by now, if you want to speak to politicians, speak to ACPO. If you want to speak to the voice of the service, then speak to us.
Paul continued to outline the cuts to the service and the privatisation of policing functions in some forces. He then ran part of the comedy sketch featuring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.
Paul concluded with the claims made last year and what had come to pass.
‘Home Secretary, we warned you about the riots and you said we were scaremongering.
We warned you that a 20% budget cut would damage the front line and were told we were wrong.
Paul proved himself, yet again, to be a skilled orator. In a mark of respect for his authoritative and exemplary performance the conference delegates gave him a standing ovation.
The Home Secretary Theresa May then gave her address. She began by remembering fallen officers and paid tribute to PC David Rathband. I found myself thinking she would probably be damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. However, I did get the feeling it was a feeble attempt to try and gain some good will. It didn’t work. She then reminded us that we are the finest police service in the world but quickly moved to the financial crisis and that all areas have to face cuts. She outlined our pay freeze, our pension increases and compared them to all other public sector areas. She then, completely forgetting all the policing reforms and cuts to officer numbers and Winsor by telling the conference that in not so many words.. we didn’t know how good we had it.
Let’s forget that the police are being picked on
As you can imagine this didn’t go down too well. She then reiterated the same party line that has been coming out of the Home Office for longer than I can recall. She also left us in no doubt about industrial rights by stating that the right to strike “is not on the table.”
She continued in her address to compare the police to other public sectors and focussed mostly on the pay issues. She also raised the new professional body she wishes to introduce and also told of the changes to police work to reduce bureaucracy, lessen paperwork and afford officers more time on the streets fighting crime.
It was rather odd that she also talked of giving charging decisions back to the police and quoted shoplifting. I was a little puzzled at this statement because I have been charging shoplifters for quite some time now with a ratio of about 75% by me and 25% by the CPS. She also cited conditional cautions as something new. These have been in place for quite some time too. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she also announced the building of a new super fast road and it would be called the M1.
She also referenced how much time police waste with dealing with mental health cases. She informed conference that this would change. Mental health people under s136 should not be in custody as a place of safety. She went on to say that such cases should go to hospital and police involvement was unnecessary unless resistance was being offered. It did not pass me by or the delegates that this is why we have to get involved now.
The address was read word for word from a prepared report she held on the lectern. Her voice showed nerves on several occasions and she was clearly uncomfortable. Compared to Mr McKeever she appeared to be a rank outsider, not the holder of one of the most powerful political offices in the country. The delegates rewarded her address in the same light as last year… total silence.
The question and answer session followed. I will not go into full detail as there is just too much to cover. I hope that the whole Q&A session will be online soon. There was just one moment though that cannot go without mention. Every question from the floor was directed to the Home Secretary but there came an opportunity for Paul to speak when the independence of Tom Winsor was raised. Paul asked the people who believed the report to be independent to raise their hands. Not a hand was raised and Mr McKeever was very quick to point out that Mrs May didn’t have her hand up either. Gales of laughter followed whilst Mrs Mays face turned to that “bulldog chewing a wasp” grimace we have come to expect at conference.
Mrs May made some foolish comments and avoided questions and so found herself being mildly criticised and jeered by the delegates. Her whole demeanour was one of anger and she was clearly rattled by this treatment. I was slightly disappointed by this response but what it shows is how ANGRY police officers are about what she is doing. As such I can sympathise with why it happened. I was shouting at the laptop myself! In typical fashion the governments “independent” thinktanker Blair Gibbs decided to tweet;
Politicians know Police Fed Conf has become an annual charade: opposition yes, occasional abuse but never open ridicule like this #pfew2012
Yet again Blair shows his colours and who his masters are. As per the norm he came for some criticism of his tweet but failed to respond to any questions. His behaviour is akin to a school child who opens the door of a classroom, shouts abuse at the teacher inside and then legs it. I pointed out to Mr Gibbs that the jeering and ridicule the Home Secretary was subject to was considerably less than the risible crowd our MP’s are in the House Of Commons. Have a look at this Mr Gibbs
Maybe you need to think again.. to my mind the delegates at the conference showed considerable restraint!
Of the two closing remarks Mrs May said;
You are the best police force in the world and I will deliver reforms to enable you to continue to be that
In fairness I preferred what Paul McKeever said;
You are the finest police service in the world. I am proud to represent you
For me Paul.. I’m glad you’re there and I’m proud you are leading us through this nightmare.