What a relief! For a change, Prime Minister’s Questions gave more cause for Tories to be uneasy than it did for LibDems. Don’t get me wrong, LibDems care passionately about frontline policing. Of course they do. But the Tories tend to see it as more of a cojones (or should I invent the adjective “cojonal” here?) measurement issue – it’s closer to the nerve with them. So I think there must have been a lot of uncomfortable shifting around on the benches behind David Cameron today. “Squeaky bum time”, as Sir Alex might put it.
For once there was a good exchange of views on a subject. Harriet Harman was basically saying that frontline policing would be impacted by the 20% cuts, citing Greater Manchester Police’s situation. David Cameron was basically trying the old “Teflon shoulders” technique, saying it was up to the Police to sort themselves out without impacting frontline policing. He did back this up with some impressively prepared numbers.
Did you know that only 11% of police staff are on the street (or “frontline”) at any one time?
Did you know that Greater Manchester Police have the following departmental staff numbers: HR: 187, Fleet vehicle maintenance: 106, Finance: 106, IT: 225 ?
So David Cameron’s whizzy (and not implausible) idea is for staff to be moved “from the back office to the front office”.
So the next time the wheels are falling off police cars, the next time more police are off sick because they’ve been mistreated, the next time police aren’t paid on time and the next time the police can’t respond to emergencies because their computers crash – Blame Cameron.
Other items that got drawn into this melee were:
Some killer (or should that be suicidal?) quote from Alan Johnson which escaped my longhand.
Why is the government proposing to spend £100 million on implementing elected police commissioners when they are forcing 20% cuts on the police? A good point, well made.
The government are scrapping Stop and search reporting, and other reporting, which Labour insisted on continuing, saving 750,000 hours of police time (if my notes don’t deceive me).
Harman said that Cameron was “posing” as being high on probity in the public finance area. She said he knew all about “posing” – referring to his vanity photographer with the most rapidly shifting monthly pay cheque source in the country.
To this, fresh back from China after all. Cameron seemed to slip into Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado: “ I’ve got a little list” (he almost said).
That list is obviously at the back of Cameron’s folder in a red envelope marked “Open in emergencies”. On it, are written all the embarrassments of NuLabour; Damien McBride, Alastair Campbell, Dodgy Dossiers, Sexing ups and, of course, naturellement, Ruth MacKenzie. (Who she? – Ed)
At this point the Speaker intervened to say, very deliberately and slowly, that this session is for “Questions and Answers about government policy”. Well said, Sally’s hubby.