A WARNING to all politicians: as the General Election campaign gains momentum, please spare us from stunts like the one Boris Johnson pulled in Wakefield during the first weeks of his premiership.
The Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, John Robins, who had agreed that Johnson could speak in front of 35 student officers, wasted no time in trouncing the Prime Minister for using the recruits as a backdrop to a speech on Brexit.
Robins said he had no idea that the speech was going to be political. We shouldn’t forget that one of the great strengths of our police force is that it generally remains impervious to whatever way the political wind is blowing.
[https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/columnists/questions-of-trust-and-brexit-for-voters-ahead-of-a-december-12-general-election-the-yorkshire-post-says-1-10075258|Questions of trust and Brexit for voters ahead of a December 12 general election – The Yorkshire Post says|Read here}
That’s why politicians often seem to take its presence for granted. However, the issue of law and order is far too important to ride over this General Election.
Tackling crime is a concern for us all; young, old, male, female, rich or poor. It should actually be very near the top of any responsible manifesto and not reduced to a cheesy photo opportunity.
The Prime Minister, as well as Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and others, must quickly appraise themselves of this and tell us forthwith what they intend to do to keep us safe. However, as we all know, things aren’t what they used to be.
I can remember when law and order was an absolute bulwark of the Conservative party. I knew people – largely the generation who grew up to fight in the Second World War – who voted Tory primarily because right-wing politicians vowed to come down hard on criminals and sanctioned police powers we can’t begin to imagine these days.
So how did a series of Conservative governments end up presiding over such a rocketing rise in crime – in particular, offences such as knife attacks and robberies? This is the first question that Mr Johnson and his candidates should be considering how to answer.
It should also be giving Mr Corbyn and his team plenty of scope to provide their own analysis and solutions. They might like to start with making political capital out of the austerity cuts which have led to around 20,000 police officers losing their jobs since 2010.
The Tory campaign so far promises to replenish police forces by at least the same number and, to be fair, Labour said in 2017 that they would back 10,000 extra officers if they got in power.
And the Lib Dems? Don’t hold your breath. The only police presence on the party’s website landing page is a photograph of two officers under the heading ‘‘defend rights, promote justice and equalities’’.
If any of these putative MPs turn up on my doorstep, I shall be wanting to know why the police no longer respond to burglaries and car crimes. I will be interested to know how it can be that I can see drug dealing taking place openly in front of my own house on a respectable road, yet somehow passing police officers seem oblivious to the practice.
And I’ll also be pointing out that the ‘‘non-emergency service’’ of ringing 101 is as good as useless.
The last time I used it – to report what looked like a stolen car abandoned in the road – the young man on the other end of the phone asked me to go and have a close look at it myself.
I think that I can safely say that such a lack of resources is a direct correlation of those swingeing cuts.
It is not just the distress and general anti-social behaviour that eats away at the fabric of communities they should be looking at, it is the causes of crime they need to engage with.
This is a tricky one; how do you transform the life chances of all the countless individuals who might end up practising criminal behaviour because they know no other way of living?
How do you stop a young man lacking hope and a stable family background from falling in with a gang that asks him to carry out a random knife attack to prove his worth?
How do you pick up a person – literally – off the street and turn around their life, prevent them from stealing to fund a drug habit, get them clean, find them a home and tackle their ongoing mental health issues when all the necessary support systems have been decimated?
Considering all of the above, do you still wonder why good old-fashioned law and order has too often been sidelined and ticked off by trotting out a load of promises which have no clear path towards funding or implementation?
It is a certainly a crime and it is one that requires our political leaders to be brutally honest themselves.