THE Government’s response to Yvette Cooper’s newly-launched police commission has been somewhat churlish; it has dismissed this initiative as a PR exercise and said that policing will be very different by the time the results are published.
That will certainly be the case if the coalition persists with its flawed fixation with directly-elected police commissioners, one of the issues that will confront the Shadow Home Secretary’s review group whose members include Chris Gregg, West Yorkshire’s former head of CID, and Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan.
Yet, when David Cameron became Tory leader six years ago yesterday, he did not make a series of overnight pronouncements – he made a virtue of creating several policy review groups to enlighten and reinvigorate his party following three successive election defeats.
In this regard, Ms Cooper, the Pontefract and Castleford MP, deserves credit for having the vision to decide the type of police service that she would like to preside over if Labour does return to power.
This is not “an abdication of any kind of political leadership” – the charge levelled yesterday by Policing Minister Nick Herbert. It is an acceptance that the demands facing the police continue to change, particularly with regard to cyber crime, international terrorism and, more recently, honour killings, and that resources will have to be carefully allocated to balance these realisms with the public’s desire for robust neighbourhood policing.
Where Ms Cooper may have erred was when she claimed, at yesterday’s launch, that police morale is at “rock bottom”. If she believes in the integrity of her independent commission, it might have been more prudent for the Shadow Home Secretary to await its conclusions rather than jump the gun with pre-emptive outbursts.
She also needs to remember that the accusation of political opportunism will have some merit if she does not explain, at the end of this exercise, how she intends to finance the commission’s recommendations. For, while the nature of policing, and its governance, is likely to change in the years ahead, the perilous state of the public finances means any future Home Secretary will inevitably have to achieve more with less.