Theresa May’s speech to police met with fanfare of pure silence

On a day the government would rather forget, Theresa May has given David Cameron even more of a headache after her speech to more than 1,000 officers was met with complete silence and 40 minutes of highly critical questioning.

The speech delivered to the Police Federation outlined both the reforms to the police service and a review of pay and conditions, leading to an embarrassing video-link confrontation with PC David Rathband, the officer blinded by Raoul Moat, who responded:

“I was paid £35,000 last year. Do you think it was too much?”

Whilst the Home Secretary received a hostile reception, officers cheered PC Sarah Adams, who said that Theresa May could not expect the police to trust her again.

To compound her misery, a video of officers being injured during the student protests was played, vindicating the chairman of the Police Federation’s roundly dismissed point that the cuts would lead to public disorder.

Even Thatcher was sensible enough to keep the police on her side.

17 Comments

  1. Colin says:

    What happened to that police officer was a disgrace, but I hate the way the police think they’re a special case. Did miners get paid enough to have their health destroyed? Do factory workers who lose limbs at work get paid enough? I don’t see the police showing any solidarity with other workers. The police do better than most and I’d like to bet their stats on work accidents are no worse than many other sectors of industry, not to mention the army. The tories will have a go at them and then back down as usual, leaving the rest of the public sector to take extra cuts to protect the police budget.

  2. Dan says:

    Colin, that’s not fair. Police are being asked to make 20% departmental cuts alongside the efficiency savings they’ve already carried out, alongside the changes in overtime and pay. The police are a special case as public servants in terms of the reductions they are being required to make, with health ring-fenced, and education and defence seeing cuts of 8% as opposed to the 20% in the police budget. I think it’s churlish and naive to say the police are somehow doing well out of this spending round.

  3. Katie says:

    The Police are getting screwed over like everyone else, the only difference is that they were very slow to realise it, believing they were a special, untouched set of people. They need to join in with the protests, instead of arresting those who are trying to speak out.

  4. zenix says:

    Of course it’d be great to pay the police more, but if you give more money to the police you have to take money away from nurses and doctors to pay for it, and if not them then teachers, if not them then firefighters, if not them then soldiers, or prison guards, or ambulance drivers or some other frontline staff, or even your mid-office staff, detectives, 911 operators, fire safety officers, military communications teams etc. etc. Government spending is one of those zero sum games. Every pound the government spends it has to take from us in tax, either now, or when it pays back the debts it racks up. Every pound it spends on defence is a pound it can’t spend on education. Every pound spent on healthcare can’t be spent on the police.

    There are two choices, either you cut government spending, or you increase taxes. If you cut government spending there’s maybe up to 5% of spending which is wasted (poor procurement, useless projects, non-jobs etc.) before you start getting to your capital resources (that’s your computers, your ambulances, your buildings etc.) and your payroll costs. If you’re going to cut government spending by nearly 20% then you are either going to have to cut capital spending (e.g. scrapping new schools, mothballing fighter jets) or you’re going to have to cut payroll, which means either making a lot of people unemployed (in which case you have to pay a fortune in redundancy payments) or lowering pay and perks.

    You can either do all that, or you can borrow enough money to not cut any of it, in which case you have to increase taxation to pay for all this extra spending. If public sector workers think they should be paid more, they’re effectively saying they think the public should give them more of their money. There is not some mythical being called the state which pays for everything, it’s us. We pay for everything. If you honestly would be willing to pay an extra £1,000 in tax, or £2,000 or whatever it would be for your salary in order to give that money to public sector workers then that’s your democratic right to make that decision.

    However, I think the majority of the public would not be willing to see an increase in taxes in order to prop up salaries in the public sector, when their salaries for the most part have been going down in real terms. The government’s job is to represent the will of the people and if the majority of the people do not want higher taxes, then it’s the government’s job to cut the public sector, and that will invariably mean less capital spending and lower pay. That’s called the real world, deal with it.

  5. Kevin says:

    I remember telling a particularly hostile metropolitan police sergeant during the print unions dispute with Murdoch at Wapping, not to come running to us when the Tories turn against you and replace you with Securicor. It seems if you wait long enough the Tories will do it. As much as I sympathise with PC Rathband ( no one deserves that in the course of their work) Only the very rich can trust the Tories as they are the only people they care about.

  6. zenix says:

    I would however say that I believe the pain should be shared equally, ringfencing healthcare spending (which is the largest departmental budget, ignoring benefits) means that the pain on all the other departments is a lot higher. I think they should all be cut equally, but anyone who thinks pay and conditions can remain the same without having to increase taxes to pay for it hasn’t taken a look at just how much of government spending it represents.

  7. Matt Zarb-Cousin says:

    With respect, I think most of the comments here have missed the point slightly.

    The Tories need the police on their side if they’re going to get through this period of civil unrest. What today shows us is that the police are not behind the government, which is incredibly dangerous for any authoritarian, right-wing administration.

  8. pharmakid says:

    zenix neglects to mention the millions of pounds of tax unpaid and dodged by the rich in the UK. If the government challenged the tax loopholes and bothered to collect these vast sums it would surely lessen the impact on the public sector workers.

  9. Josh says:

    @zenix this isn’t a straight forward choice between massive cuts or spending more. The alternative would be to cut spending more slowly.

  10. Colin says:

    Just for the record, I didn’t say the police are doing well out of the spending cuts, I said I bet they end up doing alright (at least compared to others) when the tories cave in, because that’s what usually happens. The police are well resourced and well paid, because their senior officers have had the politicians by the short and curlies for decades. Look at the way the last labour governments rolled over and handed out the cash. If they do get cut back hard then all I can is that it’s been a long time coming.

  11. Martin says:

    I just think the Police should refuse to provide security for the Tories; and not to provide security for protest marches. Learn from the Egyptians and stand back whilst the majority of this country take down this unelected; unaccountable nonsense government.

  12. Richard says:

    “There are two choices, either you cut government spending, or you increase taxes.”

    Zenix, there’s an omission in your economic theorising as big as the Treasury building. Growth.
    Grow the economy, you increase the tax take; flatline the economy, you fork out JSA benefits for 12 000 more people in the space of a month, as announced today.

  13. Josh says:

    Two points:

    I think it was unfair to play that clip of Pc Rathband. Yes it does highlight what dangers the police face but like someone said earlier, there are many people that suffer serious injuries at work. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be to lose my sight and I can only sympathise with his situation. However, he chose a job that had certain risks and he was free to make that decision. I think £35,000 is a very decent salary compared to some professionals. A new recruit in the Army starts on less than £14,000 a year!

    Also, I think the comments saying that the Tories need to keep the police on their side are out of order. It almost sounds like black mail! Every sector is facing cutbacks and while I appreciate the cutbacks the police are facing are higher, they should not be able to hold the government to ransom.

  14. Joe says:

    Josh,

    You are correct that soldiers start on a lower wage, but with promotion they actually earn more in the long run that police officers. I started on £9000 when I joined the Army but with promotion etc I earned upwards of £25000, I then left left the army are started in the Police earning £17000. With increments I now earn £35000 after 10 years. Good points made, I don’t honestly think Police think we are special but if you sign up for a job with certain conditions you expect them to be honored, we have certain restrictions on our lives thtat others don’t. At the end of the day when all else fails we are usually the ones that come along and pick up the pieces.

  15. zenix says:

    @ Richard, We’re talking about the same economy right? the one that grew by 1.6% last year? The problem with the growth argument at the moment is that it ignores completely the fact that every single extra pound we spend we have to borrow. If I borrow a million pounds and spend it tomorrow, that grows the economy, but at the expense of having to pay back a million pounds, plus interest. The bottom line is that for all the talk of the economy flatlining, it grew 1.6% last year and is on course to grow even more this year. It may not be growing as fast as if we were borrowing even more billions of pounds but average growth before the recession was about 2.3%. Taking a mere 0.7 percentage points off of growth seems like a rather small price to pay to knock some 15% of GDP off of government spending.

    Growth is good, but the benefits of growth (in my opinion at least) are not enough to outweigh the costs of increasing our debt. If the economy were to stop growing then I would agree that the government have cut too far, but we’ve seen decent growth last year and a strong start this year. So far, the evidence suggests that the economy is still seeing decent growth so it would seem that, so far, the Tories have got the right idea.

    @ Pharma kid, there is indeed a lot of tax missed in loopholes and other avoidance strategies, as well as some really stupid exemptions (I mean, why exactly are cakes exempt from VAT anyway?). I would be totally behind cracking down on tax avoidance (or evasion, I can never remember which one’s the illegal kind) but my point is that, whilst it would lessen the impact on the public sector, it wouldn’t lessen it to the point where you wouldn’t still need salary cuts.

    @ Josh, pretty much the same thing I said to Richard. You might cut it more slowly but you’ll still have to cut it one way or the other. Labour want to spread the pain over 8 years or so, the Tories want to do it over 5. Personally, I think the sooner we get the cutting over with, the sooner we can get back to focusing on the way ahead for the economy. Also, the “alternative” from Labour of cutting more slowly isn’t really much of an alternative. They would cut about 0.7% of GDP less every year than the conservatives. It is a difference but it’s not much of one and it would mean an extra £300 billion or so of debt by the time they’ve got rid of the deficit. Personally, I think the cost of £300 billion of debt is more than the benefit of extending the pain over a longer period.

    Essentially, I’m not saying that more spending wouldn’t stimulate the economy, more growth etc. I’m just saying that the benefits are outweighed by the costs of the extra borrowing necessary, and whilst the economy is growing at a decent rate, despite the cuts, I would say the evidence is on the side of cuts rather than on the side of increased borrowing.

  16. Josh says:

    @zenix but hasn’t the economy flat lined over the last two quarters?

  17. SG1974 says:

    David Rathband knew the dangers when he applied. And he earns a damn site more than a Army Private patrolling Helmand Province – far harder work, far more dangerous.

    Pathetic old politics from the police. They are not only paid more than soldiers, nurses etc, they also get huge benefits – free travel, gold-plated pensions much earlier than anyone else, and the right to go and work for BTP the day after they retire from their constabulory and start drawing that lovely pension.

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