Parties must not ignore critical policing and security issues in favour of Brexit while campaigning for the next general election, the chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has warned.
Steve White: If politicians
don't debate policing issues they
should be ashamed
Politicians are starting to draft their 2017 manifestos after Prime Minister Theresa May announced a general election for June 8.
Campaigning so far has largely focused on the economy and Britain’s exit from the European Union.
However, Steve White, chair of the PFEW, has warned these issues are “insignificant” if the winning government cannot offer safety and security – and that these topics must play a key part in debates.
Mr White told Police Professional
: “I would certainly like to think the fairly important events that happened recently in terms of an attack on the seat of democracy – which we are now dealing with by having the election – really did bring home the very real threat there is to our way of life in this country.
“In my mind, Brexit and whether it’s a success or not, the economy and even issues around the health service are irrelevant unless you are able to provide safety and security for your citizens.
“Security and policing issues need to be part of the agenda and the manifestos of all political parties, because members of the public should understand what it is politicians will offer around that.
He added: “If politicians don’t debate policing and security issues, they should be ashamed of themselves.”
At the last election in 2015 – only nine months after the UK terror threat level was raised to its highest point ever – policing issues barely figured in party promises.
The Conservative manifesto was dominated by a pledge to maintain economic recovery and protect the NHS, and similar topics were championed by Labour.
This pattern looks set to repeat this year, with experts predicting that the main issues will be the economy and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
Ryan Shorthouse, director of Conservative think tank Bright Blue, said: “The manifesto will not be expansive, mainly because the two main issues – the economic and Brexit plan – are not changing and are clear.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used his first election speech to promise his party will “put the interests of the majority first” in terms of taxation, education and health.
The Liberal Democrats have promised a second EU referendum and are mainly campaigning to win back pro-remain seats.
However, all parties have been quiet on the topic of policing.
Although it is banned from being overtly political, the PFEW has drafted a list of priorities which Mr White says politicians need to discuss.
First among these are increasing protections for officers to minimise the risk of being assaulted on duty and toughening penalties for perpetrators.
Figures released in February suggested that more than 6,000 officers are violently attacked every year.
The PFEW is already trying to bring new safeguards into law through its ‘Protect the Protectors’ campaign, which recently featured in a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament.
Second, the PFEW will ask the Government to ensure enough resources are made available to maintain the promised uplift in firearms officers and rollout of the X2 model of Taser.
It will also ask for a long-term policing plan to ensure policing continues to attract the right candidates, and will seek assurance that the winning party will maintain the Government’s 2015 promise to protect police budgets.
Funding has been maintained in real terms since this manifesto promise, although regional variations mean not every force will keep up with inflation.
Mr White said: “In effect, that pledge runs out with the new government and we should be pressing to make sure the resources are there so that we have a well-rewarded, well-motivated and well-equipped police service for the next five years.
“The time is right for there to be a proper debate around safety and security and resources to keep people safe.
“Unless you can keep your citizens safe, everything else pales to insignificance.”