NO ONE can have missed this weekend’s political drama. More Sir Moaner than Sir Humphrey, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s senior civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam has declared war on her – going fully public, claiming constructive dismissal and threatening to take her to an industrial tribunal.
The likely result, commentator Iain Dale tweeted yesterday, will be that nuance and truth won’t get a look in.
Some of the truth is this: Priti Patel, for all her seemingly tough rhetoric and the horror of her civil servant, is still nowhere near radical enough about the changes to Home Office, police and justice culture needed to cut ever-rising crime.
Her comments at a conference in central London on Wednesday were full of the same tired rhetoric on crime and justice that we have been subjected to for the past decade: a promise to reduce the number of offences by throwing more money at the problem.
One need only look at the last time the Tories tried to hit a national goal to see quite how incredible these promises have become. Look, for example, at the pledge to cut annual immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’, made by Cameron and maintained by May, to see how such unfulfilled promises become a thorn in the side of successive governments, highlighting their failure to deliver on their commitments, yet keeping them a ‘nasty party’ target for the Left.
The day after Patel made her speech, the Office for National Statistics published a report stating, as reported in yesterday’s TCW, that immigration from non-EU countries was at its highest point since 2004. If this is the Tories ‘delivering on their promises’, we should be very wary indeed of the Home Secretary’s lofty ambitions. Not least now that Sir Philip has revealed what she is up against in the Home Office.
The deep irony is that Patel’s speech about crime reduction sounded like more of the same: empty words masquerading as meaningful policies in another attempt to win over the electorate. But given Sir Philip’s unprecedented attack, was this just the beginning of what she was planning? Investing more money in the police is, of course, to be encouraged – what is not to be endorsed, however, is the perpetuation of a policing structure that is wholly unsuitable and ineffective.
Ms Patel cannot be unaware that, far from being an effective agent against crime,the contemporary police force in Britain too often seems little more than a call-out service. Despite some individual officers manfully doing their job in the face of rising crime and personal attack, the long arm of the law has been hacked off, leaving a bloody stump: an emasculated force trapped behind mountains of paperwork and inhibited by human rights and compliances.
This is the situation that the Home Secretary must face against the stout resistance of Whitehall.
It is about a culture change. Re-establishing preventive police methods of the past, with a ‘bobby on the beat’, which were much more successful than the embarrassing and inadequate ‘system’ currently in place. It is little surprise that the 1960s, which brought wide-ranging and damaging changes to the policing system – for example, the Police Act of 1964 – was a decade in which crime doubled. Officer numbers climbed, both in real terms and per head of population, yet crime continued to escalate. Research from the University of Cambridge has shown, for example, that preventive foot patrols are more effective at reducing crime, but time and again such studies have been ignored and buried, the only response being the arrival of the police community support officer – a damp squib if there ever was one.
Police can hardly be expected to prevent crime if they are constantly whizzing back and forth in cars (leaving the sanctity of their vehicle only to pop into their secondary haven of the nearest fast-food establishment – a regular sight in my neck of the woods) rather than braving the beat in difficult neighbourhoods.
Even when a bobby is allowed out of his office cage, too often he’s encouraged to go after the wrong man. Whilst Class B drug users are issued ‘community resolutions’ which do not show up on their criminal records, people who pray outside abortion ‘clinics’ have the book thrown at them. So may people the police choose to think are guilty of ‘hate crimes’. If this is the path the police and the government are set on following, we need to be exceptionally worried.
This, so far, is what Patel has failed to address.
How are these 20,000 extra police to increase both the number of criminal charges, and the number of people who are sent to prison? At the moment only 7 per cent of reported crimes lead to prosecution, and of this small minority, only 7 per cent of defendants are sent to prison. In other words, only a tiny number of people receive any form of serious judicial punishment. On this minuscule figure, the Home Secretary is notably quiet.
One wonders too what Patel, and indeed the Prime Minister, thinks this all-powerful influx of 20,000 new recruits will do about the social breakdown, resulting in crime, that her government seems consistently to promote, for example the ‘lack of male role models’ on which a female police chief stunningly and somewhat ironically commented yesterday. Just a week ago Phillip Blond in the Telegraph asked: If married families are our basic social structure, why are the Tories intent on penalising them?. Why, for instance, are they promoting family breakdown with no-fault divorce, a Bill introduced by a ‘Conservative’ peer which has the support of the Government when, as we know, societal strength stems from familial strength.
If Priti Patel really wants to reduce crime, she would do well to acknowledge that it is not a problem that can be solved with the right amount of money, but with the right mindset – in her own government as well as in the Home Office. Now that would give Sir Philip something to think about.