Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Deep dives in search of money for policing

The genial policing minister unexpectedly lashed out at a new Labour MP

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Indy Politics

Policing minister Mike Penning is a normally genial figure, even if, despite his background as both a regular soldier and a fireman, he sometimes sounds a bit like a plod himself. You half expect him to break into police courts-speak like, “After the defendant became verbally unco-operative and disorderly, I physically placed him prone on the ground in accordance with use-of-force policy.”

Come to think of it, he sounded as if he was planning to do something like that to Stephen Kinnock. Penning unexpectedly lashed out at the new Labour MP. “I think it is a disgrace that anybody should run down the excellent work that the police force does in their constituency,” he barked. “The honourable gentleman should stop running down the police and support them.”

This was odd, since Kinnock had been doing nothing of the kind. Instead, he admires policemen so much that he wanted a lot more of them. And was concerned about a 10 per cent reduction in frontline policing in Wales (not exactly a “constituency”, with respect to Penning).

Nor was Kinnock alone. Tory Edward Leigh was even more outspoken about the dire shortages in Lincolnshire where “for want of a mere £3m to £4m in my area of 600 square miles, there is barely one police car on duty through the night. This is a crisis.”

Predictably Penning treated his Tory colleague more gently. “I arranged for a Home Office team to do a deep dive in Lincolnshire to see exactly how the funding formula was working.” “Deep dive?” No, not a civil servants’ potholing expedition but another item of cutting-edge Whitehall jargon.

Meanwhile shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who urged Theresa May to do more to support community-led prevention against extremism, was wearing a pink skirt and shoes, doubtless ideologically colour-coded to reflect her centrist position among Labour leadership candidates.

Any paler and she would veer towards the Kendall-Blairite zone. Any redder and she would be heading for the Corbyn-Burnham axis. She left early, possibly for one of the seemingly daily hustings being inflicted on blameless party members.

Meanwhile junior Home Office minister Karen Bradley, pressed by Labour’s Christina Wood on whether efforts to tackle violence against women and girls would be undermined by repeal of the Human  Rights Act, insisted: “The Government is absolutely committed to maintaining Britain’s high standards of human rights, which we have had for at least 800 years.”

Since this lengthy period covers burning heretics at the stake, hanging forgers, disenfranchisement of most of the population, and a flourishing British slave trade, you began to fear for the content of the planned new Bill of Rights.