Theresa May’s five-year struggle with the Police Federation increasingly resembles the later sequences of the sci-fi horror classic Alien – in which anything could still happen, but you begin to think the flamethrower-brandishing Sigourney Weaver may yet finally triumph over the creature from deep space.
Politicians usually hope for a standing ovation. For a Home Secretary the Federation conference is a different gig, where success is not being booed. After an ominous pause – May was actually clapped. OK, it was perfunctory. But that’s better than last year when her speech was greeted in sullen silence.
Especially since the conference was quite a show, complete with Channel Four’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy moonlighting as starry compère and a scary movie within a scary movie. This showed caring coppers finding a missing child and rescuing a battered wife, but ended with a man jumping off a bridge because the PC who would have talked him down had been axed in George Osborne’s cuts.
This underlined a bloodcurdling anti-cuts tirade by Federation chairman Steve White, who warned May: “You seriously need to listen. Do not make the mistake of thinking ‘here they go again. The Police Federation moaning and scaremongering’.” And then proceeded, justifiably or not, to moan and scaremonger. He scored a point on their man’s Plebgate libel victory – “Our conscience is clear” and then added: “We’ve… put up with … jeering and dirty looks… scowls of anger and derision. And that was just from you at our last conference, Home Secretary.”
May didn’t find that gag wildly amusing. But ignoring his advice she accused the Federation of, yes, “scaremongering” and insisted more cuts and reforms were on the way. Police cars should become “mobile police stations,” she said. Top villains interviewed under caution on the back seat while the local drunk is slung in the boot to sober up?
As White listened – if looks could taser! – May declared: “You can choose to work with me. Or you can choose to shout from the sidelines.” Though one accused her of “talking down to us,” the questions were slightly more polite than White had been. Perhaps the rank and file had absorbed the May subtext: “I’m still here. Deal with it.”Reuse content