Reform the Police!


The Observer's Chief Political Correspondent says that David Cameron struck just the right tone in his Hillsborough apology. But: " It is always easier... to say sorry for a disaster that was someone else's fault. The bigger test is what happens next. It is wrong to think of Hillsborough, and the disgusting conduct of some members of the South Yorkshire force, as a tragedy to be deeply regretted and then filed away as an event belonging to the distant past. It is true that stadium design has been massively improved and methods of crowd control have become more sophisticated. Football hooliganism, fear of which was a contributory factor, has largely disappeared from Britain. So a tragedy of that type is less likely to happen now."

He goes on: "The police never come quietly. As one former chief constable puts it, there is an "inbuilt conservatism" about the service which makes it "often risk-averse, process-dominated and defensive." It is a big thing for governments to take on the police, which is why ministers have so rarely done it."

And concludes: "David Cameron demonstrated how accomplished he can be at making a pitch-perfect parliamentary statement with his eloquent apology for Hillsborough. Getting the police to accept and implement reform will require different leadership skills. This will be a test of how much steel there is in his spine."