Tuesday 21 August 2018

Polly Toynbee is (Sometimes) Right

... about once a decade, I suppose.  She's an odd mix.  On the one hand she has a dreadful propensity to write up in the ever-gullible Grauniad whatever rubbish she's been told over a congenial lunch one-to-one with someone she's girlishly in awe of.  Her cavalier attitude towards easily-checked facts once spawned a small industry under the banner of Fact-Checking Pollyanna.  

On the other, she is capable of painstaking (if not actually painful) feats of empirical research, e.g. taking on menial jobs for months at a time to find out what's really happening somewhere, in order to write a book with some serious underpinnings.  She's an interesting contradiction; and the psychology of all this is a real puzzle.

Anyhow: she's had one of those once-a-decade moments (as usual, in the Graun). 
Squalid prisons are just the start. The entire justice system is in meltdown ... From the police to legal aid to the courts, savage cuts mean a nightmare is unfolding largely out of public view 
You scarcely need to read the article.  She's right, of course.  My own vantage-point on this is a friend in the CPS, whose stories from the front are frequently quite appalling.  Plus, of course, we all have the reports of our own eyes. 

And we know who's at least partly to blame: yes, the woman who was Home Secretary for six long years.  It's plain that (in her manifest cowardice, by now so transparent she is the laughing stock of Europe) she bowed all too readily to the budget constraints demanded by Osborne, and concluded the only priorities to be maintained were (a) counter-terrorism and (b) various crazy social policies inflicted upon the police.  Both she and Osborne richly deserve to languish in one of our choice prisons, doing some Toynbee-style first-hand research for themselves.

Recall the 2011 riots:  does anyone imagine they could be handled again today?  Even then it was wholly unsatisfactory for the first few days: but at least, on Cameron's insistence, a mighty and unrelenting effort was mounted to run to ground as many of the miscreants as possible over the following months.  Today?  Well, we may find out.  As one of our perceptive BTL commenters wrote in 2011, on that occasion there was no officer-class of motivated malcontents in evidence to coordinate the street-scum: but what if there was?   

Seven years later and it's not just in existence, it has a positive virtual Sandhurst of its own.  We may be grateful its titular leader is the utter plonker he is; that his No.2 holds no popular attraction whatever for the voters at large; and that Diane Abbbottt is a national joke.  That said, imagine her as Home Secretary ...  well, we may find out.



Charles said...

I agree with your analysis. Ms Toynbee is correct in this instance. When you look at the mess left behind at the Home Office, which has already accounted for one Home Secretary, I find it very odd that no-one on the BBC mentioned Mrs May in connection with the Prison melt down. Rory Stewart seems to be the nominated fall guy in this instance. One of the problems of course is that Chris Grayling was Justice Secretary and was by all accounts not a success.

It is quite strange that Parlement is so attractive to mediocrity, I think the American system where the elected representatives oversee supposedly competent administrators. I agree that means that these are political appointees, but at least they are competent. How many of the current group of MPs would be able to hold down a job in an ordinary company? Very few I would say.

Matt said...

Overseeing competent administrators is supposed to happen here also. Senior civil servants and the heads of QUANGOs are supposed to be those administrators. Only have to look at the career of Lin Homer to see where it all goes wrong.

CityUnslicker said...

As with John, she is right. It is a disgrace, peace and security of the land it the first job of Government and successive running down since Michael Howard (weirdly Blunkett did OK by accident) is a tragedy for the country. We are now seeing huge and worrying rises in serious crime and we have little to stop it and nothing extra planned.

Nick Drew said...

and (no Project Fear here, but ...) a chaotic Brexit, and the criminality will be on a breathtaking scale

- white collar, blue collar, no collar ...

Border Force? - don't make me laugh (another May triumph)

Bill Quango MP said...

I suspect May had a bit of a success when she stood up to the Federation of Police Officers and said trim your fat.
there was a lot of metaphorical and literal fat to trim. The Police having been exempt from real cuts for a very long time.

Any organisation can shed 10% without too much loss. Often there is an actual increase in productivity as the waste of space, redundant, old, unnecessary and outmoded are chopped away.

But a continuous 10% cut is just unsustainable. And some of the savings are counter productive. Less success in dealing with crime, leading to higher crime as it becomes easier to commit without being caught.
Poor choices in resoursce allocation.
Accountancy tricks that are not real savings. Rolling the vehicle budget over for five instead of three years. But with a big loss on the residual value and efficiency and serviceability of vehicles.

So, HMG was right to take a knife to the police budget. As anyone who remembers the gadget blog and 'ordinary copper' books on bureaucratic idiocy and horrendous mismanagement.

But, as ever with government, if they wanted the police and prisons to do more with less,they should have ensured some way of giving them less to do. And ensuring what remained was far more relevant to the role p=they were there to perform.

May chopped off too much. Without providing the simpler-faster-easier-less manpower focused- solutions that these services need.

I despise the self-service checkout. So do most shoppers. But they are everywhere and if YOU want to wait at a serviced checkout, you can. But you may wait longer.
Meanwhile, One person is doing the work {badly} of ten.

Where is the police version of the self-service checkout?Sounds mad? Why does a fully trained officer need to visit your burglary? There are enough domestic/commercial robberies for a specialist and apprentice to do nothing but investigation and occasional clue finding. People that don't cost the same as a fully trained, experienced, shift work officer with a big pension and tougher role.

Matt said...

But Bill, that'd be portrayed as privatisation of the police service by the back door.

Raedwald said...

Bill - yes.

I'm sure I must have mentioned before that I spent a few days with a Borough crime mapping unit, looking at the effectiveness of public realm design solutions. Half of everything plods do is CADs - call-out to disturbance. No crime, no arrests, just keeping the peace, defusing rows, separating neighbours / spouses / car park rivals or whatever. Of the other half of their activity that involves crime, 95% are minor, non-indictable offences - vehicles, shoplifting, drunkenness and public order, criminal damage.

I've dared to suggest in the past that we don't need very expensive, highly trained professional plods to tell someone their kids' screeching is disturbing the neighbours, or nick someone for pavement parking. But opinion has always been that folk don't want thuggish, unprofessional, untrained but cheap security guards taking over public realm / public order policing. I can understand that. I share many of the concerns.

However, I suspect that sooner or later we are going to have to consider some sort of two-tier police force - using either security guards, or neighbourhood watch in uniform, or local volunteer militias or whatever to supplement our skilled, valued and scarce professional police resources.

Electro-Kevin said...

Why does a fully trained officer need to visit your burglary? (BQ)

I thought that was what PCSOs were employed to do. Even a substantive PC isn't on very much these days - the starting salary the same as the wage I was on when I left the police nearly thirty years ago.

Polly Toynbee is wrong about cuts being the cause of these problems. It is the lack of will in the whole law enforcement and penal system and I've been banging on about it for decades.

Electro-Kevin said...

"95% are minor, non-indictable offences - vehicles, shoplifting, drunkenness and public order, criminal damage."

And those are the ones making life very unpleasant for the majority and emboldening more hardened criminals in their belief that no-one is serious about punishing them.

Zero tolerance will apply if you slip 1mph over the limit and the punishment more punitive than if you'd shoplifted, criminal damaged... (My wife's SP1 came in at over £300 by the time the insurance shennanigans were dealt with.)

Electro-Kevin said...

I'm also bothered that neighbourhoods are hiring in private security and some of the fellas doing patrols look like crims to me (I still have a copper's nose.)

How long before we have mafia style racketeering in Britain ? Well. We never thought we'd see slavery again and that's not me exaggerating. The BBC are always telling us about slavery in modern Britain.

Charlie said...

EK: "neighbourhoods are hiring in private security and some of the fellas doing patrols look like crims to me"

This. My local boozer was recently taken over by a chain and now needs "doormen", such is the determination of your average too-pissed Friday night moron to have a fight and the likelihood (north London) of the bloke he picks on having a knife in his pocket. These bouncers are quite obviously slag and, since they arrived, the place is a coke-head's paradise. If it quacks...

E-K said...

The crimson run the prisons and before long they'll be running towns.

Bill Quango MP said...

EK - this was the issue. The low pay.
The PCSO were supposed to do the low level crime jobs. But the police themselves did not want a cheaper, less experienced rival force and refused to allow the junior police service to do very much more than traffic warden.
Now, some bright spark in the Home Office should have made sure the regular police who were not being axed, got a substantial rise. That the first recruits to this new, well paid force, wold be from the junior force.
And that there was a clear distinction between roles.
With a civilian administration too. And with acceptable, though not excessive, pay routes for them too.
So a very very highly trained, all fields, terrorism to traffic top tier. Lower level ordinary, less well paid, but potentially careear rising second tier. And an administration tier.

With the military maxim for cooks, clerks and quartermasters.
EVERYONE learns to handle a weapon.

[Or in the case of police and prisons, a riot shield.] For those 'emergencies'

Bill Quango MP said...

Saw you mentioned the Thomas Harris play, that I didn't even know was a thing.
Care to give us a weekend review sometime?

Tom let old Cicero have quite an easy historical ride, i think.
But they were very entertaining books. Even with the padding to three volumes instead of the two they should have been.
Good,solid, enjoyable, readable, accurate enough, history.

Charlie said...

Bill - have you interacted with a PCSO at all? I had one try to wrestle me off my bike because he thought I was going to jump a red light. Thick as mince and barely able to speak English. I ended up with a fine which I would have loved to challenge in court, but £75 vs half a day off work, I just paid the fine. I was astonished at the dross they will allow to don the uniform these days.

Nick Drew said...

Certainly, Bill - I'm seeing Part 2 at the end of the week!

(Robert Harris, BTW)

Bill Quango MP said...

Of course.
To Harris was the serial killer writer.


Electro-Kevin said...

It's about 7 hours long, that play. Take a cushion.

I've read the Harris book and enjoyed it. I also like Cicero in the HBO series Rome which led me to reading the book.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Even a CAD requires someone who
A) knows & understands the law
B) has balanced & reasonable judgement
C) can use restraint techniques
D) if necessary can apply controlled violence
This isn’t an untrained role for people with an IQ below 100, which seems to be what constitutes the average PCSO.

The Police would be considerably improved if they remembered they were a force, not a “service”, knew unarmed combat/restraint techniques, stopped employing midgets, dropped the Twitter monitoring & high heels, and suppressed the scum.

Nick Drew said...

Anyone seen the Lehman trilogy?

Seems like we ought to, around these parts!

I've read good things about it - but it's fully booked

Lord T said...

Polly may have spotted the issue. An issue that her and her ilk have helped cause but I'm pretty certain that we will have a total difference on how to resolve it.

hovis said...

With Charlie's comment in mind - PCSO (and to lesser extent these days) coppers in general are drunk on petty official power, the ability to "fine" - it will never be a fine but a charge notice requires enough time and money to challenge what is in effect the rotting of the system.

All the while the real stuff just gets left as too hard or complicated to deal with.

The balance is difficult - justice costs and needs to be seen to be done otherwise we all lose confidence and the system loses support. We cannot though support a blank cheque, it does not require this imo.

E-K said...

Most coppers do their best to avoid confrontation and paperwork. The real reason that they no longer patrol.

Charlie said...

hovis: "The balance is difficult - justice costs and needs to be seen to be done otherwise we all lose confidence and the system loses support."

Totally agree. In the last few years, I've gone from being an active supporter of the police, including helping out at their charity days, to thinking, "f*ck 'em". I know quite a few "proper coppers", with hundreds of years of service between them, who'd love to be able to actually police the streets but are prevented from doing so, and they can't wait to retire. They are not wanted by the police force, in its current state.

There has been a huge change in policing in a very short space of time, seemingly to avoid offending "the [insert minority here] community". However, they are never going to win over the trouble-making elements of those communities, because they are criminals or supporters of criminal activity, so to completely alienate your average honest citizen in pursuit of that unattainable goal seems a bit, well, stupid...

Electro-Kevin said...

Back to BQ's PCSOs being frozen out work by regular police officers. I've had PCSOs come around to my house to deal with domestic problems next door and take reports of disturbances so I imagine they can take crime complaints too.

What they can't do is arrest people under the PACE act or on suspicion of an offence, nor can they stop and search or deal with moving traffic offences - they can only make citizens arrests like the rest of us. That a constable (an officer of the Crown) can only do this has always been the basis of policing in this country and it's not a matter of unionist demarcation but law.

The police cannot stop the law being changed if Westminster decides otherwise.