Thursday, May 22, 2014

Theresa May's speech to the Police Federation conference

Now the polls have closed it is safe to pay tribute to Theresa May's extraordinary speech to the Police Federation conference yesterday.

It is worth reading the whole thing, but this was the key passage:
I do not want to have to impose change on you, because I want you to show the public that you want to change. I want you to show them that you have the best interests of the police and of the public at heart. But make no mistake. If you do not make significant progress towards the implementation of the Normington reforms, if the Federation does not start to turn itself around, you must not be under the impression that the government will let things remain as they are. 
The Federation was created by an Act of Parliament and it can be reformed by an Act of Parliament. If you do not change of your own accord, we will impose change on you. 
And there are three changes I plan to make even before we reach that point. First, it is not acceptable that when the Federation is sitting on vast reserves worth tens of millions of pounds, it is in receipt of public funds to pay for the salaries and expenses of the chairman, general secretary and treasurer. We have already said we would reduce this spending from £320,000 to £190,000 per year but I can announce today that this funding will be stopped altogether from August. Instead, the money will go into a new fund to accelerate the introduction of Police First – a new scheme designed to attract the brightest young university graduates into the police. 
Second, I want Federation representatives to earn the right to represent their members. So in common with changes made elsewhere in the public sector, I plan to change the law so that officers will have to opt in to join the Federation. This will mean that officers no longer become Fed members by default. 
I also plan to change the law so that officers who have chosen to become members also have to opt in to pay full subscription fees. Federation members already have the option of not paying full fees if they do not want to use all Federation services. But not many officers know this, and, again, the default position in practice is that officers should automatically pay full fees, regardless. I believe that’s wrong, and it promotes some of the worst problems exposed by the Normington Review. 
Third, I want to make the Police Federation more accountable. That means, today and on an annual basis thereafter, the Home Office will use its existing legal powers to call in the Federation’s central accounts. I will also change the law so the Home Office can without any question call in the accounts for any money held by the Federation – including all so-called “Number Two‟ accounts. And I will bring forward proposals to make the Police Federation – that is, the national organisation and all the regional branches – subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Everyone has said it is a speech that only a Conservative home secretary could have made, and that is true. But that does not tell the half of it.

Which other current Conservative minister could you imagine having the courage to make a speech like this? Michael Gove perhaps. Certainly not David Cameron or Boris Johnson.

Theresa May deserved her prominence in the betting for next Conservative leader. But will the membership appreciate her courage?

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