Campaigning starts again tomorrow, but in his speech in Carlisle today Jeremy Corbyn made what is – for any Labour leader – a fairly obvious point:
‘You cannot protect the public on the cheap. The police and security services must get the resources they need not 20,000 police cuts. Theresa May was warned by the Police Federation but she accused them of “crying wolf”.’
In a radical departure for Corbyn, that is exactly what happened. In her now-famous lecture to the Police Federation conference in 2015, the then Home Secretary told an extremely hostile room: ‘I have to tell you that this kind of scaremongering does nobody any good – it doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t serve the officers you represent, and it doesn’t serve the public… The truth is that crime fell in each of those years, it’s fallen further since, and our country is safer than it’s ever been. So please – for your sake and for the thousands of police officers who work so hard every day – this crying wolf has to stop.’
The Prime Minister earlier praised the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police for their rapid response to Saturday night’s outrage. It took only eight minutes from the first alarm being raised for the three Islamists to be shot dead. Needless to say, she failed to mention overseeing a decimation of police numbers — 19,000, or just over one in every ten. During the lifetime of the coalition government police budgets were cut by almost one-fifth.
The Independent has a damning first-person piece from an authorised firearms officer outlining the impact of these efficiencies. Writing anonymously, he alleges that cuts to community policing mean a valuable source of intelligence has ‘dried up and collapsed’ and left the public reliant on an ‘inadequate’ service. The officer continues:
‘In my force alone, just to meet the service level agreements on officer numbers deployed to the street, shifts are being extended, rest days are being cancelled, and since the Manchester and London attacks more officers are required – officers who don’t really exist since the cuts. Many of my colleagues are working 18-plus days straight without any real rest to make sure the public are safe and protected… May was warned that her cuts would force paramilitary style policing in Britain yet she ignored this. The army is now deployed on our streets. More than 1,300 skilled firearms officers have been cut, recruitment of those officers is slow and our national security is at risk.’
The Prime Minister spoke very eloquently today and made a number of sound points about countering extremism. Nevertheless, her record as Home Secretary has been remarkably under-examined in this election, in large part because Labour is offering Diane Abbott as Britain’s next Home Secretary and that is a prospect more terrifying than walking any un-policed street in the land. If the Tories win on Thursday, expect the PM’s long tenure at the Home Office to throw up more problems.
Will Corbyn’s speech cut through? It’s debatable. Had it been delivered even by another hard-Left leader, it could potentially have cost the Tories some law-and-order voters but no one who casts their ballot based on crime and security is going to abandon the Tories for Jeremy Corbyn.
He used the speech to reverse his position on shoot-to-kill:
‘Our priority must be public safety and I will take whatever action is necessary and effective to protect the security of our people and our country that includes full authority for the police to use whatever force is necessary to protect and save life as they did last night, as they did in Westminster in March.’
Previously, he has expressed reservations about whether armed officers should take out active shooters during a terrorist incident. In truth, I suspect he still holds those reservations and more but he has jettisoned so many of his lifelong views in this election, there’s no reason public safety tactics should be immune from the cull. But overall his speech was coherent and thought-provoking. It is perhaps the best speech made in the campaign so far (although that is not a very hotly-contested category).
If Theresa May wins on Thursday, it will be in no small part because of those very views Corbyn has spent a lifetime espousing. The Prime Minister has blundered and dodged her way through this election. And yet, unforgivably, she has found herself on the ropes against the most ridiculous leader in the history of the Labour Party. It’s going too far to say she deserves to lose, because that would mean a Corbyn premiership and the country does not deserve that. But she has done nowhere near enough to deserve a victory.
In those circumstances, Jeremy Corbyn’s career of grievance and posturing, of buddying up to every wretched little thug he could find in the phonebook, will have cost him his chance of becoming Prime Minister and rewriting every law of British politics along the way. I hope the warm embrace of Gerry Adams was worth it.