The Guardian turns yellow, the Times blue

Those editorials -- abridged.

Of the four national newspapers that backed Tony Blair in 2005, only one will back Gordon Brown this time. The Sun abandoned Labour last autumn and today the Guardian and the Times do the same, putting their support behind the Liberal Democrats and the Tories, respectively.

In this unpredictable election campaign, one thing is certain -- the Daily Mirror will stick with Brown.

There's a certain formula to editorials of the sort the Guardian and the Times have written today. Both feature a laundry-list of achievements and failures across by all three parties. If you haven't got time to read the two in full (coming in at a combined 3,600 words), here they are, in abridged form:

 

Times

 

Likes Labour for:

  • delivering urban renewal and prosperity
  • introducing civil partnerships
  • military intervention for "noble principle" in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq
  • handling of the banking crisis

Dislikes Labour for:

  • improvident public spending
  • savaging the private pensions industry
  • selling off Britain's gold reserves "much too cheaply"
  • destroying trust in politics

Likes the Conservatives for:

  • promising to reduce the burden on enterprise and entrepreneurship
  • prioritising education, social policy and the environment
  • David Cameron's "energy, intelligence and integrity"
  • "measured and intelligent" approach to immigration
  • its "bold vision" of the Big Society

Dislikes the Conservatives for:

  • a "worrying streak of pessimism" in its foreign policy
  • its decision to abandon mainstream centre-right parties in the EU
  • its promise to match Labour's NHS spending
  • its desire to maintain the aid budget

Likes the Lib Dems for:

  • electrifying the election campaign

Dislikes the Lib Dems for:

  • its muddled policy on the euro
  • anti-business populism
  • promising to abandon Trident
  • promising to break up the banks

 

Guardian

 

Likes Labour for:

  • its "absolutely vital calls" during the financial crisis
  • the "salvation" of the health service
  • its "unmatched" record on poverty
  • major renovation of schools
  • the minimum wage
  • civil partnerships and the extension of protection for minority groups

Dislikes Labour for:

  • nurturing of the deregulatory system which contributed to the financial crisis
  • choosing to stick with Gordon Brown as leader
  • Brown's inability to "articulate a vision, a plan, or an argument for the future"
  • its inaction over pensions, public debt and housing
  • its pursuit of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • its uncritical support of the United States and "mealy-mouthed" approach to Europe
  • encroachment on civil liberties
  • increased centralisation while promising constitutional change

Likes the Conservatives for:

  • David Cameron's efforts to move the party to the centre ground
  • its modern thinking on civil liberty, the environment and aspects of social policy

Dislikes the Conservatives for its:

  • inability to translate this conversion into detailed policy
  • promise to rip up the Human Rights Act
  • hostility to electoral reform
  • alliances with some of Europe's "wackier xenophobes"
  • climate change scepticism on the backbenches
  • muddled approach to the financial crisis
  • inheritance tax cuts for the very wealthy

Likes the Lib Dems for its:

  • commitment to electoral reform, political and constitutional reform
  • approach to civil liberties and criminal justice
  • long term commitment to the green agenda
  • commitment to education
  • "comfort" with Europe
  • willingness to contemplate a future without Trident
  • foreign policy calls, notably over the Iraq War
  • support for press freedoms

Dislikes the Lib Dems for its:

  • hawkishness over the deficit
  • planned tax cuts and implied "slashing" of public services
  • failure to promote women and ethnic minority candidates

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Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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