Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. Free speech can't exist unchained. US politics needs the tonic of order (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins argues that if America is to speak in a way that heals, as Barack Obama wishes, it needs the curbs and regulations that make freedom of expression real.

2. These UCTs could be a real technical breakthrough (Times) (£)

The right's snobbish elitism and the left's patronising anti-elitism failed generations at school. Now, says Philip Collins, we can put it right.

3. Australia is still the lucky country (Independent)

Amid the floods, says Terence Blacker, neighbours have helped each other out and people remain stoical, even amid the wreckage of their homes.

4. The risks of raising interest rates too quickly (Financial Times)

Should the Bank of England tighten now in response to a possible overshoot of its target two years hence? No, says Martin Wolf.

5. Mervyn King must hold his nerve (Guardian)

The Bank of England was right, says Larry Elliott. Even with inflation, interest-rate rises would be a monumental blunder.

6. The only way to save the euro is the destruction of its members (Daily Telegraph)

Britain beware – European integration has reached a dangerous tipping point, writes Peter Oborne.

7. We've never been better able to feed the world (Times) (£)

Forget scare stories about rising population and record food prices, says Matt Ridley – we can now grow more crops on less land.

8. A stark lesson for ageing Arab autocrats (Financial Times)

Claire Spencer suggests that the region's leaders lack national narratives that they can use to justify repression.

9. Richard Holbrooke's true memorial would be a lasting peace in Afghanistan (Daily Telegraph)

There are worrying reports of the insurgency mutating into global jihadism, writes David Miliband.

10. The Lib Dems will gain strength through weakness (Guardian)

In coalition, small parties are offered concessions, says Martin Kettle. And in the modern world of fairness and volatility, they can thrive.

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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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