Salmond and the Sun. Montage: Dan Murrell/NS
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Commons Confidential: The Sun sets on Salmond

Plus: Why is Keith Vaz all starry-eyed?

The talk in Scotland’s Yes and No camps is of the Sun setting on Alex Salmond. The word inside News UK is that Rupert Murdoch would love the paper’s Glasgow edition to back independence but in London the Sun’s editor, David Dinsmore, calculates that destroying the UK would be commercially disastrous for his Union Jack-waving tabloid. The snout predicted that Dinsmore, a Tory and product of Strathallan, a pricey Perthshire school, will hold the line in September.

The Scottish Sun backed the SNP’s 2011 Holyrood landslide and the starry-eyed Murdoch once tweeted: “Alex Salmond clearly most brilliant politician in the UK.” Perhaps Murdoch would see Scotland divorcing the rest of Britain as revenge on David Cameron for all the arrests, Leveson and Rebekah Brooks’s trial. Wappingologists will note the loosening of the Sun King’s grip on his second-favourite red top.

Also starry-eyed is Keith Vaz. I hear he is hopeful of securing a part in a Bollywood take on the Bond franchise if it is shot in Westminster. The name’s Vaz, Keith Vaz. The poor man’s Daniel Craig is a busy man. He took time out from holding to account alleged dodgy coppers and pervert politicians to complain to the administration committee that strawberries and cream aren’t served on the terrace.

Ed Miliband is anxious to rebuild bridges with Dennis Skinner after a whipping operation backfired and the Beast of Bolsover was inadvertently voted off Labour’s governing National Executive Committee.

The intended target was the Scouse brickie Steve Rotheram, who had criticised Mili over that Sun photo, but it all went bacon sandwich and Skinner became collateral damage. Mili’s insistence that there was no whipping operation is undermined by the figures. The turnout in the NEC election was unprecedented, with 250 of 257 Labour MPs voting. A few hours later 22 fewer Labour MPs voted against George Osborne’s Budget on the Finance Bill’s third reading.

The source on this is well placed: a prominent MP was called by his local newspaper and asked what he thought about a beauty spot’s growing reputation as a “dogging hot spot”. “Marvellous,” he told the hack. “I’m delighted so many people are enjoying the area.” The reporter spared the MP’s blushes and, sadly, allowed him to change his quote after the unworldly fiftysomething politician was informed the practice involved group sex and voyeurism, rather than people walking their pets.

I’m informed that Nick Clegg believes the ex-Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, who confessed to “degrading” a vulnerable constituent with mental health issues, deserves to be stripped of a CBE, awarded after he chaired the NSPCC’s southern region.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 08 July 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The end of the red-top era?

Photo: Getty
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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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