Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are pushing for suspending arms export licences to Israel. Photo: Getty
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Lib Dems pile the pressure on David Cameron over Gaza

Following the resignation of a Tory minister, the PM’s coalition partners are now calling for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel

As David Cameron soothes his nerves through his favourite form of escapism – pointing at fish at a Portuguese fish market – his coalition colleagues have piled on the pressure already mounting on him to clarify his stance on Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The Liberal Democrats are now calling for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel, a significant addition to the rebellious voices in Cameron’s own party – the loudest of which was Sayeeda Warsi, who dramatically resigned from his government yesterday, calling his position “morally indefensible”.

Both the Times and Independent are splashing this morning with stories about how the minister’s resignation has opened the floodgates for senior Tory figures criticising the PM’s reticence over condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza. He so far has called the actions “intolerable”, but has not used the word “disproportionate” – as Boris Johnson was quick to use yesterday, eclipsing Cameron’s stance.

The Independent reports a “mutiny among senior Tory MPs last night as they lined up to condemn his [Cameron’s] handling of the Gaza crisis and to warn his stance was alienating millions of British Muslims”, and the Times’ frontpage headline is “Tory war over Gaza”. It reports that Cameron is “struggling to contain a growing revolt”, and also describes a “pincer movement from Labour and the Liberal Democrats”.

Ed Miliband has repeatedly called upon Cameron to take a firmer stance, deploring his “inexplicable silence” on the subject. And now the Lib Dems are differentiating themselves from the Tory coalition leaders and adding a fresh voice to the cacophony already condemning Cameron. Nick Clegg said the Israeli military operation has “overstepped the mark”, and revealed he’s been working with his Lib Dem cabinet colleague, the Business Secretary Vince Cable, to push for a suspension of arms export licences to Israel. Cable added that he and his fellow senior Lib Dems have been “making this case inside government” for a while, but had been unable “to get agreement” with the Tories.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Suspending export licences is not a decision we take lightly and it is right that we examine the facts fully. This is the approach being taken by the vast majority of countries.”

How long can Cameron keep up this strategy of lukewarm No 10 statements and low-key tutting at Israel’s actions when the opposition, his coalition colleagues and even significant individuals in his own party are asking for much more?

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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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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