Police will adopt a new code of conduct on stop and search powers. Photo: Getty
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Police adopt new stop and search code of conduct: analysing Theresa May's role

Tracking the Home Secretary's tenacity on stop and search is an interesting context for the police now having agreed to adopt a new code of conduct.

Police stop and search powers have always been a painful topic, both for members of Britain’s black population who are disproportionately targeted, and for government ministers, who never quite manage to stamp out both unlawful use and racial discrimination in the practice.

Today, all of England and Wales’ 43 police forces have agreed to adopt a new code of conduct on stop and search powers launched by the Home Secretary Theresa May. She insists that the police power is misused too often, and is therefore a factor in the breakdown of trust between the police and public.

These changes are being brought in after it was found by the Inspectorate of Constabulary that 27 per cent of stop and searches are not carried out on reasonable grounds for suspicion, and are therefore illegal. The changes also come after the discovery of the Equality and Human Rights Commission last year that black people are six times as likely to be stopped, and that this has been 29 times as likely in some areas.

Following the London riots of 2011, many argued that it was police misuse of stop and search powers that built resentment of the authorities in certain communities, and it has been a subject of much controversy both before and following the riots.

Politically, May’s role in curbing police stop and search powers is worth looking at closer. It is a subject on which the Home Secretary has been very vocal – and at odds with her seniors in cabinet – over the years.

She clashed with David Cameron over curbing the powers, as reported in January this year. It came out that May had been keen to announce sweeping measures to tackle police abusing their powers before Christmas of 2013, something that the PM apparently vetoed due to the risk of the Conservative party appearing soft on crime.

However, May has never quite dropped the issue, in spite of the perception concerns her party supposedly fears. She was unable to achieve her aim of having a curb of police stop and search powers incluced in the Queen’s Speech this year. Yet she has continued to battle for change, in April vowing to introduce a “comprehensive package” revising the powers after telling the Commons that a quarter of a million street searches in 2013 were probably carried out illegally.

At the time, though clearly having not managed to persuade Downing Street of the importance of reform, she told the House:

"I want to make myself absolutely clear: if the numbers do not come down, if stop and search does not become more targeted, if those stop-to-arrest ratios do not improve considerably, the government will return with primary legislation to make those things happen.

"Nobody wins when stop and search is misapplied. It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young, black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police.”

It is a tough one for the Tories, with many not wanting the party to seem soft, particularly with Ukip's criticism and questioning of its rightwing credentials mounting, and some on the other side arguing that liberalising stop and search is a way the party can extend its appeal to black and ethnic minority voters.

Although May will inevitably face accusations that Cameron has watered down her plans to curb stop and search in the announcement of today’s changes, due to the rather public reporting of her clash with No 10 on the issue, and disappointment from campaign groups who want the practice stopped altogether, it is clear that she has remained steadfastly up for the political challenge of reforms in this area of policing. A senior Conservative MP close to another cabinet minister once told me that there is a strand in the party who nicknamed the Home Secretary “Theresa May-be” because of her reputation for prevaricating over the big issues. Perhaps seeing her perseverance on stop and search, they’ll have to think of something new.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.