Mark Reckless is no longer a member of the Conservative party. Photo: Rob Stothard/Getty Images
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Land of hopeless Tories: hen parties, Harwich and a Reckless spin room slip

Plus: why the Lib Dems are paying a teenager to deliver their leaflets.

That hen party favourite, Ed Miliband, is too busy posing for selfies to visit Labour Party HQ at Brewer’s Green. His corner office is usually empty. Shadow cabinet special advisers peer longingly through the glass. Eight desks for 40 aides have them elbowing each other for space. Every day there is fierce competition to arrive first and bag a seat by leaving a jacket on the back of a chair, holiday sunlounger-style. Noses were put out of joint, my snout says, when taped messages appeared announcing that chairs had been reserved for the staff of the chief campaign strategist, Douglas Alexander. If the Paisley polls are correct, they’ll be the only seats Dougie has on 8 May.

David Cameron wasn’t happy, an informant whispers, following his TV mauling by the BBC’s newshound Andrew Marr. The grumpy fox-hunting Tory refused to share a sofa with the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon during the usual end-of-show chat. In the past, Cameron has made a point of going into the green room to exchange pleasantries with his fellow guests. After Sunday morning’s mangling, Cam Sham departed without so much as a tally-ho. He’s a hunter who forgets his manners when cornered.

Bernard Jenkin is a Eurosceptic and a hereditary Tory MP who likes to drive around Harwich in a 4x4 blaring “Land of Hope and Glory” from his speakers. This nuisance on wheels is the son of a onetime Conservative cabinet minister. Jenkin the Younger’s noisy patriotism prompted a local Labour activist, Garry Calver, to compose a song, “Land of Hopeless Tories”, to the tune of Elgar’s original. The last two lines of the rewritten first verse – “God, we love the wealthy,/Make them wealthier yet!” – sum up Tory policy better than any speech by Ed Miliband.

The Lib Dems’ collapse in Hornsey and Wood Green has forced the Yellow Bellies into paying kids to deliver election propaganda for Lynne Featherstone. One former leafleter said she refused to distribute pamphlets after the Lib Dumbs jumped into bed with the Tories in 2010. Instead, the party pays her teenage son £10 for a little more than an hour’s work filling letter boxes. When the party claims that opportunity is at the heart of its manifesto, in north London it means the chance to earn pocket money handling rotten goods.

In the spin room at the Cameronless five-way TV debate, the defector from the Tories to Ukip Mark Reckless referred to the Conservatives as “us”. It was a telling slip of the tongue. It’s been a similarly tricky campaign for Jeremy Hunt. Asked if he was spinning for an absent Cameron, the Health Secretary replied, “Yes,” before quickly correcting himself: “No, I’m telling the truth.” Pull the other one.

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 24 April 2015 issue of the New Statesman, What does England want?

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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