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Theresa May's police cuts have returned to haunt her

The Prime Minister's record is hindering Conservative attempts to define themselves as the party of security.

On 20 May 2015, as Police Federation members warned Theresa May of the effects of cuts, the future PM defiantly told the body to stop "scaremongering" and "crying wolf". After the UK's third terrorist attack in three months, May's words are under greater scrutiny than ever before.

Though security is traditionally a strong suit for the Conservatives, May's Home Office record presents uncomfortable truths. In a speech last night, Jeremy Corbyn declared: "You cannot protect the public on the cheap. The police and security services must get the resources they need, not 20,000 police cuts. Theresa May was warned by the Police Federation but she accused them of 'crying wolf'" (He went further today and called on the PM to resign over her record.)

The Labour leader is not the only one to have warned May of the consequences of cuts. Following the London Bridge attack, Sadiq Khan told CNN: "It's not sustainable to carry on reducing the resources that our police receive." Peter Kirkham, a former Met chief inspector, warned that the service was in "crisis" and accused May of being "criminally negligent with the safety of the public". After a painfully awkward interview on Good Morning Britain, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley later conceded on the Today programme that there had been "reductions in police numbers across the board".

Between September 2010 and September 2016, police workforce numbers in England and Wales fell by 18,991. The number of authorised firearms officers has fallen from 6,976 in March 2010 to 5,639 in March 2016. When pressed on these figures at a press conference this morning, May replied: "We have protected counter-terrorism policing budgets. We have also provided funding for an increase in the number of armed police officers. Since 2015 we have protected overall police budgets [a fact disputed by the UK Statistics Authority]".

Though the counter-terrorism budget has consistently risen, police and politicians warn that other cuts have hindered security. As Chuka Umunna, a former member of the home affairs select commiteee, recently told me: "There’s no getting away from it: we need more police on our streets. All the evidence that I’ve heard from the Met commissioner down is that, actually, the most important resource for gathering intelligence are your local policemen and women. Twenty thousand have been cut since 2010 and if you don’t have the numbers to gather intelligence then it makes it so much harder."

Unlike Labour's manifesto, which promises 10,000 more police officers, the Conservatives' manifesto does not mention police numbers or funding. Though May has abandoned George Osborne's budget surplus target (promising only to eliminate the deficit by 2025), spending cuts have not ceased. The Conservatives hope that Jeremy Corbyn's record of voting against all major counter-terrorist legislation and of opposing "shoot-to-kill" (a stance he has since reversed) will hinder Labour. But three days before the election, two Tory priorities - austerity and security - are in dangerous collision.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.