Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Whether it's plebgate or the Great Train Snobbery, they're all out to intimidate the government (Independent)

Why are respectable, small-c conservative newspapers so indignant about George Osborne travelling first-class? One word: Leveson, says Dominic Lawson.

2. I know from experience that the BBC is an empire of control freaks and cowards (Daily Mail)

The Savile scandal has exposed a profound malaise which will take years to cure, says Max Hastings.

3. Mrs May might – why Tories are tipping Theresa for the very top (Daily Telegraph)

The Home Secretary has more than a touch of Margaret Thatcher about her, writes Paul Goodman.

4. Why politicians won't tell you the truth about crime (Guardian)

Offending is falling, and prison doesn't work, writes Polly Toynbee. But Cameron shows he's also addicted to the quick fix of tough talk.

5. Cameron needs to rediscover his instincts (Financial Times)

The government’s mishaps result from its meagre interest in pure politics, writes Janan Ganesh.

6. The BBC must learn lessons from a crisis of its own making (Independent)

There were errors and misjudgements of varying size, and unacceptable passivity, writes Steve Richards. But the idea that this was something more sinister just doesn't stand up.

7. Looking forward to our debates? Think again (Times) (£)

Coalition may be just one excuse to avoid staging a prime ministerial TV contest for 2015, writes Nick Robinson.

8. Welcome to Berlin, Europe’s new capital (Financial Times)

The price of assistance will be rules made in Germany, says Gideon Rachman.

9. The curse of Lebanon (Guardian)

The revival of sectarian feeling will hit this tiny nation – which is already at the mercy of greater powers – hard, says Jeremy Bowen.

10. Unnecessary pain (Daily Telegraph)

With 11 weeks to go before the child benefit cuts are introduced, preparations remain something of a shambles, notes a Telegraph editorial.

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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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