Theresa May pulled no punches at her speech to the Police Federation today. In a searing attack, she accused the police of “crying wolf” over the impact of budget cuts, and essentially told them to stop whining:
You said police officers were demoralised in 2002, 2004 and 2007 and 2012. You warned of police officers’ anger in 2002, 2005 and 2008. And you warned that the police and the public were being put in danger in 2001, 2004 and 2007.
The truth is that crime fell in each of those years. It has fallen further since, and our country is safer than it has ever been.
So, please, for your sake, and for the thousands of police officers who work so hard every day, this crying wolf has to stop.
The Home Secretary has long been battling the bobbies, but this is one of her most direct interventions to date. Last year, she delivered a speech that was received with booing and slow-capping, after announcing that she would withdraw public funding from the Police Federation. And it looks like her assault on the police force continues.
May is usually one for classic “tough” Tory stances. You can’t imagine her hugging a hoodie. One of the more rightwing traditionalist members of David Cameron’s cabinet, May’s hardline politics have clashed with fellow Tory ministers – George Osborne on immigration, for example.
Pitting herself against the police, and noting that crime fell under New Labour, doesn’t really fit with this characterisation. But this only adds poignancy to her comments on the police force. If a traditional Conservative Home Secretary is exasperated enough about policing – and brave enough to take it on – then there really is something there that needs to be fixed.
And in light of scandals that have plagued the police force in recent years, like the death of Ian Tomlinson, allegations of corruption in the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder, payments to police by journalists uncovered by the Leveson Inquiry, Plebgate, and persistent stop-and-search misuse, let’s hope she can fix it.