I have often thought that Jacqui Smith has no real understanding of the issues she tries to talk about. She might have been to Oxford, but there's something tragically thick about her. She recently spoke to the Guardian about Labour's plans to abandon the idea of elected police chiefs. It's worth noting that elected local police chiefs - akin to sheriffs in the USA - has been a long-standing Conservative policy. Smith, among other things, came out with these little nuggets of stupidity:
"The Tories' behaviour [over the Damien Green affair] has raised fears that the police were being politicised, making it more difficult to win public support for my proposals for some members of the police authority to be directly elected."
No, you stupid bitch. There's a difference between the police being seen as the extended arm of the government and them being responsible to an electorate. The issue with the Damien Green case was that it appeared as though an opposition MP had been arrested and questioned because he made the government - more precisely, you - look incompetent and devious. A politicised police force representing the political will of the people is a good thing; a politicised police force representing the will of the government is a dangerous thing.
"Looking at what has happened over the past two months, there has been a fundamental shift in the way people think about the politicisation of the police. I put that down to the London mayor's intervention in the resignation of Sir Ian Blair..."
Let us be under no illusions here; Ian Blair was the most political Commissioner the Met has ever had. This was the man who let police cars drive around with 'Vote Labour' posters in the windows. To say that Blair wasn't both a political appointment, and a Labour puppet, is facetious and dishonest. Turning to the way he resigned, Smith's argument crumbles further. The only person who can hire or fire the Met Commissioner is the Home Secretary - not the Mayor of London. All Boris Johnson did was express the opinion that he no longer had confidence in Blair. Johnson also has a responsibility to those who elected him - and in his wider role as Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority - to ensure the Met is working in London's best interests. If it isn't, he is obligated to say so.
The simple fact is this; Labour don't want elected police chiefs because then the police will start doing what the public wants, and not the government's bidding. Smith is blaming the Conservatives to save face; her real concern is that she'd lose the police as a political tool. As Dan Hannan says over at the Telegraph: "Police chiefs are already political; they're just not elected. They represent, in microcosm, the tragedy of our quango state." Quite.
Saturday Seven Up
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