I am horrified to learn that my satire on policing has attracted support within the Coalition. Reports suggest that the Government is thinking of just such a scheme as I outlined earlier this month with Voluntary Special Policeman being rewarded with a 50 percent rebate on their Council Tax. This confirms for me that there is no member of the Government with a sense of humour! Let us assume for a moment that the proposal is under serious consideration. What must be properly considered?
I have suggested that there are three important aspects of any National Scheme to get right.
1. Safety. We cannot play fast and loose with the safety of volunteers some who are old and infirm, and after all they who have the most time on their hands must be protected. Do we expect them to arrest burglars or break up teenage riots and group binge drinking on the village green? Of course not. I suggested arm badges, distinctive hats and whistles. Yes, police whistles to summon help and to scare miscreants. But it is well known that there is a national shortage of police whistles and large scale production in China has to be negotiated to make this possible?
2. Disabled people. I have it on good authority is that there is a scheme to get the disabled off their benefit by offering them a financial incentive to become a Special Volunteer Policeman. I pointed out that you cannot expect a woman in a wheel chair to tackle a rioting crowd without help. If this inducement is to work then it is necessary to ensure that each wheelchair volunteer is accomapnied on patrol by at least one able bodied person. We hear nothing about this problem.
3. Shifts There will be considerable difficulties in arranging shifts. It is important that this new species of Constable should be representative of the country as a whole if the scheme is to work. Many northern elderly ladies will be reluctant to go out on patrol when East Enders and Coronation Street are being shown. Younger people will insist on the continuance of watching educational programmes: X Factor and Big Brother. And what about football fans otherwise engaged with Football on three to four days of the week. Young men would not exchange these programmes even for the enjoyment of a good punch up!
There are no signs that the Coalition has considered these important issue. There are many more but regrettably I do not have the space and time to bring them to your attention. Anyway in the Big Society you are expected to think of them yourself.
I say to the Coalition that good ideas are not like butterflies in summer. You can no doubt come up with ideas but do you have the abilty to think them through as acts of social engineering? I think not. If I am to continue with my pioneering contribution I need to think that they will be taken seriously. If not, move over and let someone else try!
Filed under BBC, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Civil liberties, Lenin, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Nick Clegg, Police, Police Federation, Volunteers
NB This post comes with a health warning. No one without a sense of humour should read it.
What I do from time to time is to talk to you about the real purposes of the Coalition. Of course, it is common ground among all political parties that urgent and difficult decisions need to be taken to reduce the financial deficit. That difficult burden is placed on the Coalition. However, our adminstration offers the British public something different: we really are serious about diminishing the role of Government and shifting power to you the people. When some fuddy-duddy objects it is quite clear that they are misguided: public service union officials trying to hold on to their membership and their jobs; pressure groups with odd objectives, well-meaning but misguided; and of course politicians nervous that fair representation will lose them their jobs. You know the kind of thing. They simply don’t get it.
Let’s consider policing. The Police Federation has suggested that expenditure cuts will cause a big loss in the numbers of policemen and that after 4 years there will be 60,000 fewer. I’ll be frank with you. In my judgement the loss will be greater. Would this be a disaster? No. Not if we do the right things.
As you know, I am a Revolutionary and something of an expert on Russian history. (Stop laughing, please, at the back). Our dreadful political and economic disasters are akin to those confronting first Lenin and the Stalin. They were confronted with similar circumstances. Power lay with the State. The police served a narrow bourgeois interest and were resistant to change. What did Lenin do? Well, he was a pioneer of the Big Society. He called upon volunteers and instituted the creation of Druzhinicks (Volunteer Guards). Companies were obliged to volunteer people for Guard Duties. A vast body of men and women were issued with uniforms, arm bands and a whistle and they patrolled the streets. (More laughter). It was a holiday with pay spent in the fresh air. Of course, like Community Policemen today, they had no powers of arrest and when confronted with really difficult situations had to call the police. But it worked there and then. People confronted established power and made it subject to their will.
We have a plan. (we usually do). Let us replace these policemen with volunteers. These men and women could be recruited from two sources of manpower: first the growing number of unemployed and secondly the release of short stay prisoners from prisons onto this form of Community Service. (Even more laughter). Of course, there will be objections. Those on Job Seekers Allowance and Disability Allowance might object. They must be told ‘get serious’. If you want some of our money you must earn it! It is certainly possible to patrol in a wheelchair when accompanied by an able bodied person. Some objections might be raised by the media and the general public to the use of delinquents. But who better to catch a thief than a former villain. Remember they will be in uniforms. A good uniform can help the process of rehabilitation and change personal behaviour.
Of course there are expenses here but just think of the savings: no new prisons, the release of 20,000 short stay prisoners and up to 100,000 high paid policemen made redundant. What is the cost of 120,000 whistles compared to these savings? And the benefits to 100,000 of a life in the open air and the handing back of responsibility for policing to communities will have enormous advsantages.
The Big Society worked for Lenin and several generations of Soviet citizens, so why not for you, and for us. Those who want to try out a whistle can get one as they go out. (Laughter and the blowing of whistles?)
Filed under BBC, Benefits, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Disability Allownce, Disabled, Job Seekers Allowance, Labour Blogs, Lenin, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Police Federation, Politics, Revolution, Russia, Stalin, Uncategorized, Unemployment