Thursday, October 02, 2008

Politicisation * of the police

There was much harrumphing on Today this morning about the politicisation of the police following the resignation of Sir Ian Blair. Its a bit late for now, NuLabour has politicised the whole landscape since 1997.

Anyone who has served in the armed forces will be well schooled in the doctrine of "civilian control of the armed forces". In short this means the the most senior military leaders report to civilians, which in theory means the Secretary of State for Defence** but in practice means through senior civil servants, except in a crises when the PM takes control through COBRA.

As part of this deal Military leaders had the ear of the Defense Sec and even the PM and could give full and frank advice. Politicians were free to make their own decision and if they ignored the advice military leaders kept quiet, in public at least. The quid pro quo was the Military Covenant, whereby the armed services were looked after for their sacrifice. Even Labour member accept that the Covenant has been broken. This has led to military chiefs openly and publicly getting involved in politics, which is an unedifying spectacle as well as being dangerous.

Finally we have the civil service. They may be conservative plodders who are risk averse but they always had a reputation for being apolitical and giving Government "best advice". Yes they probably stalled Government policies and I'm sure that their is more than a kernel of truth of truth in the Yes, Minister! books. However, senior civil servants accepted the bidding of their political masters with good grace and got on with the job when instructed to. Again, this was undermined by NuLabour through the introduction of SpAds who are effectively political civil servants.

Now I'm not myopic enough to realise that even Maggie wasn't immune from upsetting senior civil servants, the police and the military, but she rarely undermined their leaders by the imposition of raw politics over their heads.

Now of course its too late for complaint; the appointment of Sir Ian Blair was political. He was seen as representing the face of NuLabour and was happy to accept the manageralist style of Governement by targets. The genie of senior people in the police, armed forces and civil service being apolitical is out of the bottle and it ain't going back.

What we have to do now is learn to live with the new order. There isn't much we can do about senior military officers, they have to be servicemen, but we could have elections for Chief Police Officers and there is no reason why we can't have a polical appointments as heads of the civil service as they do in the USA.

* Horrible word.

**I once caught a young soldier stealing petrol from a generator. His charge sheet read that he was stealing fuel from "The Secretary of State for Defence, The Rt Hon Michael Hesltine MP."

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