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In politics, so I've been told, there is a lot of smoke and mirrors. They're clearly aware of that at the think tank Policy Exchange, where their way of getting more out of the police would be inspired, if it wasn't so utterly stupid.
In a nutshell: the Policy Exchange believe police officers should wear their uniforms on the way to work. Somehow, they work out that this would equate to an extra 1,200 police officers on the streets of London. Their working out, I guess, involved multiplying the average journey time to work by a policeman multiplied by the number of days in a week they work multiplied by the number of officers in London, divided by the number of contracted hours a police officer works each year.
Simples. But wrong.
Asking police officers to wear their uniform on the way to work doesn't create an extra 1,200 police officers. At best, for the bean counters, it potentially gives a couple of free hours of work on top of the normal shift.
But does a policeman, travelling to work on the bus, do if he or she spots a crime being committed? It's fair to assume that they won't have their radio with them, or their CS spray, or, if they have one, their taser gun. What we effectively have is a police officer being asked to do their job without the tools to do their job. That's not safe, or effective.
DAVID CAMERON is in Tuscany. George Osborne is in California. Only a bitter and twisted political rival would say they don't deserve a holiday. But what about when a crisis hits?
Admittedly, financial problems don't come much bigger than severe wobbles inside the Eurozone and within America - at the same time.
The fact Cameron and Osborne are both on holiday, as is Nick Clegg, the deputy leader, makes a soft target for those wishing to portray the trio as being out of control and out of touch.
A few unconnected thoughts about the local elections coming up this year:
1. Gillian Duffy: The sight of Gillian Duffy, the woman Gordon Brown muttered was bigoted after he was handbagged by her last year, trying to do the same to Nick Clegg said a lot about Labour. According to The Guardian, Duffy was tipped off to the fact Clegg was in Rochdale by local Labour MP Simon Danczuk. I have vague memories of Danczuk being a councillor in Darwen, a small town in Lancashire. I was never particularly impressed with him then, and his hand in this little set up just demonstrates that Labour's more interested in making Clegg look daft than it is in having an intelligent debate about the issues - and we're all the worse off as a result.
As it happens, Clegg handled her very well, in my opinion. Given she said she wouldn't bother voting in the elections last year, she doesn't really deserve the time or attention of any politician.
2. A local election like no other? Maybe. Maybe not. Whenever Labour took a kicking at the local elections, the new Labour lot limped a bit and then tended to carry on regardless. This year, if the Lib Dems take a kicking, what happens? That's when things could get tricky for the coalition - many backbenchers can see what could happen in 2015.
3. Ed's you lose: Ed Miliband is refusing to say how well he wants Labour to do, other than 'for us to make gains.' That has to be the most pathetic attempt as expectation management I've ever heard.
In many Northern areas, the Lib Dems are an alternative to Labour for voters, on the grounds they wouldn't vote Tory. The act of tying up with the Tories is a huge betrayal in that respect, so if Labour don't make massive gains this time out, there's something wrong. Unless...
4. We vote on the local issues Ed Miliband is very keen to suggest that people take to the ballotbox to say what they think about the cuts. But these are local elections - in theory, our vote doesn't change anything at Number 10.
Labour was always at pains when in power to point out elections were about local issues. Does voting Labour in Manchester make it more likely that it'll get a fairer deal on funding in the future? Of course not. And the same applies in Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle - anywhere.
By forgetting Labour's mantra that local elections are about local issues, Miliband is reinforcing his image as political chancer, which for someone whose entire adult life has been about working on political strategy, is quite remarkable.
5. Somebody do something about Vince At every opportunity, the Lib Dems defend their tough decisions by saying they are in power now, so they can't please everyone. They have to act differently, they say. In which case, can someone tell Vince Cable that? He's gone from Saintly expert to silly fool in the space of a year. If any other minister had contradicted the PM on immigration in the same way he did, they'd have been out. Is Cable happy to be hanging on to his job just because he's an olive branch to Lib Dem rebels? Cameron and Clegg wanted to be treated like a proper government - so their ministers should behave the same way as those in any other government
The predicted demise of the anti-social behaviour order will be mourned by many in the media. Since being introduced in 1999, they have been a source of many a good news story.
Sadly, to many they were a symbol of Labour's desire to push the state further out at every opportunity. ASBOs couldn't just be instigated by the police, councils could push one to court, as could housing associations. Then came the 'evidence' that they weren't working: trouble-making youths seeing them as a badge of honour, and the statistic that 55% of ASBOs were broken.
The coalition set out early on its plan to 'move beyond the ASBO.' That now appears to mean scrapping the ASBO and giving the police more powers to solve yobbish problems. The idea the Daily Telegraph (link above) particularly likes is the idea of a copper seeing a 'yob' vandalising a fence and making him repair it on the spot.
Brilliant. Instant justice. But what happens next time, and the time after that? Is being supervised by a policeman to repair a fence any less of a badge of honour to the cretins who commit anti-social behaviour than an ASBO? Of course not.
And here's where the negative myths around ASBOs do some real damage. The interpretation of 55% of ASBOS being broken be proof that ASBOs don't work is simply wrong.
On Monday, the perma-tanned health secretary Andrew Lansley was doing a live interview with Sky News from a beach in Anglesey. I think we can all agree it is unlikely he collected his Ronseal sheen from spending Christmas in North Wales.
He was already on dodgy territory politically - the subject of the interview was his decision not to run the flu advertising campaign. The facts were quite simple: In Scotland, where the campaign had run, take-up of the flu vaccine was higher than in England, where Lansley had insisted GPs should contact at-risk patients directly.
Lansley insisted that there was no need for a vaccination campaign because GPs could be trusted to get in contact with the right people. But what he failed to appreciate is that one, probably round-robin, letter from the GP wasn't having the same impact as the 'catch it, bin it, kill it' campaign which crops up in day-to-day life time and again.
One of the over-riding grumbles from Parliament last week was that if Vince Cable was a Tory, he'd have been kicked out by now.
Probably true - but that perhaps says more about this current crop of Tory ministers than it says about Cable, a man who seems to be the Pied Piper of the left-leaning element of his party in a way no other is.
Can any Tory minister currently lay claim to have such a role with a faction of the Conservative Party? And even if they did, would any faction of the Tories really want to rock the boat when things, through blue-tinted glasses, appear to be going so well?
People in offices up and down the country love a good moan about IT departments, don't they?
People I know who work in IT know this and tend to respond by asking, tongue firmly in cheek often, whether 'you've turned it off and back on again.'
I'm not sure how IT people across the country will respond to the latest attack, though. It's from the prime minister in PMQs:
The right hon. and learned Lady asks about Greater Manchester, so let me answer specifically about Greater Manchester. First, the chief constable of Greater Manchester has said that his plans are putting "the maximum resources" on front-line policing, and I am not surprised he is able to say that, because here are the figures for the employment levels in the back-office functions: human resources, 187 people for that force; fleet vehicle maintenance, 106 people; finance, 106; IT- [Interruption.] Well, Opposition Members want to know the facts about Greater Manchester police, and these are the facts about Greater Manchester police. Guess how many people are involved in IT in Greater Manchester police: 225. This is the debate we ought to be having: how do we get resources from the back office on to the front line? How do we do it when right now only 11% of police officers are on the streets at any one time? That is the mess we have inherited; that is the mess we are going to clear up.
It was in response to a question about job cuts at Greater Manchester Police. Thousands of jobs are at risk, including some on the frontline.
You may remember that in the run-up to the general election, Cameron vowed to preserve frontline services. The way the Tories hoped for this to be interpreted was that the Tories would keep funding in place to protect frontline services. What he actually meant was that he expected frontline services to be maintained with less cash available.
Having worked as a political report and local government reporter, I've covered plenty of stories about wasteful spending in the public sector but there's a fine line between highlighting cases of poor spending and assuming all non-frontline services are cash rich and needless.
Rather like Labour, Cameron is trying to be clever with numbers. I suspect we're all supposed to be shocked by the fact GMP has 200 people in its IT department - but who are we to judge on whether that is realistic or not? I suspect if a computer system fails at GMP, then frontline policing is impacted instantly.
Those 106 people in the vehicle department. Is that unrealistic? How many vehicles do they look after? How many repairs do they do? Surely if the numbers were reduced and vehicles were off the road for longer, policing would be impacted as a result?
187 in HR? So what? If ever there was an organisation which will have a high HR need, it's a police force - even just dealing with the problems faced on the frontline. HR can be a very broad church in terms of roles, so what is Cameron saying? If an officer needs HR support after a traumatic incident, they should just buy self-help book?
The challenge facing Cameron is that he insists he is happy to devolve decisions to local areas, but then realises he has little, if any, control over the decisions made. Too often in the public sector, it's easier to slash on the frontline than it is to streamline.
Lancashire Police, for example, has given all its community support officers redundancy notices. They may not be full officers, but they are a frontline service. Whichever way you cut it, Cameron's frontline pledge pre-election proved hollow. Of course, he was a desperate man before the election, having thrown away a huge lead in the polls and fearful that he wouldn't win outright - which he didn't.
But turning now on the many people who work in back offices of authorities and creating the impression they are all a drain on taxpayers' cash is to forget that if they weren't there, the frontline staff would spend more time doing backoffice work.
Perhaps GMP can just scrap it's IT department and tell police officers to 'just switch it off and back on again.' Or maybe Cameron should stop stigmatising many thousands of hard-working people to score cheap political points. Context is key here, and Cameron, as in opposition, is having a struggle with context once again.
A rather odd statement from Prime Minister David Cameron when he came out of Number 10 to celebrate the engagement of the Prince William to Kate Middleton.
He said the announcement was greeted 'by a loud cheer and banging on the table.'
Really? Is that how the most powerful men and women in our country react to good news? They hit the table like a bunch of drunk rugby players on Mad Monday?
There was me thinking they were a grown up lot. Surely a round of applause would have been enough?
ONE of the most difficult health battles the previous Labour government had was trying to justify the role of of the the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence when it came to 'rationing drugs.'
NICE, as it was ironically known, was tasked with deciding whether a drug provided enough of a positive impact on patients to justify being standard across the NHS. Yet that didn't mean the drug wasn't available, it meant a consultant could suggest that treatment, but that the local primary care trust would have to decide whether it could be prescribed - based on whether they were prepared to pay for it.
George Osborne's praise for David Cameron at the start of his speech yesterday was enough to churn even the hardiest of stomachs. Maybe the man once billed the Conservative's election superbrain (that worked out well didn't it) was so gushing on purpose. Maybe he hoped it would make millions feel less sick when confirmation of the change to child benefits was delivered moments later.
But that would probably be giving Osborne, and the Tory Party spin doctors, too much credit, pardon the pun. Rather like the Lib Dem conference a fortnight ago, the belief appears to be that if you say something forcefully enough, then everyone will buy into it. Show you believe something so much, and then the country will forget it didn't actually vote for the government which now rules, and certainly didn't vote for the hotch-potch of policies which now appear set to be delivered.