TODAY the Police Federation’ annual conference will be addressed by the reappointed Tory Home Secretary, Theresa May, an event that the Federation’s leaders are clearly dreading.
The reason of their dread is that at last year’s conference May broke with the traditional message of unswerving support for ‘our boys’ and girls’ in uniform and delivered a speech which accused the police of ‘failing’ too often and announcing that the police force was not excluded from all the austerity cuts being inflicted on every other public service.
The Federation is complaining bitterly that over the past five years of Tory-led coalition rule, police funding has been cut by 20%, staffing cut by 17,000 officers and 17,000 civilian support staff, now they fear that a new Tory government will cut even more.
This is not supposed to happen – certainly not under the police’s favourite Tory government.
The Federation leaders must be looking back with great fondness on the days of Margaret Thatcher whose first job as prime minister back in 1979 was to give them a 45% pay rise and they revelled in the name ‘Thatcher’s boot boys’ and all the protection from the state granting them immunity from all the laws they broke.
Thatcher had her own class war agenda, to smash the trade unions, and she made sure that the police were well and truly on board in the fight against the miners’ and print workers in the 1980s.
But things have changed since Thatcher’s era.
British capitalism has gone completely bust and even the police are costing too much and cannot be cosseted in the way Thatcher did.
All this has upset the leadership of the Federation greatly and in a move designed to pre-empt May’s expected announcement of even more cuts, their chairman, Steve White, issued a warning that fewer police trying to keep law and order will inevitably lead to a more violent style of policing.
White said it will mean ‘You get a style of policing where the first options are teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which are the last options in the UK.’
Warning that less police on the streets means an end to the any relationship with local communities and the subsequent loss of policing by ‘consent’, White concluded: ‘You are left with a police service who you only speak to in the direst of circumstances, a police service almost paramilitary in style.’
If White thought that threatening May and the Tories with a ‘paramilitary’ police force would force her to think again, he is completely wrong.
A paramilitary police force is precisely what the Tories and the capitalist state require today.
The whole idea of policing by consent and the view of a police force composed of bobbies on the beat helping old ladies across the road went out of the window years ago, dealt a death blow by Thatcher.
Under the new Tory government the complete transformation of the police into a paramilitary force is the goal.
Boris Johnson as London mayor bought water cannon to use against demonstrators, while police armed with automatic weapons are a regular sight on city streets.
In this period of acute crisis for British capitalism the ruling class is aware that the austerity cuts it must make to save their system can only be achieved by smashing a powerful working class determined to fight to defend its gains.
The transformation of the police into an open paramilitary force is part and parcel of the civil war preparations of a desperate ruling class preparing civil war against its own workers.
Despite all the moans from the Federation the police, as an integral part of the capitalist state, will always remain the ‘boot boys’ of the ruling class.
The only answer to these class war preparations is to demand that the TUC call a general strike to kick out the Tories, go forward to a workers government and to the smashing of the capitalist state and its bodies of armed men and replacement with a workers’ state.