Sebastian Payne

Lib Dem conference: police remain unhappy about Mitchell and elected commissioners

‘I can see there are several journalists here, so we might as well get Andrew Mitchell out of the way’. Channel 4’s Michael Crick decided to kick off his lunchtime fringe session with the big political row brewing far away from the Brighton Centre. Irene Curtis, president-elect of the Police Superintendents’ Association, began by venting her frustration that the matter remained ‘unresolved’, highlighting the integrity of the police force and its officers as her key concern.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, took the view that there is little else for police to say since the officer has accepted Mitchell’s apology. But like the other panelists, Orde said it was not up to him whether the Chief Whip should be sacked. The chairman of the Police Federation Paul McKeever felt that although the police are used to taking abuse, ‘it is not something they expect from senior levels of the government’.

The face of the government — Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne — popped in at the last minute. While he declined to add anything to the Mitchell saga or discuss the Home Office cuts, he defended the government’s reforms:

‘There are three interesting things going on with the police. The first is the new National Crime Agency, which will kick off this time next year. The second is the police and crime commissioner elections… where I hope for higher rather than lower turnout. Finally is community level policing, which I have seen bring a very big reduction in crime in my constituency’.

It’s interesting that ministers are still trying to talk up the turnout: in private, those close to the reforms are concerned they won’t even get 15 per cent.

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