In Number 10, they are already concerned that they are losing public support on crime and punishment. David Cameron is planning to give a speech on the subject that will, in the words of one senior coalition figure, ‘throw a lot of bones to his party’s right.’
But Cameron’s words will mean little if he can’t rescue the elected police commissioners policy from its defeat in the Lords last night. By introducing police commissioners who are accountable to the public, this policy will make the police concentrate on the crimes that have the greatest impact on peoples’ quality of life rather than form filling.
Even with the substantial cut in police numbers that is coming, elected police commissioners should lead to there being more police on the beat as commissioners give the public the policing they want. But if the policy is never implemented, then the cut in police numbers will be a political and social disaster.
One other thing worth noting from last night is that the House of Lords is where the coalition’s legislative programme will face its greatest problems. There is no coalition majority in the Lords and the Lib Dem peers are a social democratic bunch who are difficult to whip. Defeats in the Lords are a particular problem for the coalition given that it is unclear how the Salisbury Convention applies in a multi-party government.