Roger de Graef, a noted commentator on the police, opposes their politicisation in an article for the Daily Telegraph. Despite some excellent work over the years showing how the police forces have become more directed by the state and whichever party is in power, de Graef argues that we still have the best system, balancing accountability to the centre through the Chief Constables with local concerns, Yet his history shows that there was a rise in political hyperactivity from 1980 and a pointed use of police to quash demonstrations, strikes or any other activities deemed inappropriate by the authorities. Many police authorities have not been averse to lobbying, acquiring and using these increased powers to curtail our liberties. This is not stated.
Given such a qualitative change, is reference to the status quo sufficient, or should we look at a need for reform? The police are already politicised as local needs are downplayed or overridden by the demands of the centre. Why is democratic accountability wrong, given that the instances cited (concerns for due process and problems for minorities) could just as easily, or already have been instituted without difficulty through Whitehall.
Despite my scepticism, he does twist the knife into Jacqui Smith, in an echo of Mark Antony's oration at Caesar's funeral:
That confusion was fed by the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, insisting she knew nothing about the impending arrest of a MP. She, too, proclaimed her respect for police independence as her defence for not knowing. Miss Smith is an honourable woman, but in my 30 years of watching the police I find it hard to believe.
Could experienced senior officers accountable to her and ultimately to Parliament have failed to notify her office that such a contentious arrest was looming? Could two of the candidates for commissioner not have realised she would be pleased to be rid of a troublesome Opposition MP? If they didn't tell her, she should have been furious with them.