Lisa Townsend is Surrey’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner.
“The nine scariest words in English are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
As conservatives we smile, because even though nearly 40 years have passed, we still believe Ronald Reagan’s words to be true. It’s one of the reasons why a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer handing out tens of billions of pounds for workers to stay home during the covid pandemic was so extraordinary. The permits, Eat Out to Help Out, rent relief and the Energy Bill Support Plan have many hoping for more intervention from the state.
To be clear: I am not a libertarian. I believe that the state has an important role to play in our lives and that as individuals we simply cannot rely on our wits and capitalism alone. We need the NHS, particularly when we are seriously or urgently ill. Those who have a disability that prevents them from working must have our support; our children deserve the best free education that taxes can buy and I am more than happy to contribute through HMRC to ensure that the elderly receive a fair pension.
While it may be fashionable in some conservative circles to condemn “equalities” and accompanying legislation, I think it’s only right that unscrupulous employers can’t fire women for getting pregnant or arbitrarily decide they don’t want anyone older than 65 years. earning a salary. But I also don’t agree with the Bank of England that people of either gender can be pregnant or with the Equality Committee that menopause should be a protected characteristic. Personal responsibility suddenly feels so 2019.
There are few symbols of state more powerful and visible than surveillance. Both are there to protect us from harm and, if necessary, use force to prevent us from doing it. A uniformed British police officer is recognizable around the world, and with more of them employed in England and Wales than ever before, policing is another part of that growing status. My own Force, Surrey Police, is bigger than ever and as a PCC I am delighted to be able to deliver on the promise I made to the electorate.
Has crime increased to require this increase in officers? No, Surrey is safer than ever and continues to be one of the safest places in the country to live, raise children and work. So why am I spending hard-earned taxpayer money on an increased police presence? What has changed?
Traditionally, policing has revolved around public space: brawls on a Saturday night after the pubs have closed; violence and disorder; theft and criminal damage. These and other ‘traditional crimes’ have decreased, but the police are now in our private spaces, dealing with domestic abuse and child exploitation, and increasingly in our cyberspaces preventing and investigating fraud (42 per cent of all crimes in England and Wales) and online. pedophilia Detecting and preventing crime no longer looks like it did when George Dixon operated out of Dock Green.
In many ways, progress and technology have enabled these new types of crimes. As someone who spent five years working in venture capital and fintech, I see the benefits to the UK economy and to us as individuals from this tech boom. As a PCC, I see how it can be manipulated to do the most serious damage. The public is absolutely right to demand that the police do more to combat these crimes, whether it is child pornography, an abusive ex-tracker of a woman through her mobile phone, or criminals stealing our data, the police must respond as only they do. They can do it.
But while teachers once handled a dispute on the playground, police are being called to schools as social media is used as a weapon. Men and women are investigated for ‘non-crime hate incidents’, almost always at the instigation of an ‘injured’ party. Hospitals dialing 999 when a patient checks out, only for the police to discover that the ‘fugitive’ has a sneaky cigarette strapped to his back. These are not criminals and this is not a crime.
Margaret Thatcher was, of course, right: the state should be ‘small, strong and strategic’. We will never be small again, but for the police to be strong and strategic, we must resist the socialist impulse to look to the state for the answers to all our problems or be prepared to pay the heavy price.