True to the run of political surprises that have occurred across Europe and America over the past year or so we now have a Hung Parliament.
As I write this, Mrs May has just got back from seeing the Queen and is announcing her intention to form a government with the support of the DUP. The speech sounded as if the Tories had won that three figure majority that was smugly forecast by so many of their wretched media friends and it also kind of skipped over the trivial fact that it was Theresa herself who called the election to demonstrate strength and stability and wipe out a supposedly hopeless opposition.
The meeting with Her Majesty was pretty short and one can only wonder whether it matched the standards of those portrayed in the hit TV series 'The Crown', where the Monarch is purported to have regularly entertained Prime Ministers through the decades with a mixture of disdain and incredulity. Sadly, there did not seem to be a scenario covering a discussion where a thoroughly discredited 'would be' Prime Minister pitched up like a medieval supplicant seeking magisterial mercy after having blown an existing parliamentary majority in an election that many commentators thought to be wholly unnecessary.
As for the outcome of the election, it provided an astonishing turnaround for the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn himself, despite him having to endure some of the most hysterical personal abuse of the 'attack dog' mentality that is such an unattractive feature of politics across the 'Pond' which the Tory election guru Lynton Crosby stupidly thought would go down a treat with the UK electorate.
Let’s see where the dust settles in terms of any kind of coherent programme from this Tory/DUP arrangement; but be assured that I have every intention to get on their case on behalf of our members at each and every opportunity.
That presupposes this new government lasts more than five political minutes so to speak, and that while Theresa May may convince herself that the electorate might forget and even forgive her electoral hubris, you can be sure that the Conservative Backbenchers’1922 Committee will not.
Watch this space.
While we await what is likely to be a lively summer for national politics, I hope that all of our members across Probation, Cafcass, the CRC estate and Probation Board Northern Ireland can involve themselves in what I believe will be the most important consultative process that Napo has ever held with our membership at any time in our proud history.
This week’s reconvened meeting of your National Executive Committee received a presentation on a potential recovery strategy which is designed to reestablish engagement with our members and open up involvement opportunities for new members and activists that will bring the union closer to your workplace and allow us to be more visible in demonstrating the tremendous amount of work that your reps and national officers and Napo staff put in to help protect and promote your interests. The initial debate on the draft strategy was full and frank and it reinforced the point that Napo's options for survival and regeneration are still very much in our hands, but that ultimately our members will decide the future of their union.
The NEC meet again on the 22nd of this month to undertake a fuller debate about Napo's future direction of travel, and whatever the outcomes are from that gathering it’s pretty certain that there will be important recommendations for our members to consider right through to what will undoubtedly be a critical Annual General Meeting in Nottingham 13/14 October.
Essentially, and as nearly every trade union in Britain (except perhaps RMT and ASLEF who are in perpetual struggle with a despicable employer) is also finding, we have lost more members than is comfortable over the last three years. That is a huge debating point in itself and might be seen as grist to the mill for our detractors, but the plain fact (because facts are always pretty important) is that it’s largely as a result of two major factors, the first being the massive CRC job cuts following Transforming Rehabilitation, and the second being the negative impact following the cynical removal of Napo subs being paid direct from pay roll ( 'Check off').
As I have said before, both situations were predicated on the basis that weakening Napo was very much in the employers’ interest, yet we are still here, still trying to do what we have always done and still getting results for individual members at local level and through our excellent panel of National Representatives, and wherever we can collectively; such as the no redundancy agreement in the NPS and the recent result on Maternity Pay and Harmonisation. You will by now have hopefully had a look at our PAY STRATEGY and we are entering a critical period of negotiation on this.
Let me also say that there is no complacency about the task we face to offer you direct support in the face of issues such as workload pressures (across all of the 24 employers we engage with), Health & Safety, E3, and Assistive Technology to name a few things, but in order to be more effective we need to take a look at what we do and how we do it as the demands on our time and resources are much greater than before TR was implemented.
The NEC will be receiving further material from the Officers and myself next week which will further inform their next discussions and I expect that they will need to meet again as an Executive before the final date for the submission of motions and constitutional amendments which is Friday 18th August. Please look out for more news in the coming weeks.
One thing that Theresa May spoke of earlier today was her (or is that the) government’s intention to do everything necessary to combat the threat from Islamic terrorism. Aside from the fact that terrorism has the same result irrespective of the perpetrator, it seems pretty likely that we will see some proposals emerge that will themselves test the relationships in and between communities in the wake of the recent atrocities in Westminster, Manchester and last week in South London.
Our members involved with the 'Prevent' strategy had plenty to say about it at the Napo Black Members gathering a few months back and little did we know then how this and other initiatives would soon be the subject of a new political focus.
As always, our members will carry out their duties to the letter in response to new instructions affecting practice but I hope that before we see the emergence of knee jerk populist solutions designed to protect us from harm, some serious discussions are held with our practitioner experts about the feasibility of any new policies. Needless to say, I am sure the Police Federation would welcome some dialogue about reductions in Officers (armed and unarmed) and their capacity to act upon vital intelligence in the face of the claim that there are potentially 23,000 people out there in the UK who have been recognised as having the potential to do us harm.
Finally, in what has depressingly been a feature of the last three posts, our thoughts go out to the victims and families of the attack in Bermondsey. It’s an area where I lived for a good part of my younger life and I am not at all surprised at the incredible examples of selfless courage and sacrifice that have been reported in relation to people who acted to assist the injured and those who bare handedly faced down the assailants before they were bravely engaged by the police.
There are important meetings and conferences taking place next week and my best wishes go to all those attending the Napo and HMPPS Staff Associations gathering in London and attendees to the Family Court Professional Conference and the Women in Napo meeting to be held on consecutive days in Yarnfield.