When politicians, especially a Prime Minister, consistently deny that they intend to announce a general election and then do exactly the opposite when it suits, then it’s hardly surprising that a large proportion of the UK electorate will feel that their general distrust and cynicism of our already flawed electoral system is well founded.
It’s not the first time that a snap election has been called of course and it probably won’t be the last; but it does call into question the actual purpose of the so called Fixed Term legislation which, if I remember correctly, was designed to spare us from such blatant opportunism.
Prorogation not helpful to Napo
So, if you believe the populist media, it seems that we are heading towards the unwelcome prospect of a landslide Tory victory (if you believe the opinion polls that is, and why should you given recent form?) and most certainly several weeks of tiresome and divisive debate and speculation so where does this leave Napo?
In terms of the impact of a June election on our considerable efforts to progress our members interests, the announcement and immediate cessation of meaningful Parliamentary activity, has come at a bad time. My analysis is that Napo had built up a useful head of steam in our work with, and recent evidence to, the Justice Select Committee (JSC) on the post-TR shambles; impressed Ministers with our knowledgeable presentation of the problems within the NPS and CRC estate, and have seen our exposure of underperforming CR's vindicated by a spate of HMI Probation reports.
These are the same CRCs who are also under serious scrutiny as a result of the ongoing Probation System Review (PSR) which we have provided important input to, and which I believe is close to report stage.
Its unclear right now as to whether the PSR will see the light of day this side of the election, but the longer it takes for any recommendations to be enacted then the greater the commercial and operational pressures become on the CRCs, many of whom desperately need additional funds and a reconfiguration of their operating priorities to keep themselves afloat.
The big legislative casualty of prorogation is the Prisons and Courts Bill which it was confirmed today by JSC Chair Bob Neill MP, will have to go back to the drawing board and await the attention of the next Secretary of State. Meanwhile, we have wasted no time in engaging with senior HMPPS Management to remind them that the new agency is called Prisons and Probation and that our members have an equal stake in the enterprise. In short, this means among other things that we expect to see a commitment to probation pay reform and a negotiated approach to the restructuring of offender management in and outside of the HM Prison estate. Oh and how about a License to Practice as well?
All this is further evidence of our hard work but its frustrating that we have now hit a wall of uncertainty at least in the short term, and until the dust of the general election has settled.
I will be back with more news next week, but until then have a good weekend.