A fair cop?
Gordon Brown was asked about police officers pay in the Commons. Twice. It’s hard to judge which was the most uncomfortable for the prime minister.
Firstly, Tory MP Michael Fabricant shook his resplendent yellow locks at the PM before offering a new version of the West Lothian question.
How could it be right, he proclaimed, that police in Lichfield would be getting a poorer pay deal than those in Linlithgow? (Guess which constituency Mr Fabricant represents. Hint: it’s not Linlithgow.)
Then Angus Robertson MP bestowed his own special brand of beatific smile upon Mr Brown as he invited him to praise Alex Salmond (born, incidentally, in Linlithgow) for the police pay deal on offer in Scotland.
You’ll recall that the Scottish Government has decided to backdate the police deal in full while officers elsewhere in the UK are subject to an outbreak of relative stinginess from the Home Office.
Mr Brown’s answer in each case was the same: a tirade against Scottish ministers for falling short on their promise to deliver one thousand new police officers on the beat in Scotland.
I say “answer” - but perhaps “response” would be more strictly accurate.
SNP ministers could scarcely believe their luck when the Home Office took the decision on pay, accompanied by a leaked document evincing hope that Scotland wouldn’t cause too many difficulties.
I imagine that posed a real dilemma for the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. I see him consulting his officials and special advisers.
“So”, he pondered, “give me this again slowly. For the price of a few million quid, I look like the good guy, I get the Scottish cops onside just when I need their help over redeployment. AND it’s a huge pain in the neck for Labour at Westminster. Where do I sign?”