Crossing the thin blue line
Ministers are on standby for trouble. Big trouble.
They expect a march on Whitehall. They know they'll face a wave of anger. They are ready for charges of betrayal. And they won't be able to call on the police to help.
It is the police themselves that the government is preparing to confront. This is the day when a report will blow the whistle on generous police allowances, overtime and bonuses.
At any time this would be hugely controversial. Remember that the Sheehy Report into cutting police perks was seen off in the 1990s. Ken Clarke who had taken on and beaten the nurses and the ambulance drivers met his match when faced by the boys in blue. Remember Jacqui Smith who faced a police march and protests at her home when she refused to backdate a police pay award.
This, though, isn't any time. It's the time when police pay has been frozen, police pensions (along with others in the public sector) are about to be curbed and jobs are to be cut. Jobs will - ministers hope - be their trump card. They will argue that if today's report by Tom Winsor is adopted, huge sums could be saved without cutting jobs.
The Police Federation gained headlines recently for a prediction that there'd be 40,000 job cuts. The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) estimate today that that figure will be much lower - although 28,000 is still a very large proportion of the 143,000 serving officers. Ministers will offer the police and the public a trade off - lose the perks and keep jobs or keep the perks and see numbers fall.
There's one big problem. The men and women the government's preparing to take on are the very same people who will be expected to be in the front line when ministers face the anger of others whose pay and pensions and jobs and services will be cut. Margaret Thatcher took the precaution of increasing police pay and budgets before putting them in the front line in the 1980s.