Gaunt Theresa May: is it her diet or pressure of work, asks Vaz

As Home Secretary takes on police reform again, senior Labour MP raises concerns about her looking 'a bit thin'

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:56 ON Wed 13 Feb 2013

IS THERESA MAY risking her health by taking on the police? Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, has this morning raised concerns about the slimmed-down appearance of the Home Secretary.
 
Vaz tweeted: "A bit worried about Home Secretary she is looking a bit thin these days. A new diet or pressure of work?"
 
He risks being accused of becoming a Twitter troll for raising the issue of May's newly gaunt appearance. Officially, she has lost nearly two stone in weight because she has been dieting since last summer on not much more but lettuce and thin air.
 
But the fact is she has lost so much weight that some tweeters have responded to Vaz’s remark by openly wondering whether the Home Secretary is ill. "As much as I despise the woman, would not wish her illness," one person tweeted.
 
Vaz’s question is likely to set more tongues wagging at Westminster. The Home Office traditionally has been a bed of nails for incumbents, with prison escapes, rising crime figures, immigration scandals and terrorist outrages ensuring that a succession of Home Secretaries have got little beauty sleep.
 
But May has invited more pressure by taking on the police. Only yesterday she was having another go at them by announcing that the police were no longer going to be able to investigate themselves. As the Daily Mail puts it today, "Thug police face axe: Violent officers will be ‘struck off’ as May tightens conduct rules to restore integrity.”
 
May’s campaign to reform the police has led to the extraordinary situation where a Conservative Home Secretary is now a hate figure for some in the police force.
 
Andrew Ward, a custody sergeant with Durham police and an official of the Police Federation - the police 'union' – tweeted in response to Vaz: "I am also worried about Theresa May. Worried about the contempt in which she seems to hold our police service, that is."

May has sought attention in the past for her appearance – she has enjoyed the publicity she’s received for wearing leopard-skin print kitten heels and he signature high-collared outfits - so she can’t complain too much about comments regarding her figure.
 
But she does need to take seriously the effect her reforms are having on police morale. Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell is privately convinced that their anger at the Tories lies behind the alleged conspiracy to stitch him up over 'Plebgate'.
 
May did lasting damage to the Tories by saying in 2002 that some saw them as "the nasty party" - a tag they have been saddled with ever since. Now MPs on her own side fear she is in danger of destroying natural Conservative support by taking on the police. She might be wise to follow the advice of Dixon of Dock Green: "Mind how you go." · 

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Luckily, no one would ever comment about the politically weighty Vaz, who makes mischief to deflect attention from his own lamentable record and dubious reputation ...

If he lost weight he might well be called VazLean, or something like that!

Custody Sergeant Andrew Ward should be aware that, increasingly, the public hold the police in contempt - lack of trust, perceived lack of integrity, "bully boy" behaviour at crowd "control", lack of effective response (to the point of fleeing from the crowd) during the London Riots, mendacity and (possible) criminal dishonesty over Andrew Mitchell - the list goes on.

Sgt Ward should remember that the police are ALLOWED to impose law and order, by consent of the wider public in Britain; if that consent disintegrates - and the Police Federation seem not to be helping in this matter - then I imagine that we would all be much the poorer for it.

I feel qualified to comment on this matter because a close family member of mine is a police sergeant, holding some pretty forthright and uncompromising views; I am no "pinko" or "wishy-washy liberal" either, having served 23 years in the British Army, four of those years serving alongside the RUC in Northern Ireland.

It seems that the Police Federation is far more concerned to confront and oppose change than to stand back and, perhaps, consider their own deteriorating image in the public arena - let Mrs May get on with her job or, at least, exercise some courtesy when openly disagreeing with her!

Mr Sellers,

Speaking as a police officer of some 23 years service, and 16 years as a staff association representative (a role I fulfill in my own time in addition to working full-time in an operational role) I am qualified to say that there is no greater defender of the principle of 'policing by consent' that the Police Federation of England & Wales.

The Federation has been at the forefront of change within the police service for many years and have been campaigning for a Royal Commission into Policing for the last 10 years - there could be no bigger change to Policing than that based upon the independent and holistic 'root & branch' review that such a Commission would bring about.

The Police Federation has sought to engage, consult and negotiate with the Home Secretary and the Home Office over a wide number of issues, but has been consistently ignored & overlooked by a Government that seems intent only on implementing it's own ideological reforms to policing with scant regard for the overwhelming majority of professional, hardworking and dedicated police officers working within it, or the communities that we are proud to serve & protect.

I acknowledge that a number of recent incidents and intense (and often wholly inaccurate) media coverage have had a negative impact on the public image of the police service but, by and large, police officers & staff are still held in high regard by our communities. It is also right that the service reflects on certain issues and learns the right lessons from them.

But that does not mean that we should be excluded from providing constructive input to a program of reforms that may have a negative impact upon our communities for generations to come.

I am extremely concerned about the way in which the Home Secretary is approaching police reform and will continue to voice my concerns in an honest, frank and courteous manner.

Andrew Ward

Thank you for your very measured response Sergeant Ward - however, when one considers the argument on balance, it has to be said, I am sure, that the Police Federation is, increasingly, being seen to be adopting a political stance; yes, it is quite natural and understandable for a representative body - such as the Police Federation - to promote and safeguard the interests of its members (in this case, the interests of the"rank and file" police officers).

However, this course of action is, surely, in blatant defiance of our democratically elected politicians - like them or not; it is NOT for the Police Federation (or, indeed, any other union) to dictate to Parliament (who after all, are OUR elected representatives).

Of course, I can understand and sympathise with the frustrations of the Police forces of this country but those frustrations should not "morph" into contempt for our democratic process to the point of open discourtesy and outright defiance - that way comes anarchy!

Keith Vaz is not very popular here in Sri Lanka. He is thought to have been a supporter of the vile Tamil tigers for his own electoral advantage.

Mr Sellers

The Police Federation is not and does not seek to be a political organisation; it is not affiliated to any political movement or persuasion. Its role is not only to protect the welfare of its members but to promote and contribute to the efficiency of policing. I do not see these as two separate functions; the two are intrinsically linked and it does this by representing, influencing & negotiating.

I appreciate your response and am always happy to engage in debate but I don’t fully understand how seeking to fulfil its role puts it ‘in
blatant defiance’ of politicians. Not do I see how anything that the Police Federation of England & Wales may have done could be described as ‘dictating’ anything to Parliament or to be holding a ‘democratic process’ in contempt.

It has not taken any action that could be described as stopping any political process nor has it instructed or encouraged its members to
any actions or omissions that would defy the legal framework in which they operate.

If organisations such as the Police Federation were to be restrained from voicing honestly held concerns about how they believe central or local policies or proposals may adversely affect public safety and undermine the principle of policing by consent, whether in the short or long term, then
the country would be a very sad place indeed.