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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Anger may spill at police conference
Police officers protesting recently at Westminster
Officers could speak out over pay and conditions
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By Jon Silverman
BBC Home Affairs correspondent

The Home Secretary may be aware that this year's Police Federation conference is likely to be much more "interactive" than ever before.

That pledge comes courtesy of the Federation chairman, Fred Broughton, whose major set-piece speech on current policing concerns will precede Mr Blunkett's on Wednesday.

If "interactive" means that rank-and-file anger over the most contentious pay-and-conditions reform in years will be transmitted raw and unfiltered, then Mr Blunkett may have cause to be a mite anxious.

After all, his predecessor, Jack Straw, was heckled and slow handclapped at last year's conference, the first time such an embarrassment had been inflicted on a Home Secretary since the days of Leon Brittan in the 1980s.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett is facing a rough ride
At that time, the home secretary traditionally spoke in the afternoon and the discourtesy was attributed to too much alcoholic refreshment.

The speech was thereafter switched to the morning but police discontent may once again spill over, despite the time of day.

This year, though, the Federation leadership is in the firing line as well as the Home Office.

A sizeable minority of officers opposes the deal concluded with the government on 10 May.

Indeed, 10 of the 43 forces in England and Wales voted to reject.

Some of those voices may be heard on Thursday when the conference debates the consequences of affiliating to the TUC and having the right to strike.

They are deeply unhappy about the loss of overtime, and suspicious that special payments for difficult or dangerous working will be exploited by senior officers seeking to reward their favourites.

Spin doctors at work

Those who feel that Mr Broughton and his colleagues have "sold out" will be tempted to use their muscle in the elections for the Joint Central Committee.

If anyone important in the engine room of Federation policy-making was to be booted out as a result of the pay deal, the atmosphere at the Bournemouth International Centre would indeed be highly charged.

But it is the Home Office which has the most ground to make up with the police. A fortnight ago, a press release appeared announcing that a pay deal had been struck. Good news, it might be thought.

Except that the talks were still going on, the Federation had not been warned that a notice was being sent out, and in some significant respects, it painted a rather different picture from the one recognised by the police negotiators.

With each side's spin doctors hard at work this week, it promises to be politics as usual on the south coast.

See also:

10 May 02 | UK Politics
Anger over police pay deal
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