Winsor not?

Top cops in blue funk as Home Secretary’s golden boy lined up for chief inspector role

White & Case partner Tom Winsor’s review of police pay and conditions sparked a 30,000-strong protest in London last month. Unsurprisingly, the announcement that he has been named by Home Secretary Theresa May as first choice to land one of the top jobs in policing has proved to be controversial.

On 8 June, May named Winsor as the preferred candidate for the role of Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary, who reports to the Government about the activities of law enforcement bodies. If successful, Winsor will become the first-ever civilian in the job.

Following the endorsement, Winsor will appear before the House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs, which will make a report for May’s consideration. May is then free to put her recommendation to David Cameron, who will in turn make his recommendation to the Queen.

The news of Winsor’s recommendation for the job has been met with widespread anger and consternation among police.

In a report in The Guardian, John Apter of the Police Federation’s Hampshire branch said: “The Home Secretary will have her own reasons for choosing Mr Winsor over other credible candidates. At this time I am struggling to understand what they might be.”

Matt Cavanagh of the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank was quoted elsewhere as saying Winsor was a “risky if not reckless choice”.

A lot of this must be down to Winsor’s two-part report into police pay and conditions, made at the behest of May. In his report Winsor suggested cutting pay, raising the retirement age and allowing people to join the force in senior positions without having been a beat constable, with all suggestions proving unpopular with the police.

Critics have also been quick to mention Winsor’s role as the rail regulator (prior to joining White & Case in 2004) during Railtrack’s troubled liquidation.

But as others have pointed out, Winsor’s role will be to represent the public interest, not the police.

A better question is, why has Winsor gone for another role that is bound to see him take so much flak?

The Guardian’s Michael White suggests: “It may be duty, it may be a taste for taking on tough challenges – law can be lucrative, but very dull. It’s probably a bit of both.”

As Winsor declined to comment, it looks like we will never know.