Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has been ripped apart by a radio interviewer for suggesting new police recruits could be paid as little as £8,000 (US$10,000) a year under Labour’s promise to introduce more officers.
When quizzed by LBC host Nick Ferrari about Labour’s policy to put 10,000 additional officers on the streets, a confused Abbott initially said: “Well, if we recruit the 10,000 men and women over a four-year period, we believe it will cost about £300,000.”
That would mean each new officer would cost £30.
Ferrari asked: “£300,000 for 10,000 police officers? How much are you paying them?”
Abbott answered: “No, I mean, sorry, they will cost, it will cost about, about £80 million.
“We get to that figure because we anticipate recruiting 25,000 extra police officers a year at least over a period of four years. And we are looking at both what average police wages are generally, but also specifically police wages in London.”
Ferrari, keen to get to the bottom of the figures, said: “I don’t understand. If you divide 80 million by 10,000 you get 8,000. Is that what you will be paying these police men and women?
“What are these police officers going to be paid? Has this been thought through?”
Abbott’s assessment of how many new officers would be recruited in one year ranged from 25,000 to 250,000, when Labour’s policy said it would recruit just 10,000 in total.
Despite struggling with the numbers, Abbott insisted the plan was fully thought-through and had been costed.
Labour is promising to put the additional police officers on the streets of England and Wales if it wins the election, to be paid for by reversing Conservative plans in the 2016 Budget for capital gains tax. The Tories, however, say Labour has already committed the savings to fund other pledges.
When asked by the BBC at a later interview on Tuesday what level of capital gains tax the country will see under Labour, Abbott flailed again. Despite being pushed for the figure three times, she did not give one.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the policy will cost £300 million. He is expected to say on Tuesday that funding would be provided for 43 forces to take on the extra officers in community policing roles.
He will attack what he will say have been “unacceptable” cuts to policing under the Tories, with a 20,000 fall in officer numbers since the Tories came to power in 2010.
Corbyn says he is “not embarrassed in the slightest” by Abbott’s gaffe, which he says she has corrected.
The Conservatives, however, said Abbott had “floundered” when pressed on the policy.
“Diane Abbott has laid bare the chaos that Britain would face if Jeremy Corbyn is voted into Downing Street,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC.
“One of Corbyn’s closest allies has clearly shown that Labour’s sums don’t add up, they would weaken our defenses, and their nonsensical promises aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.”