Should We Care?
In November for the first time the UK will have elected commissioners in charge of police forces across the country. The aim is to make the police more accountable to the communities they serve and better ran.
As expected most of these contests have become party political battles often between ex MPs and other well known political figures some who genuinely have a background and in interest in the role and others who quite clearly want to push their own "celebrety profile".
The big question for local political activists is should we care, do we get involved and what are the issues?
I think the answer to the first is yes we should all care about who is running our police force for me it is a fundemental intrument of justice that is key for productive and good communities to be supported. Who is in charge of the police obviously has a masisvely important role and effect on all of lives either directly or indirectly through the communities we live in. However like most people I am struggling with this concept of party political slates deciding who is incharge of one of the instruments of justice something I feel strongly should be quite distinct from the whipping and party positioning that goes on within the party political world. The police need to be independant and seen to be independant for them to have the support of all of their local community. When I am recruiting people for jobs I dont ask them what political party they are a member of and I certainly dont see it as a credential needing to be asked of any new "chief of police"
The next issue is about whether or not we get involved if as it is inevitable that campaigns are going to turn party political and it wouldnt be fair or just to simply ban political parties then the question is simply "when is it that political parties should be getting involved in Police and Crime Commisioner elections?" and "Should we be recuriting and trying to stand candidates in every election?"
My response to this is NO as a conservative if we have a strong candidate with a background in policing or other relevent experience then of course we should be supporting and backing their campaign to stand as a fellow conservative who would obviously benefit their local community it seems to me that would be a sensible and a well prioritised decision. However this is not the case across the country. Where we as a party are scrapping together school governors and anyone else we can manage to stand be it as conservatives or labour doing the same on their side the ide of whipped slates with inadequte people to do the job simply standing on the parties name seems at best wrong and at worse a complete risk to the public and our local communities policing teams.
There is also an impact on party resources in May we saw the party lose many hard working conservative councillors across the country through usual mid term government polling and over the next few yrs will be fighting hard to get these people back into seats and back supporting their local communities. Where it is obvious that we have no chance of winning PCC elections, where we have a candidate who really doesnt have the experience for the job and where we have other pressures on party resources it seems only sensibe to me that we do not stand a candidate and isntead prioritise our campaigns on outcomes we can achieve. This is what the party is doing in govenrment on issues such as international development so why dont we start applying our own political logic to our local campaign strategies?
I for one didnt attend our local PCC selection meeting for those reasons and would of prefered the party to have focused on our local campaigns after we didnt have a stand out candidate jumping out to stand.
Police Commissioners are not a totally bad policy they give local accountability, visability and more transparency but there is a danger that elections become red versus blue and not good policing versus bad policing and thats the debate i really want to have.