It is difficult to know which particular imbecilic idea concocted by the liars and fraudsters currently destroying the nation is the most ridiculous. Setting aside the malicious intent of most of what passes as “policy” from the corrupt coalition, the election of Police and Crime Commissioners is possibly the daftest.
This Thursday the nation is likely to stay away in droves as polling stations open to elect an individual who will be tasked with holding the local constabulary accountable. Delayed from May 2012 due to the farcical passage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act through the House of Lords, the rush to replace local police authorities is necessary to accelerate the privatisation of the Old Bill. The government regards the current system of “unelected and invisible police authorities” as a barrier to further cuts in operational police officers, front desk closures and the possibility of profit for private companies such as the woeful G4S. Here in the West Midlands, the majority of the 14 members of the current police authority are local councillors and the others are magistrates and former civil servants with expertise in education and health. We might wish to ask; who are the candidates that are campaigning to replace the unelected and the invisible? Anyone got any clues?
In the absence of any information, it seems that only those in procession of a computer and connection to the internet thingy are allowed to know who will be working on their behalf to deliver effective policing. Here is a test. Do you know how many candidates are standing? Do you know their names? Are you aware of what the successful PCC intends to do? If you have answered all three questions correctly, then congratulations Mr, Mrs or Ms Police and Crime Commissioner. If, however, you find yourself minus a Scooby Doo, this humble blog is here to help.
There are seven candidates in the West Midlands of which four represent political parties and three are independent. They are:
Matt Bennet, the Conservative Party candidate, is “standing up for the law abiding majority” and will “make sure crime goes down”. He will introduce “zero tolerance policing” and hold a public meeting at least once a fortnight.
Bill Etheridge, the UKIP candidate is “for the victim, not the criminal” and will utilise his business experience in balancing the books, buying equipment and not outsourcing to the private sector. He will introduce “zero tolerance zones”
Cath Hannon, with 30 years experience as a West Midlands police officer, is an Independent candidate who will not “take orders from political parties” and promises “no nonsense, no jargon, no spin”. She will “put people first instead of bureaucracy”.
Bob Jones, the Labour Party candidate is a former chair of the West Midlands Police Authority and a Wolverhampton councillor. He will protect policing from cuts, retain PCSO`s and “oppose the privatisation of core policing services”.
Ayoub Khan, a barrister and Birmingham councillor is the Liberal Democrat candidate. He wishes to be a “responsible champion of public opinion” and “will leave no stone unturned to search for savings”. He will accept only half the £100K salary.
Mike Rumble is another independent candidate and a former police officer. He will “immediately halt police redundancies” and “cancel current proposals to contract out parts of the police service to private security companies”.
Derek Webley is the third independent candidate and is a former member of the West Midlands Police Authority. He has no political agenda and promises “open and transparent leadership”. The West Midlands, he says, is his “priority” and not Westminster.
So, there you go. All the background you need to make an informed choice brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood hippo simply doing his job in fighting crime and upholding democracy. There is an opportunity to learn more about the magnificent seven and read their election statements here.
After the excitement across the Atlantic, it might be worth reflecting on the wise words of the recently departed and acerbically correct Gore Vidal. He said: “Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.” It is estimated that the PCC elections will cost in excess of £70million and that is before we take into account the salaries of the 41 newly appointed commissioners in England and Wales. Interestingly, the two remaining authorities, the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police will not be electing commissioners. In the City, the Court of Common Council regulate the plod and the Mayor of London keeps a beady eye on the Met. This system is clearly working given the complete absence of criminality in the square mile and the impeccable reputation of the Met.
Gore Vidal also said: “Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so”. This twist on Plato`s idea of the Philosopher King is rather relevant in terms of commissioner candidates being aligned to political parties. Policing, like health and education, is far too important to come under the scrutiny of tribal politicians. Imagine, if you will, a northern mill town with a Labour council and a Labour MP gripped by a child abuse scandal which evidently displayed a failure of political leadership and responsibility. One might wonder how credible any investigation by a Labour commissioner might be. Suspend your disbelief further by conjuring up a scenario where a Conservative council and a Conservative MP in a leafy Home Counties shire are in need of a good looking at. Would a Conservative commissioner with similar tastes in whiskey, aprons and funny handshakes as the Chief Constable really be equipped to shed light on any dark wrongdoings? We can safely dismiss the Liberal Democrats and UKIP because the meteorite that is approaching both those parties is much larger than the one that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Add to this possibly the worst Home Secretary since dinosaurs ruled the earth and we may witness the Bow Street Runners running for survival. Honest coppers are being laid off and the bent ones are being pensioned off as the ghosts of Hillsborough and North Wales care homes hover over central police stations. The scale of political incompetence and woeful police leadership is best summed up by the tale of the two Abu`s, Mr Hamza and Mr Qatada and their more than 1,001 nights without charges being brought. Factor in the rise and rise of a certain Tom Winsor, a lawyer who did so terribly well as a rail regulator that he was asked to undertake a review of the terms and conditions of police officers and police staff. After producing his Taser and containing the suspects, he was rewarded with a new apron and the job of HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.
Thursday will be interesting not just for the parliamentary by elections in Cardiff South and Penarth, Manchester Central and, of course, lovely Corby but also the prospect of a local council by election in Bloxwich West. We can also look forward to the use of the supplementary vote system in the PCC election. There will be a first choice and a second choice so any voters bothered to brave the cold will not just need a blindfold and a pin to cast their vote but a second pin to prolong the agony. “Holy confusion, Batman. I sense the work of the dastardly Riddler.”
Democracy is precious and should never be taken lightly. However, the turn out on Thursday is likely to be truly awful and we will sleepwalk into a system guaranteed to fail and thereby give justification to ending policing as we know it. The same dismantling is taking place in health and education and social care and just about anything else this crooked government touches. It is, though, important to turn up and vote in these PCC elections even if you do not want a commissioner. If the number of spoilt ballot papers marked “none of the above” exceeds the tally of the final winner, then a small victory will have been won against those determined to subjugate us.
As a public service, this humble blog has trawled all the names of candidates standing in all 41 PCC elections. It is with great sadness that none of them has the surname Gordon much less the first name Flash and although it might be tempting to approach the election in the same way that people pick a horse in the Grand National because it has a nice name, Commissioner Rumble has a DC Comic ring to it but is no basis for law enforcement. The Bat cave has relocated to the Cayman Islands for tax purposes and the red telephone hotline has been diverted to a call centre in Mumbai. The Bat sign projected onto a cloud will be ignored because Batman and Robin have left Gotham City.
If only we had some police officers to manage the crisis.