Monday 3 September 2012

Just sleeping?

The closer we get to election day for the new Police and Crime Commissioners, the less well thought through the whole process seems to have been.
The government had expressed a strong desire to see strong non-party candidates coming forward.  But that aim has been fatally undermined by the cost barrier.  Not only do candidates have to find a significant (£5000) deposit, they also have to fund the production and distribution of any promotional literature.  The refusal to allow the usual election privilege of free distribution has simply put another hurdle on the route.  It apes the worst aspect of US politics – that so many elected roles are the exclusive preserve of those who have the wealth to contest them, albeit with the caveat that few are likely to try it in practice.
The suggestion that candidates should instead promote their candidacy through public meetings local newspapers and electronic media is surely unrealistic – as it is also unrealistic to expect any candidate for such large areas to be able to have direct contact with more than a tiny portion of the electorate.
By default, most of those who bother to vote – and I suspect turnout will be extremely low – will end up voting along traditional party lines, knowing little about any of the candidates.
In effect an attempt by the government to move towards a more American-style of electioneering where the individual counts more than the party, will end up achieving precisely the opposite.
Then we have the restrictions on candidature, of which a number of potential candidates have already fallen foul.  Whilst I can see the rationale of banning somebody who has just been released from his third term for armed robbery from setting police priorities, the idea that an otherwise model citizen who committed a youthful folly 30 years ago should be similarly treated seems draconian.  And at least one could say that such a person would have had some direct experience of the Criminal Justice System.
But apparently this was a restriction agreed by “all parties” in the House of Commons, and challenged by none during its passage through the legislature.  Were they all asleep, or just not paying attention?

1 comment:

Pete said...

On this subject I have to respect the views of my son, a member of the Dyfed Powys force. He has strong reservations about this whole idea. I understand that the majority of constables are also concerned. Such concerns seem to have fallen on deaf years amongst the lawmakers.
One of the more serious problems that I see is that come election day, the vote will be a reaction to the government at Westminster rather than an appraisal of who is the best candidate. I see a situation where the best possible Police Commissioner will be denied the job simply because his political party is not in favour in that particular area.
It seems a very poor way to manage a service that is so essential to our civilization.