Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Police and Crime Commissioners are a danger to our democracy

I wouldn’t blame you if you had missed an important event taking place this week considering the almost zero publicity from the Coalition Government. This Thursday 15th November, you will be asked to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) if you live in England and Wales, excluding London.

The newly elected PCC will replace the Police Authority, which are now abolished. I first wrote about this new role back in May 2011 after the House of Lords defeated the Coalition Government’s first go at the legislation. Needless to say the Government tweaked a few things and got it through the House of Lords the second time. I wrote then I was not in favour of the role and it was actually quite dangerous for our democracy to put all the powers the Police Authority had in the hands of one individual. I still stand by that view.
This was Conservative-proposed legislation but got through the House of Commons with Liberal Democrat votes. The PCC elections were meant to take place in May – at the same time as the Local Council elections – when the evenings are lighter but the yellow peril forced David Cameron to move the elections to November to deliberately lower the turn out as this would benefit them politically. Not because the Liberal Democrats have candidates – they certainly don’t have one in Ipswich – but they are trying to kill the legislation at birth through an abysmally low turnout which won’t give a mandate to the new Commissioner. 
This a very dangerous game to play. The police are an important part of our society and as such must be held accountable to the people. This week may see accountability removed. The Police Authorities were made up of multiple councillors with the number of seats held by the political parties reflecting their share of the vote in the County or Metropolitan council elections. Now, just one person will have the police budget powers and they may be elected by less than 20% of registered voters. 
Great Britain’s police are the envy of the world, with policing by consent of the people a core tenet of our society. On Thursday, the upholding of that consent will be taken away from a representative Police Authority and put in the hands of one man or woman. We are soon to enter dangerous waters.


Lose or win, politicians always say Thank You

The default Thank You leaflets, post the local elections in May, have landed on my doorstep in the last few weeks from Labour and the Conservatives. Guess the Liberal Democrats aren’t very thankful.

The most noticeable thing from the Labour Thank You is Labour Ipswich parliamentary candidate David Ellesmere has muscled in on the local Holywells leaflet. A bit strange since his party’s candidate lost in Holywells. I guess the old adage that “all publicity is good publicity” has been taken on-board at Silent Street.

The leaflet also plugs serial public money spender Jane Basham, who will be Labour’s candidate for the new Police and Crime Commissioner post in the November elections.

Labour are also eyeing up the County Elections next year. With the way the votes fell in the Borough elections, they do have a good chance of mopping up a number of Tory-held seats in Ipswich. With the rise of UKIP in the shires, it could turn out to be a very interesting election in May.

The Conservative Thank You actually focuses on the candidate who won, Pam Stewart. I like that the Tories are focusing on my pet issue, that of the unpaved dirt track between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road which my Committee approved for paving nearly three years ago. I hope new Cllr Pam Stewart will keep the pressure on officers from within Grafton House. This blog certainly will be from outside once the new consultation deadline expires on 29th June.

There is a strange piece on the back-page which highlights the low turnout in Holywells Ward. It comes across as if the Conservatives are telling the electorate off for not voting! As in “tut, tut, why didn’t you vote?”  I’m not sure that is the best way of enticing people to the polling station. Also, if a party is to encourage postal voting, the best thing is to ask them to contact the party for a form not ask them to visit a website with no address!

There is no promotion for the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner post as the Tories are yet to select their Suffolk candidate.

Both Labour and the Conservatives make good use of their leaflets to drum up membership and activist support. The Conservatives seem to have multiple addresses with 24 Salisbury Road being used as a postbox for Holywells mail, the imprint (i.e. legal address) being in Valley Road and the MP’s address being in Fore Street. I understand the reasoning when you rely on volunteers and don’t have a full-time agent, but it’s still a bit confusing to a lay-man. Meanwhile, Labour have one address: their Silent Street office in town.

For my fellow political geeks, I’ve uploaded both leaflets to here and here.