On May 5th next year elections will be held for Police and Crime Commissioner’s for the 41 police forces in England and Wales outside London.
When the elections were last held in 2012 there were 16 Conservatives elected, 13 Labour candidates and 12 independents. Those results were generally better than expected for the Conservatives – at least in comparison with Labour. Although independents were elected in places that would normally be strongly Conservative.
Essex will see a new Conservative candidate, Roger Hirst, as the incumbent Nick Alston is standing down.
While the Conservatives start from a reasonable strong base I would hope to see net gains. For a start the opinion polls in November 2012 had Labour around ten points ahead. I would be surprised if Labour were in such a strong position in May.
It’s true that in 2012 the election results were better than the polls. The Conservatives won in the Labour targets of Cumbria, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. Christopher Salmon’s election in Dyfed-Powys brought great cheer for the Conservatives – it had been assumed the seat would go to Labour. The most exciting result though was the Conservative candidate Matthew Grove’s defeat of John Prescott in Humberside. I am pleased to see Grove is standing again. For the Conservatives holding on in all these seats would be an achievement.
However I think there should be ambition to make some gains. Bedfordshire was a narrow Labour win last time. The Labour commissioner got a resounding rejection when he proposed a big increase in the Council Tax precept in a referendum last year.
In Kent there is an independent, Ann Barnes, who has performed poorly. That would seem to be another potential Conservative gain. What about Surrey? What about Dorset? What about Gloucestershire? These are all seats held by independents but where the Conservatives feel they have a good chance.
Labour’s policy – until recently – that the posts should be abolished undermines their candidates. But so does Labour’s shift to the Left. How many Labour candidates standing as for election to be a Police and Crime Commissioner will be happy to be photographed with Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell or Lord Watson?
Both in terms of the polls and of the potential for performing better than the polls the Conservatives should have the ambition to make gains.