Yesterday there was a letter (£) published in The Times from 115 Lib Dem councillors which urged the Government "to drop the proposal for elected police commissioners." A curiously anti democratic position for people to take while being members of a Party with "Democrat" in its title. The letter describes Cllr Richard Kemp as "leader of the Liberal Democrats in Local Government". I thought he had already stood down but evidently this attack on his own Government is a parting shot. There are 3,100 Lib Dem councillors so the signatories are a small minority. However they do include a majority of Lib Dem council leaders (Although those from Kingston, Sutton and Cheltenham were among those that didn't sign.)
The letter suggests that the phone hacking scandal is an argument against elected police commissioners. It says it shows the "need for a clear separation between politicians and the police."
The letter adds:
This is one of the chief reasons why many people in local government bitterly oppose the Government’s proposal to introduce elected police commissioners next May. We can think of no situation more confusing to all concerned than one where a politician is elected to lead the police but does not have any influence over their management.
However the public have reached the opposite conclusion. Asked if "Directly-elected police chiefs would be more likely to ensure that corrupt officers were brought to justice" 40% agreed against 25% who disagreed. Among Lib Dem voters the poll found that 37% agreed and 25% disagreed.
So rather more Lib Dems agree with Dan Hannan who has said:
Under the current system, good men end up doing bad things. It is hard to imagine, though, that an elected sheriff would have ignored the public interest in the phone hacking affair and refused to reopen the investigation.
Opponents of democratic policing, like all opponents of change, depend on satisfaction with the status quo. If, in the coming weeks, there is evidence of bribe-taking or, worse, of a deliberate police cover-up, the case for reform will become overwhelming.
The list of Lib Dem signatories to The Times is helpfully categorised. The following names appear under the section "Police Authority members."
Cllr Claire Gordon, Deputy Chair, Avon and Somerset Police Authority; Cllr Sylvia Angiontti, South Yorkshire Police Authority and Sheffield City Council; Cllr Peter Moore, South Yorkshire Police Authority and Sheffield City Council; Cllr Brian Preston, Vice Chairman, Devon and Cornwall Police Authority; Cllr James Joyce, Norfolk Police Authority; Cllr Brian Hannah, Norfolk Police Authority; Cllr Andrew Smith, Sussex Police Authority; Cllr Ron Tindall, Hertfordshire Police Authority; Cllr David Wood, Suffolk Police Authority; Cllr Geoff Howe, Merseyside Police Authority; Cllr Derek Scudder, Hertfordshire Police Authority; Cllr Pat Colclough, Manchester Police Authority; Cllr Sam Crooks, Thames Valley Police Authority; Cllr Kevin Wilkins, Cambridgeshire Police Authority; Cllr Paula Riches, Hampshire Police Authority; Cllr Adrian Collett, Hampshire Police Authority; Cllr Jacqui Gasson, South Wales Police Authority; Cllr Keith Longdon, Nottinghamshire Police Authority; Cllr Chris Davis, Warwickshire Police Authority; Cllr David Bill, Leicestershire Police Authority; Cllr Keith Orrell, City of York Council; Cllr Bill Crowther, Gloucestershire Police Authority;
To take the first name on the list Cllr Claire Gordon is paid £20,772 to be "Deputy Chair" of the Avon and Somerset Police Authority (that is on top of the £9,639 she is already paid as a Somerset councillor.) Elected police commissioners will mean that the police authorities will cease to exist. That means that Cllr Gordon will cease to be paid £20,772 to pitch up occasionally at that talking shop.
The headline on The Times letter should have been: "Turkeys oppose Christmas."