In November next year there will be elections in England and Wales (apart from London) for Police Commissioners across the 41 police authorities. Those elected will have the power to set priorities for fighting crime, to set the precept and to sack chief constables for fail to deliver.
Yet all the three main political parties are showing reluctance to field candidates. There is a sense that independents might be better suited. Paul has already written about this.
Perhaps there will be independent candidates with tough and effective crime fighting credentials that will come forward. But can we be confident there would in all 41 areas? I think the electorate should be offered a choice that includes a Conservative candidate. The problem of splitting the vote does not arise as the Supplementary Vote method is being used (the same as for the Mayor of London.) So Conservative supporters could offer an independent they were impressed with their second preference.
The Local Government Chronicle reports (£) Labour MP and Shadow Policing Minister Vernon Coaker says Labour's "default position" is to run candidates but adds: “If the Tories don’t, we need to consider that carefully."
Cllr Stephen Bett, a Conservative councillor and chairman of Norfolk Police Authority wants to be his county’s police commissioner, but says of his approach to CCHQ: “I have inquired what we are doing in this county and region and I’ve come up with a blank. There seems to be tremendous confusion."
The confusion should end. We should declare that we are running candidates and an effort should be made to get some of the highest calibre.
What about David Davis as the Police Commissioner for Humberside, asks Political Betting? Good idea. Not just for Humberside but for the rest of us who could see what he comes up with it and copy it if it works.
Come to that what about Lord Howard of Lympne as the Police Commissioner for Kent? He cut crime when he was Home Secretary. Perhaps Ann Widdecombe could give it a go if he wasn't interested..
What about Lord Ashcroft, who has done such a tremendous job with Crime Stoppers, as the Police Commissioner for Thames Valley?
Edward Boyd, Rory Geoghegan and Blair Gibbs wrote an excellent report for Policy Exchange about value for money in policing. So let's see them come forward as candidates. Blair says someone like Nick Ross would be a good independent candidate – but Ross can't stand everywhere. He may not stand anywhere.
It may well be that lots of independents are returned. But the Conservatives have a strong law and order brand. We have within our ranks lots of people who would make excellent Police Commissioners including some with a high profile and others less well known but with considerable expertise. they will cretainly include councillors who have served on Police Authorities but they shouldn't be limited to this category.
These are important elections and we should not be spectators.