Over on Tory Diary Matthew has written about the Conservatives going cool on open primaries to choose candidates for the next General Election. There is concern about the cost – although the Coalition Agreement proposed making public funds available. This strikes me as a dubious use of taxpayers money. But why should the cost be so high anyway. The figure of £40,000 for Totnes is quoted but that was a postal ballot of all residents (and Iain Dale doubts it was as much as that anyway.)
Much cheaper to book a large hall and allow anyone local elector to attend to register. This could be promoted in mailshots to members and leaflets to the general public which the Conservatives would be putting out anyway. I would suspect the local media would also give such events plenty of coverage for free. I should the cost need only be around £1,000 – which could probably by recouped by extra membership subs resulting from the activity.
The more immediate matter is having open primaries to choose Conservative candidates for the elected sheriffs – or Police and Crime Commissioners as they are officially known.
While Colonel Tim Collins wishing to stand as the PCC for Kent is the most high profile Conservative contender so far a number of other names are emerging around the country. Open primaries would greatly boost the credibility of the candidates that end up being chosen.
For Devon and Cornwall the Cornwall councillor Cllr Lance Kennedy, a former policeman, is interested. But in the spirit of localism he wants Cornwall to have its own police force.
For Norfolk we have Cllr Simon Woodbridge, former leader of Broadland Council, where he has proven crime fighting credentials.
Hampshire may see Cllr Sean Woodward, the leader of Fareham Council, throwing his hat into the ring. I like the sound of him. His approach is a challenging, value for money one. The police should not be “glorified social workers”. Cllr Woodward believes that too many officers were focused on non-policing jobs, and says: “Police in Hampshire drive five million miles per year, which is an awful lot of fuel. There are savings that can be made.”
In the West Midlands there will be Solihull Conservative councillor and former police inspector Cllr Joe Tildesley.
Cllr Peter Jones, the leader of East Sussex Council is standing to be the PCC for Sussex. He already has a campaign site up and running. I suspect the crime survey he is conducting will find that residents regard burglary and violent crime as more serious than speeding.
Among the independent candidates I like the sound of Richard Hibbs, likely to stand in North Wales, who quotes the stand-up comic Jeff Marder saying: “We live in an age when pizza gets to your home before the police”.
The Police Federation are trying to keep trick of potential candidates and have a useful grid.