Shaun Wright has finally resigned as the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. Mr Wright, a former Labour councillor, was the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2010.
Professor Alexis Jay’s report concluded that “at least” 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation in that town between 1997 and 2013.
Sam Chapman, on the Top of the Cops blog, has argued that there was a particular reason that Mr Wright should resign:
“If Mr Wright has done something wrong, he should be investigated and held to account, and that should be the case whether or not he is a Police and Crime Commissioner. In some ways, him being a PCC is irrelevant to the question of whether he takes the blame for failures, perhaps even failures by him, but which largely occurred before PCCs came into being.
“No, the reason Mr Wright should resign is much simpler. He is the Police and Crime Commissioner – he represents the public, not the police, and is the person now who should be taking the independent report and running with it, to hold people to account, to press for
reform, to ensure that lessons are learned on the streets and in the management meetings, and not just in corporate spin. He can’t do that because he is compromised by having spent so many years in charge of Rotherham Children’s Services when they were systematically failing children who were being sexually abused.
“I didn’t know” in this instance is not a good defence. Anyone pleading they didn’t know is in a poor position to argue with others that they ought to have known.”
So there will now be a by-election. In 2012, Mr Wright, the Labour candidate, was elected in the first round with 51 per cent. An English Democrat came second on 15.6 per cent. Then a Conservative on 14.5 per cent. Then UKIP on 11.5 per cent and a Lib Dem on seven per cent. That result confirmed the usual pattern that the Labour Party can take voters in this area for granted. However some of those who have voted Labour hitherto may reflect that automatic Labour landslides have not proved entirely satisfactory.
The reluctance of Mr Wright to resign has led many to lament a lack of accountability – that deficiency could be resolved by introducing a recall system which the Home Secretary is now considering.
What strikes me as perverse would be to reduce accountability by abolishing the Police and Crime Commissioners and returning to the toothless police authorities.
It will be interesting to see what the level of turnout is the in forthcoming South Yorkshire PCC by-election. The turnout last time was just 15 per cent.
Will the voters of South Yorkshire still feel that it doesn’t matter who is in charge of the police?