David Sidwick is the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset.
I am honoured to be the Conservative PCC candidate to represent the people of Dorset – both the Country and the Coast. When you start on this road you realise something quite alarming right from the start: there is no training course to equip you for the role and you need to acquire knowledge on the hoof. So, after 18 months of research and “seeing practice” with other PCCs, it is clear that knowledge and visibility will be key to getting this done.
There are three questions the electorate wants answers to:
- Why have a PCC?
- Why a Conservative PCC?
- Why David Sidwick?
This first question feeds into voter turnout where the PCC role is poorly misunderstood and its value misrepresented. The PCC in ITV’s Wild Bill is not representative of the Lincolnshire PCC nor is the shady individual in Line of Duty. The answer is to keep repeating what the PCC can do to underpin law and order. The two recent Conservative Home articles by Katy Bourne and Matthew Barber show the value of PCCs as agents of change, as well as their contribution to community representation and accountability.
The third question is for me to address locally in Dorset where the incumbent is an independent.
So I’m going to focus here on the second question. Why have a Conservative PCC? This is the most important question to answer and is particularly relevant in today’s political climate where traditional party loyalties are in a state of some flux. There are four reasons why a Conservative PCC makes sense and we need to keep repeating why these matter:
Conservative Values. The key to a PCC being Conservative lies in our long-term commitment to law and order. We understand how crime impacts people from low level “nuisance” to the more serious offences. We have always stood for aspiration and meritocracy, with individuals having the freedom to live their lives within the law so long as they do not infringe the freedoms of others. This means we Conservative PCCs and candidates take a robust approach – understanding explanations and vulnerability, yet ensuring that these are not excuses and the law is upheld. You may be vulnerable and had a tough upbringing, but that does not give you the right to terrorise your community.
Peelian Principles. It is too often forgotten that the Conservative Party in Sir Robert Peel invented the police force and initiated the nine Peelian Principles. As a Conservative, it’s in our nature to hold these sacrosanct. These have been uniquely constant in defining what a Police Force should do – and inspirational in ensuring success. Bill Bratton – the Commissioner of Police in New York carried them in his pocketbook whilst the NYPD went about fighting crime so successfully. They are all important – but two, I believe, are critical to a modern Conservative view.
Firstly, to reduce Crime and Disorder. This is self-evidently the first clear priority. Secondly, police seek and preserve public approval not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law. Having instigated the principles, the Conservative Party holds them most dear and is most likely to ensure complete independence for the Police from individuals, companies, political parties, and critically, the government.
The Alternatives. Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour believe in removing local need and accountability from the police equation. They prefer moving towards a National Force designed to act on national policing issues directed from the centre. A vote for either means a PCC actively working to make themselves redundant. Whilst there may be a case for reform in some areas to increase efficiency – the removal of a democratic mandate from people is a high price to pay.
Certainly, Labour has a much more insidious agenda – The Shadow Home Secretary is quoted in 2005 as saying: “We are not interested in reforming … the police, armed services, judiciary and monarchy. We are about dismantling them and replacing them with our own machinery of class rule.” This outlook is scary in the extreme. But equally concerning are the libertarian views of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats on drugs policy and the balance between the needs of the victim and community versus those of the perpetrator.
Finally, what of an “independent” – this may be the worst option as they have not faced a rigorous selection process relying instead on a misleading apolitical stance. This means they could display an all things to all men approach whilst following their own or others’ significant agendas. This is not transparent and means they are like a packet of Revels – you think you are getting the yummy orange one but instead you may get the wrinkled raisin at the bottom.
Conservative PCCs – More Effective.
Real data shows that Conservative PCCs are more effective than their counterparts. Having reviewed all 43 forces with both HMICFRS data and Home Office statistics we find the following:
- Of the 10 best performing forces – nine have a Conservative PCC
- Of the 10 worst performing forces – only four have a Conservative PCC
- For total crime rate – seven of the lowest ten are Conservative
- For Violence Against a Person Rate – seven of the lowest ten are Conservative
- For Anti-Social Behaviour – six out of the lowest 10 are Conservative
- In nine out of 11 similar parameters, Conservative PCCs are equal to or better than the opposition.
A Conservative PCC makes sense both philosophically and empirically.
Of course, there are many challenges for all PCC candidates going forward, but we now have a strong case for Conservatism which is far more persuasive than when PCCs first took up office. We need to make the case for why Conservatism should remain at the heart of policing via the PCCs.