Capt. Jay Singh-Sohal works in Strategic Communications for M&C Saatchi and serves as a captain in the Army Reserve. He is the Conservative candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.
It is almost six months to the day since I last wrote for Conservative Home, following my selection to be the Conservative candidate for the role of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). What a time it has been.
I’ve been combining preparing for the campaign with new daddy duties. Learning and shaping my approach to delivering locally on our party’s law and order agenda, while re-learning how to deal with late night feeds and nappy changes, et al.
The daily work commute from Royal Sutton Coldfield to London Soho has ceased, and I’ve cleared the diary of the extra-curricular charity work I do to fully focus on the election campaign ahead. As a first-time candidate, it’s all very new and exciting but I’m taking this campaign very seriously indeed. The outcome matters hugely for the West Midlands.
Politically, of course, it has been seismic since party conference, with a multitude of failed votes on leaving the EU, a General Election before Christmas which saw the West Midlands knock six bricks out of Labour’s Red Wall, and the delivery of (the last time I’ll mention the word) Brexit on the 31st January.
Now, we have a domestic agenda which makes us proud to be called the party of law and order, and a Prime Minister and Home Secretary delivering on this, with policies including hiring 20,000 new police officers nationally over the next three years.
Of those, 366 will be coming to the West Midlands in the first year alone. And our police force has received the highest funding settlement outside of London, and the largest it has ever had; with nearly two thirds of a billion pounds from central government.
Whilst the Government gets on with the business of delivering, we’ve been entertained by the shambolic pantomime that is the West Midlands Labour Party in action. Finally finding out, after postponement, delay, confusion, and (ultimately) ridicule, that their candidate to take on our esteemed Mayor Andy Street is none other than …Liam Byrne. The author of that famous “I’m afraid there is no money” note written after Labour’s 2010 election defeat now wants to run the West Midlands engine. The Hodge Hill MP has done well to earn his nickname across the region, “Mr Austerity”.
Meanwhile, the sitting Labour PCC, former Labour Minister and Plymouth MP, David Jamieson, is heading for another retirement. While I wish him well, it could not come soon enough. He has done the job for the last six years while Labour has been in charge of our policing since the role was created in 2012. Their track record is frankly abysmal. Closing over half the police stations across the West Midlands Force area while £34 million has been spent on the refurbishment of his office block in the centre of Birmingham is just the tip of the iceberg.
It is hardly surprising that, against that backdrop of retrenchment from community-based policing, the region now faces the harsh realities of:
- Some of the worst burglary and theft figures in the entire country, with all the resultant misery and expense that it brings,
- An explosion in knife crime that this last weekend saw three serious stabbings in three of our boroughs, including the tragic killing of a teenager, and
- National notoriety as one of three main County Lines drug dealing centres in the UK.
Beneath that, I am finding, when knocking on doors and speaking to residents across the region, a community at its’ wits end over unattended crime incidents, vandalism, yobbish and anti-social behaviour, and car crime. While serious crime runs rampant, it is these so-called little things that grate the most. That is Labour’s policing legacy for the West Midlands.
David Jamieson has made an art-form out of politicising everything that goes with the role, losing trust and belief in the Commissioner as a force for positive change. He plays people off against each other, entertains bloated bureaucracy, interferes on issues outside his remit, and above all fails to do what he was elected to do and tackle rising crime.
His replacement, the best Labour could muster to run for PCC and my opponent, is from the far fringes of the hard left. A Champagne Socialist selected before Jeremy Corbyn realised his true potential as an electoral disaster. Heralded as the Momentum-sponsored candidate across social media, Simon Foster’s hobbies include redistributing wealth and hanging out with Coventry MP Zarah Sultana.
Jamieson, Foster, and the West Midlands Labour cabal blame “austerity” for everything, yearning for the “golden days” of 2010 when they were in power and before tough choices had to be made to balance the books that they ran red. Their argument is not getting far with voters – how can it when their own Mayoral candidate is the very man who gave us the need to make tough spending decisions in the first place.
In May, Mr Austerity will take on Mr Investment in Andy Street. What a contrast. A failed politician against the man who led John Lewis at its zenith and is applauded for the rejuvenation of the West Midlands economy.
The West Midlands has moved past failure, way past austerity, and has rejected the politics of blame and shirking responsibility which Labour continue to cling on to for identity. Now the thriving region demands action. I get this totally. As a resident and lifelong Brummie, I care passionately about the region where I was born and brought up; where I live today and choose to raise and school my children.
That’s why my mantra for this campaign is a very simple one.
That’s why, if I’m elected on May 7th, my job as PCC won’t be to play politics or score points. It won’t be to argue about budgets nor to oil up to the bureaucracy. I won’t play with trains nor pursue photo opportunities. No, the people of the West Midlands want one thing above all else from their Police and Crime Commissioner. What they want forms my very simple mantra. It’s to “Get Crime Down”. When I’m elected, that is what I will do.