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Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced via an interview in The Guardian
this morning that the Government will not be proceeding with plans to
have directly elected police authorities.

She appears to pin the blame on the Conservatives for changing her mind:

"The
Tories’ behaviour has raised fears that the police were being
politicised, making it more difficult to win public support for my
proposals for some members of the police authority to be directly
elected. Looking at what has happened over the past two months, there
has been a fundamental shift in the way people think about the
politicisation of the police. I put that down to the London mayor’s
intervention in the resignation of Sir Ian Blair and the events
surrounding the Damian Green affair."

Chris Huhne for the Lib
Dems recently cited his party’s opposition to directly-elected police
commissioners on the basis that such an individual could be a populist
"insensitive to the rights and freedoms of minorities in that area".

The
Times
this morning also seems to suggest that the potential for
extremists getting elected to police authorities was another reason for
the Government dropping its plans.

But
the Conservative position, developed by Nick Herbert when he was shadow
police reform minister, remains that  police authorities should be
replaced with a directly-elected police commissioner, who would act as
the focus for public accountability.

There is strong support for
increasing democratic accountability in all kinds of policy areas from
the Direct Democracy movement inside the Conservative Party, as
championed by Daniel Hannan, Douglas Carswell and others – most
recently in their book: The Plan.

Is this not an area where the Conservatives should be highlighting clear blue water between the parties?

Is
Labour’s position not a vote loser on the basis that they appear to be
saying "We do not trust to you vote for the right people"?

11am update – Here’s the reaction to today’s news from shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve:

"The Home Secretary only ever paid lip-service to the notion of police accountability. Now she is trying to spin her way out of it. This shows Labour are completely bereft of ideas when it comes to making the police accountable to the people they serve. Jacqui Smith has shown the Government in its true colours.

"The danger of politicisation of the police has come from the complete micromanagement that has been the hallmark of this Government over the last eleven years. Our plans to replace police authorities with directly elected police commissioners are entirely different from those of the Government. They are about both restoring the professional judgement of the police, while making them accountable to and able to work with the public, not Whitehall diktats."

Jonathan Isaby

50 comments for: Time to make the police democratically accountable?

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