This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Untruths, twisted truths and Tory PCC campaign videos

We were treated yesterday to the "Conservatives' video to explain the Police and Crime Commissioner elections" although why it spools onto their campaign videos for last May's elections I am not sure. Why would they want to remind people of their disastrous results back then? Here is a pic to prove my point before they spot this and remove this error!

But back to video itself: you can see it here on youtube. It runs a bit like a Mitt Romney convention - full of emollient but vague crowd pleasers but full of untruths, twists & diversions. Here is my analysis (numbers are minutes & seconds):

00:07 Here it begins. The Home Secretary explains that PCCs will be "responsible for policing in their local areas". Now that is not exactly true since a) there is no mention of operational independence of the Chief Constable and b) here and elsewhere there is no mention of the 'and crime' role in relation to Victim Support for example. This video is all about policing and nothing else.

00:11 She goes onto say that the PCCs are part of other reforms "aimed at improving our ability to fight crime". Again, here we have the exclusive focus on crime.

00:18 "The PCC will be your local voice in local policing". Thames Valley has 2.2m people living in it. Yep. Really very local. 

00:23 "They will set police priorities and budgets". This may come as a shock to Chief Constables who still, I think, believe they are the ones setting budgets...

00:28 "And crucially they will focus on clearly cutting crime". Aside from the breaking news that I suspect Police Authorities & Constabularies have always had a similar focus! - we have again this myopic & exclusive focus on "cutting crime", ignoring all the other things that the police do to keep the Queen's peace and help make communities safe. It also ignores all of the other 'and crime' responsibilities of the PCCs. (And given that squatting has been made a crime today, this government is not beyond increasing crime when it serves their narrow interests.)

00:45 We then switch to Katy Bourne, Tory PCC candidate for Sussex. "Having a PCC will really fire up local communities". Excuse me while I fall off my chair. 

00:48 "At the moment [local communities] have no voice". Well, I suspect their are quite a few Police Authority members who would take exception to this statement. The Independent Police Complaints Commission might also have a view. This statement is clearly and simply not true.

00:50 "The PCC will be their representative who speaks to the police on their behalf". So much for community policing then! Next time you want to say something direct to a police officer, you will have to go through the PCC... 

00:56 "Instead of a body of people who are all unelected". Again, another untruth. Over half of all police authorities consist of elected councillors. We all know this. I agree, they have not been directly elected to serve on the PA, but the councillors have been elected. 

01:33 And Ms Bourne goes onto say that council tax precept is decided by PA who are "unelected" and so she keeps repeating this half truth. No mention that the decision on council tax precept always has to carry the majority vote of the elected members of the PA. No. That would be an inconvenient fact to talk about.

01:38 "That old saying no taxation without representation is very true". Side point really, but please tell that to all the 16 & 17 year old people who pay national insurance and VAT.

02:14 And now we are onto Jasbir Singh Parmar, the Bedfordshire Tory PCC candidate. I wonder if they needed to get the permission of the Post Office to film behind the counter in a Post Office? Are there any security implications?

02:41 Mr Parmar talks carefully about listening to the public and his background as a police officer. However, I must say that this audience don't look too receptive to his message!

03:05 There is much talk from members of public (we are being led to believe) about how people will be able to get their issues to the individual and hold them to account. Let's do the maths. Even if only 1% of the people resident in the Thames Valley Police Area write to their PCC once every year, that equates to over 400 letters and emails every week which will require investigation and a response. Who will do this? Will the PCC read all of them?

03.13 And now we switch to Richard Rhodes, the Tory PCC candidate for Cumbria, checked tweed jacket, shirt and all. 

03:28 "The big issue in Cartmel is the issue of parking" says a shop owner / worker. Do we hear Mr Rhodes saying that is not an issue that a PCC or even the police have responsibility for, you should really contact your local Liberal County Councillor Rod Wilson? Um... no. 

04:05 Then we hear another resident complaining about how long it took for the burglars who raided his house to get to court (two and half years). Do we hear Mr Rhodes saying that as PCC he could not do anything about that as court administration comes under the Ministry of Justice? Um... no. (He just says that if he gets elected, the person will be able to contact him...) Again, the video leaves the viewer with an erroneous impression of the role and powers of the new PCCs. 

And then the video finishes off with an appeal from the Home Secretary to vote on November 15. Conveniently, like a B movie trailer, the youtube video spools onto the local election campaign videos too...

This video twists the truth and gives an impression of what the role of PCCs that is a long way away from the legislation. I look forward to the first Labour campaign video.


  1. Anonymous31/8/12 23:51

    I agree with these comments Jon and wonder if Richard Rhodes has overstepped the line on the use of his role as a JP which contravenes advice from the senior judge?