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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jamie Athill: fine words and...?

The thing about Mr Jamie Athill's video (link here) is that while he comes across as a sincere and articulate 'man of action' (there is lots of striding around), his campaign video really doesn't say that much. If I were to sum it up in one word I would say it was 'platitudinous'. Here are some choice quotes:

01:47 Rural crime …needs to be tackled by active policing and an involved community so that we protect the rural way of life which is so important to many people in Norfolk


02:40 Real success depends upon the people who are engaged in fighting crime and dealing with its consequences. If elected, I will ensure that the police operate to those standards of efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism that I’ve embraced throughout my military career.

and (yawn)

01:28 We need the police and the local authorities and a coordinated voluntary sector to intervene early to prevent things escalating out of hand

Well, I am not exactly wowed. It almost reads like a Monty Python script. Try reading those words in the voice of 'very naughty boy' Graham Chapman and you will see what I mean.

But is this going to be the Tories approach to these PCC elections? Are we going to hear lots of warm and earnest words designed to lull people into voting in their sleep?

There are some notable totemic words of course:

02:21 (With a clunky cut to) But what about Victims?! Victims should come first. As the Police & Crime Commissioner I would build on the work being done by the police and the voluntary sector through better interagency cooperation and acting as a voice for the people who think that sentences should really mean what they say. [my added emphasis]

Again here we have the idea that PCCs will be able to intervene in sentencing (false) and playing to gallery about victims. True, victims deserve better but... these are just fine words, and ironic ones from a party of Government that seems intent upon breaking up Victim Support.

And then we have the curious

00:46 I’m a Norfolk Conservative because I believe in personal responsibility, self reliance, and mutual respect within the framework of a strong society built on family and community values. (Do Suffolk conservatives believe something different? Indeed does anyone, Left or Right not believe in such matters - or is he really hinting that socialists believe in no responsibility, dependency and lack of respect within a weak society built on heathen values? Crafty eh! Malcolm Tucker: eat your heart out!)

There are some puzzling bits too:

01:16 Norfolk is one of England’s safest counties (at which point, bizarrely, the camera cuts to a shot of a house for sale sign and then one of a bathroom window…? Is this to help burglars know when and where to break in...?)

01:18 ...but crime can affect families and businesses in everyday life. (No way! Crime can affect families! Crikey, I really must vote for this chap in the coming election, this man clearly knows his stuff!)

And then finally, although this comes near the beginning:

00:27 My previous career was in the British Army, so I understand the ethos and dynamics of a uniformed service

That is bit like me saying I was once in a Boy Scout band (which is true, I was a drummer) and therefore I understand the culture and ethos of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I know ex-Army officers who are humble about the limits of their experience and are careful not to exaggerate their competence, which is often significant. (One good friend wrote this inspirational piece for example.) I have also met army officers who seem to think that commanding a military unit qualifies them to run anything as if all things can and indeed should be made to run like a platoon. Mr Athill (does he ever call himself Colonel now?) appears to be edging towards the latter category.

If I worked in the police, I would feel pretty offended by this assumption that the only thing to know about the police is that they are a uniformed service.

Now clearly, Mr Athill's confidence was enough to beat the other Tory candidates who had far more experience of policing. The question is, will it be enough to persuade the people of Norfolk to vote for him?

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