I have never met Professor Howson but he clearly knows his stuff - education stuff. He is a recognised "authority on the labour market for teachers". His University of Oxford profile goes on to say that he a "former deputy head of education at Brookes University and government adviser on teacher supply matters, John taught in a Tottenham secondary school for seven years and worked in teacher training and development in Worcester and Durham as well as Oxford". It is impressive stuff. If you Google his name you will find a myriad of references to his work in the field of... education.
He has also been a magistrate for many years and (it would appear from my brief research) to have been closely involved in the Magistrates Association for quite a while. He is currently one of their Vice Presidents. Although appreciation of his contribution is not universal.
I know this may seem that I beginning to support him (as, after all, he and the Labour Candidate Tim Starkey do know each other reasonably well - see here and here). But I am not. Professor Howson has remained a supporter of a Government that is slowly and painfully turning the clock on our public services (including his and our beloved educational system) back to the middle ages. Whereas my colleague Tim has followed through on his ideas and principles (ones that Professor Howson once shared?) and recognised the only place for him to be is in the Labour Party.
But it is not just that.
I am unclear how being a magistrate gives a person any special qualification to become a police and crime commissioner. Professor Howson will have an understanding of the courts system but his exposure to governance and strategic leadership of policing is, shall we say, limited. True he was a victim of a very nasty crime some years ago but again I would contend this does not give him any particular knowledge of how to hire or fire a chief constable, write policing plans and set council tax precepts (etc.) I appreciate his experience will probably have given him insight and a passion for supporting victims of crime, but many others have that.
It would seem to me from browsing through his mentions on the net that his real passion is education, not policing.
And finally, what of the selection process?
The Labour Party have been entirely open about how our candidates have been selected, we even published the numbers of votes as counted by an independent organisation (The Electoral Reform Society). Contrast this with the growing omnishambles in the Tory Party where there are (as reported by Sam Chapman, a Conservative Councillor himself) a growing number of internal reviews and re-selection processes (see here, and here and here for example). Selection process that can yield such headlines as this "Tory Party announces that Tory hopeful who beat two Tories but who is not a Tory and refuses to become a Tory quits as Tory candidate for police commissioner." are as much a gift to satire as Clint Eastwood currently is.
But at least with the Conservative Party, some of the stories are emerging. How was Professor John Howson selected? Were there other candidates? Was he chosen by a small committee or by a postal vote of party members? For a party that is supposedly committed to transparency and democracy, the Liberal Democrats are not saying much.
Unless you know something different....?
UPDATE: I have just spotted this website which helpfully gives contact details for Professor Howson, so I have written to him asking about the selection process. I will report back.
UPDATE 2: Well. This is getting curiouser and curiouser. I have just received this reply back from Professor Howson (or someone operating his email address): Thank you for your query. If you can supply me with your Liberal Democrat party Membership number I will pass your query on to the appropriate person. I replied: I am now even more curious – why do you say I have to supply you with a Liberal Democrat Party membership number to have my questions answered? Is information about the method that was used to select you only to be known by party members? Please explain further. Thank you. (2106|5/9/12)
UPDATE 3: Professor Howson has written back to me saying: Selection is a matter for the Party and not the candidate, so I have passed your request on to them. That seems fair enough, his party probably has rules about who can and cannot talk about process. We do in the Labour Party too. However, he still surprised about my inquiry. I responded by saying: given the initial policy of your party not to put up candidates at all, the continuing controversies over Conservative selection processes in several counties and the fact that a number of candidates have had to withdraw due to past crimes, I am sure you can understand my interest in respect of this particular election. (7/9/12)
Watch this space for developments...