I have been a postal voter for many years now. My work is unpredictable and I can be away on election days so it is the best option. And so yesterday I cast my vote and in a short while I will be posting the letter.
My first preference was easy, of course. Tim Starkey got my first 'X'. And then I pondered, who should get my second preference, if anyone?
You probably won't be surprised to learn that I campaigned hard for a yes vote in the AV referendum last year. Despite appearances perhaps, I am not a tribal Labour voter and have been a committed pluralist for a long time, probably always. (I was one of the organisers of the 'Progressive Alliance' at Reading University Students Union which wrested control from the Tories who had hitherto run the place while the middle & left were divided. The PA even included the International Socialists which became the SWP by the way.) Much of my commitment to pluralism is based on raw pragmatism and a recognition that politics should always be about ideas & outcomes rather than the sources of those the policies.
I know all this will damn me in the eyes of many on the Left and in the Labour Party. So be it. But because of all this, I had to use my second preference vote. These second preference votes might just make the difference between two very different candidates at the end. I wanted my second vote to influence that final stage.
But I did not use politics to decide who I should give my second preference to: instead I decided to use who I thought would make the best 'professional' PCC. (And just in case you are wondering, I judge Tim to be the best on this front as well). But who came second?
Patience Tayo Awe has shown herself to be a very inexperienced candidate in my view whose remarks at the Aylesbury hustings were at best very unwise and at worst possibly damaging to an ongoing investigation by the IPCC. She did herself no favours and continues to cite her project management qualification as what equips her to be a PCC. Patience did not get my second vote.
Barry Cooper, whilst clearly very bright, passionate and indeed likeable, does not have the 'legs' in governance matters. His experience of being part of any kind of political structure appears very limited and his claim to be independent whilst representing (what I think UKIP believes) to be the fastest growing political party in the Britain is a contradiction too far. Barry did not get my second vote.
Geoff Howard is in a party of one, in my opinion. Having left (or shown the door, I am not clear?) three other political parties indicates to me a limited ability to get on with others. Being a PCC will require someone to build bridges across many divides, not least with the Chief Constable. In short, I don't think he has the humility or nous to do that. Geoff did not get my second vote.
Anthony Stansfeld clearly has experience in these matters and his position on the police authority would give him a head start over many other candidates. However I think he paints his past experience just a bit too sympathetically for my liking. His stated commitment to more of the same would mean if he became PCC, his would be a lack lustre tenure and Thames Valley Police would effectively go backwards. Anthony did not get my second vote.
Which brings me to John Howson.
I have met many Labour colleagues and indeed many Tories who despise all Lib Dems as political opportunists who sit on the fence until they spot where the public mood is going. There are now many more people by dint of 'pledgegate' who will never ever consider voting Lib Dem. As a Westminster party, they are heading for the back of a couple of taxis, in my opinion. Their record in government is ragged and shabby. I for one, will never forgive them for helping create the legislation in which the NHS will be fragmented in an incoherent and therefore dangerous mix of providers that will damage the health of the nation.
But I said that politics would not come into my decision about where to cast my second preference vote. Part of my decision making was negative: if it comes down a contest between John and Anthony, I know who I want don't want to win. But also positive as I believe John to be a deep thinking person who is committed to making a positive difference to community safety in Thames Valley. He has the political experience and wit to edge policing and crime matters in a good direction. And so I did cast my second vote for John.
I am not advising anyone else to vote the way I have done: each person must make up their own mind. All that I hope is that people vote deliberately rather than hurriedly.
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