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.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Independent PCC manifestos: good, bland or radical?

I have been watching the PCC candidates emerge over the last few months and there is now an increasing number of independents throwing their hats into the ring. Unsurprisingly many, though not all, of these independent candidates have a police officer background. I would imagine that they expect to scoop up the votes from the public who have said they would prefer someone who has such a pedigree rather than some hackneyed political hack. (After all politicians rank somewhere below estate agents and above parking attendants in the popularity stakes at the moment.)

Sadly most of these independent candidates are mostly as pale, male and stale as the majority of main party candidates, if not more so (as Jon Collins has outlined here). I was worried that many of these independents were going to be Tory wolves in bland sheeps’ clothing. I am not so worried now.

But what of these independents?

Will they bring a fresh & vibrant perspective to the PCC elections or will they offer populist policies drawn from the comments pages of the Daily Mail website? How will they encourage their supporters to use their second preference vote? Will they, like Green Jenny Jones (OK she was not an independent….) openly declare that she wanted her supporters to vote for Ken second or will they be like Siobhan Benita not say?

Will they be throwing their deposits to the wind or will one or two of them win…?

However for me the real question is: will their websites and campaign literature be the political equivalent of vanity publishing or will they really seek to change the overall debate and affect what PCCs do in the future?

I hope for the latter. Here is why.

I predict now that no independent is going to win. Very few independents ever do (beyond local politics where many independents are party animals in costume). Where they have it has usually been in extraordinary circumstances such as in Tatton or with single issue and highly emotive campaigns such as in Wyre Forest. These PCC elections, while novel, are not extraordinary.

And so, for me, the choice for independent candidates is to be blandly authoritative, offer up anodyne, broad & vaguely populist policies and expect to lose their deposits… or take a bold stance and zero in on one or more radical policies and drive these like a wedge into the campaigning of the bigger parties. Deposits might even be saved. And the pot of ideas around policing and crime could be much fuller as a consequence.

Independents of the country unite, you have nothing to lose but the shackles of conformity. Mimicking mainstream party manifestos while ladling in your experience and background is doomed to failure, in my opinion.

It is not for me to suggest what these policies might be, naturally. But be bold!

For the cynics, this appeal is not some less than subtle attempt to persuade independents to marginalise themselves so that the main parties (especially Labour of course) can have a free run. Genuinely, I don’t just value diversity: I delight in it, love it, want it. And we need new and diverse ideas in policing and crime prevention / reduction – just like we need such ideas in every other dimension of human endeavour. I can’t remember all of what Professor Hawking, Miranda and Sir Ian Mckellen said last night at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, but I think they would agree.

What do you think?

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