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, October 25, 2012

Reading PCC Hustings

Well. I thought hustings were all about debate. This event in the old Reading Town Hall last night was an exercise in orchestrated tedium. In two hours, we had only two questions taken from the floor.

Two questions...!

The rest of the time, the six candidates were posed (sometimes quite convoluted) pre-submitted questions.

Pre-submitted? I asked one of the organisers how was it possible to have pre-submitted a question (or several in my case...)? His reply was something like "well I emailed lots of people beforehand". This was an open public meeting by the way. It was not just be invitation.

So a frustrated me left at the end of the meeting, as were others that I spoke with. Fortunately one of the local reporters noticed me waving a piece of paper around and inquired what question I would have asked. I gave my list which included:
  • The Summer saw the Olympic G4S fiasco where soldiers & police officers had to give up their well-earned holidays in order to fill gaps left by the private company hired to provide security staff. This is but one example of how private contractors fail and then expect the public services to pick up the pieces. Will the panel make a cast iron promise this evening that public facing Thames Valley policing services will not be outsourced or privatised or contracted to companies such as G4S while they are PCC?
  • To my mind, police resources should be shared out across Thames Valley according to where harm and risk of harm is greatest. On what basis will members of the panel decide and budget for how scarce policing resources are shared around Thames Valley if they were to become PCC? 
  • Thames Valley has approximately 2.2 million people and about 1 million households. As the job of the PCC is to represent the concerns and interests of all those people and communities, what practical things will the members of the panel do if they were elected to fulfil this part of the job description?
  • As a measure of your commitment to public accountability, transparency and integrity, within the next week, will you publish on your campaign websites all the campaign donations you have received from individuals and organisations, your membership of any associations, clubs or societies, and your sources of income in ways not dissimilar to the mayoral contest in London (which was also a PCC election as such)
(And some secret questions which I won't reveal here...! I should acknowledge Rachel Rogers, Labour PCC candidate for Dorset for prompting the last question who has led the way on this, I believe.)

But instead what did we get last night - a hot, packed room listening politely to series of mostly grandstanding statements from the panellists. I was even moved to tweet:
On the basis of this panel, apart from @TimLabour, as PCCs they will bore Thames Valley into low crime lethargy #reading #PCCs #hustings
Perhaps it was the nature of the event that produced such performances though.

But to recap, who do we have up for Thames Valley PCC?
  • Patience Tayo Awe (independent): out of her depth but very animated when talking about the riots of last year. Why is that? Keeps talking about project management. Is becoming a PCC a project to her in which case where is the risk register?
  • Barry Cooper (UKIP): has a twinkle in his eye and I think does not take himself too seriously. Maintains he is independent really. I remain unsure what UKIP believes in apart from leaving Europe and being 'Old Tory, dontcha know'
  • Geoff Howard (independent): Ex Labour, Ex Conservative, Ex UKIP I am led to understand. So he is certainly independent. I wonder where he is now politically except being in a party of one. Has a lugubrious and uninspiring delivery style 
  • John Orrell Howson (Liberal Democrat): the epitome of earnest LibDemmery, avuncular almost to the point of being patronising but not quite. But in the end this is not where his interests are. He should stick to education policy & ghosts of pledges.  
  • Anthony Stansfeld (Conservative): honestly believes that his experience of commanding a group of soldiers in Borneo in the late sixties qualifies him to become PCC in 2012. Also believes that chauffeurs should be called drivers. Maybe chews cactus in his spare time?
  • Tim Starkey (Labour): is light on his feet and able to respond coherently to a wide range of topics. He is able to get people laughing. His confidence is building and he is allowing his passion to make his answers both erudite and earnest.
I hope the next hustings is better...


  1. Worried of Witney25/10/12 21:41

    Surprise, surprise: Jon supports the Labour candidate (who used to be a LibDem parliamentary candidate, something he omits to mention). It's no surprise of course that he should slag off Tim's main competitors and avoid any reference to their (much greater) qualifications for the post, but it should give pause for thought.

    1. Um - the clue is in the subtitle of this blog: A Labour blog to talk about the future of policing, crime and justice for all... so quite naturally I am biased towards Tim. Not quite sure what the surprise is there.

      There is a wide diversity of experience amongst the six candidates. So please do say... which candidates have the 'much greater' qualifications for the post? Thanks.