I suspect that Theresa May will never quite live down what happened in those wet and wintry days in the run up to the November 15 poll. She and Cameron had been doing their level best to raise awareness of the PCC elections: going out on the stump, delivering leaflets and paying for a stupidly expensive set of TV adverts. (I think the advertising agency and TV companies might have smelled their desperation from a couple of blocks away.) And then it happened: the idea of voting for the worst possible candidate from each list on offer suddenly went viral.
Lord Blair had made an attempt to get people not to vote at all but people quickly realised that this would never work, a very wrong person might get in. That would not do. Others exhorted people to spoil their ballot papers until everyone realised that the government would merely spin and blame it all on the supplementary voting system.
And then someone tweeted, if we have had Jedward’s Eurovision song & Ann Widdecombe’s tango, why not show the government what you really think of PCCs by voting for the worst candidate in each area?
It was a simple idea that caught on. Suddenly twitter was alight with people discussing just who was the worst candidate in each area. All those people who had been arguing for the need to take politics out of policing suddenly had a way of making it happen. Individuals set up websites to judge who were the worst candidates. Slowly one by one, each area came to a decision. It was a marvel of the internet age and no doubt a couple of Social Media PhD research proposals are being written as I write. How did this happen, how did it come to pass that the voters of England and Wales tapped into the hive mind of twitter and just knew what they had to do…?
Of course for the candidates, resistance was futile. They could only watch the events transpire, as details of their CVs & public statements were dissected in remorseless detail. Rather poignantly, some candidates spotted what was happening and then said or did things to make their candidacy sound even lamer. However the public recognised this for what it was (desperate) and calmly took them off the list, reasoning that anyone who wanted the position that much could not be trusted to be that bad.
Yours truly, just watched and waited. I could see the way the wind was blowing…
In some areas it was clear from the start. Any candidate who talked about their hobbies or names of their pets was immediately selected. Any candidate who talked about making traditionally high crime inner city areas the ‘safest places to be’ were chosen. And of course, any candidate who took it upon themselves to criticise all police officers as dishonest was selected. The public figured (rightly) that the ensuing spats between them and the Chief Constables would make great news stories.
And so it came to pass, the worst PCC candidates were elected up and down the country (I am the exception, naturally). And now the Government is paddling madly upstream to make it appear that the policy was a success. Meanwhile, the public of England & Wales are guffawing into their pints and glasses of Chardonnay.