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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The reasons why UKIP lost the South Yorkshire PCC election

Alan Billings, the Labour candidate has just won the South Yorkshire PCC election which was triggered by the resignation of the previous Labour PCC over the Rotherham scandal. I suspect that UKIP genuinely thought they would win this election.

However, Labour won on (just) 50.2% of first preference votes, I believe. In 2012, very few PCC elections were won without the count going to second preferences (where more than two people stood). Therefore, given the circumstances, this is a significant Labour victory. (I know that I feared that UKIP would snatch this election given the febrile context.)

From the tweets I have seen, I suspect that UKIP campaigners and supporters are aghast and disappointed, to put it mildly. They must be wondering how come they lost. Allow me to suggest why:

Lesson one: you have to respect your electorate. I have just seen this despicable tweet which leaves me worried, very worried:

If this is the mindset of UKIP supporters, they are not going to do very well. Are there now any UKIP supporters who are Muslim? This tweet effectively says that if you voted Labour, you are morally equivalent to a child rapist. Nice.

Lesson two: invoke & add to the suffering of people who have been abused at your peril. As an earlier post of mine highlighted, campaigning on the basis of '1400 reasons to vote UKIP' is going to upset many people, and, guess what, these people have votes to cast. Such a campaign might just rouse your supporters but it is unlikely to gain more.

Lesson three: have something positive to say. The UKIP campaign was almost entirely negative. The fact is they have nothing to offer as a way forward from the growing scandals of Rotherham, Sheffield, Manchester, Oxford, Aylesbury (and wherever next...) Their only vaguely relevant policy is to ban political correctness... so how is that going to work or make a difference then??

Lesson four: don't ignore all the other issues. Despite what UKIP wanted this election to be all about, it wasn't. The investigations into Orgreave and Hillsborough were high profile as well. As indeed is how to make policing even better / communities even safer in South Yorkshire. UKIP might like to think they can shape the agenda but actually it is the electorate who do so...

Lesson five: police officers do not necessarily make good police commissioners. UKIP made much of the experience of their candidate. Obviously. But voters are not stupid: they know it takes more to be a good PCC than being a police inspector 8 or 9 years ago.

Which brings me to Lesson six: don't underestimate the electorate! The UKIP campaign was an object lesson in saying "well, I wouldn't start from here" when asked for directions to somewhere. UKIP might like to think they are men and women of the people but this result shows that to be not the case.

UKIP mounted a nasty, divisive and ignorant campaign. The electorate have shown UKIP that they are not like that.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Zero reasons to vote UKIP

It is difficult for me to put into words quite how disgusted & despairing I feel over UKIP's campaign in the South Yorkshire for their PCC candidate.

I am disgusted that they have shamelessly further exploited young and vulnerable people by wrapping them namelessly into their political campaign. The irony that they feel able to criticise Michael Fallon for using the word 'swamped' (Ukip also accused Fallon of resorting to “intemperate language) whilst doing this, leaves me aghast. And also here is a party that has just joined forces with a Polish MEP (in order to save their EU funding arrangements) whose party has, at the very least, some extraordinarily 'dodgy' views on the Holocaust and violence against women.

And I despair that this viciously, vacuous and vindictive campaign could win them a substantial number of votes. After all, precisely what policies are UKIP promoting in order to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, not just in Rotherham and Sheffield, but also in other afflicted areas like Oxford and Aylesbury? None is the answer apart from (as they might see it) banning political correctness...

And of course, since UKIP is an irony free zone, they would not be able to see why 'free speech' includes using, if one wishes, politically correct language. Or as one illustrious Guardian letter writer (Allan Jones) put it, after Mike Read withdrew his Calypso from sale, isn't this a question of 'Political madness gone correct'...

But back to South Yorkshire, I much prefer this poster as devised by Michael Abberton

I sincerely hope that good governance prevails and a person worthy of the position is elected to become the Police & Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. Let's see what democratic result emerges...

Friday, October 24, 2014

UKIP Cabaret

I love this song by Liza but the end of the film always chills me to the bone... Perhaps Mike Read will do a parody / cover of this one day...

Recently, I have been doing my little bit engaging with some Kippers on Twitter. But I am reminded of GBS's famous quote "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it". But for me this is a key question: how much do I (and people like me) attempt to tackle and deconstruct the myths, lies, fatuous arguments and downright hateful things that UKIPpers say & publish? I have been pointed to their list of 'policies' in recent days. You can read them here for yourself.

The list is little more than fantasy politics: cobbled together and populist statements with about as much similarity to a programme for government as the back page of the Daily Star.

Should I / we spend time unpicking the daftness of most of these 'policies'? 

For example, last night on BBC Question Time, the UKIP MEP declared that the reason they have a 'policy' against plain paper packaging for cigarette packets is because this would allow more contraband cigarettes into the country! Personally, I would have thought that they would be in favour of plainer packets of fags, as this would provide UKIP with more space on which to compose their policies... (For the record, it is not hard to counterfeit cigarette packaging whatever it looks like... ask a printer!)

UKIPpers don't like detail and they seem to hate specifics. They would rather simplify & reduce everything down to a few tired polemics on Europe, political correctness and the LibLabCon parties all being run by nonces (yup, I had that this morning on Twitter).

But read this article by Rafael Behr: This isn’t about the Tory party. It’s a battle for the soul of British politics - Ukip is waging a visceral culture war in its pursuit of byelection votes. In it he says:
Ukip sells cries of protest to people with deep-rooted problems who feel voiceless. It aggravates grievance to expand its market. This is a different business model to the one the so-called mainstream parties should pursue. They are elected as purveyors of credible solutions. Farage is not just a new entrant in the marketplace for votes where loyalty to the old brands is fading; he is waging a culture war against the politics of practical solutions and workable imperfections.
How much should we engage in this culture war? As I have mentioned a couple of times, my blog which deconstructs the UKIP local government manifesto from May this year, has shot to all time number one on this blog. I am not sure why except to wonder whether people are hungry for ammunition against UKIP.

But my weapons against UKIP are based on reason, evidence, research, complexity, logic & analysis. UKIP peddles a different kind of approach which seems to me to be based on emotion, anecdote, polemic and crass simplicity.

I am really not sure what the best way forward is... I just remember how Cabaret ends...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A critical test of the PCC structure

A week from now, the polls will be open across the South Yorkshire police area to elect a new Police & Crime Commissioner. This will be the second by election for a PCC: the first was in the West Midlands and followed the untimely death of Bob Jones. The turnout in that election was 10.4%

The South Yorkshire poll could not be happening in more politically controversial circumstances: not only does it follow the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal & subsequent tardy resignation of the former Labour PCC, police conduct matters, long past but still very raw, also feature (Orgreave & Hillsbrough). The four candidates (Conservative, English Democrats, Labour & UKIP) featured on a live webcast a couple of days ago, in a live Star and Sheffield Telegraph Question Time-style debate. (I would say it was more oak, pine & cedar that QT style!)

The election will be a critical test of the PCC governance structure. Given the context, if this by election does not gain at least a 35% turnout (roughly equivalent to an average turnout in a local authority election), then the claims that PCC role is all about popular democracy & local accountability will be simply null and void.

As a (British!) democrat, obviously I hope that the turnout will exceed this minimal threshold and perhaps even match what we saw in Scotland a few weeks ago. I want people to be actively engaged with the future of policing, crime and community safety. (For the record, I also want the NHS to be much more democratically accountable, and far less stitched up by professionals with dubious conflicting commercial interests as I have reported on before. Why isn't it Tory policy to have elected Health Commissioners too?)

Despite the political protestations of the (neutral civil servant?) Chief Executive of the Office for the Police & Crime Commissioner of the Devon & Cornwall in an article in Police Professional a few weeks ago that he has:
worked in both recent governance arrangements – the police authority and the current PCC set-up. It is true that the power in police authorities was spread across the 17 to 21 members. This, in itself, might not be an issue. The issue – and Labour and the Lib Dems seemed determined to repeat this with their emerging proposals – is that police authorities found it impossible to make decisions.
...I assume he will have read the Stevens Report and subsequent statements by front bench spokespeople from both Labour & LibDem parties. In his role as the impartial professional adviser to the PCC, he would know that democratic accountability is a key ingredient in both emerging policies.

Mr White also reflects on whether the public do or do not want PCCs, that it would be an 
interesting challenge to any politician to see how much the public would lend their support to any of them.  
Chief Executive Mr White might want to reflect upon how many people vote in other elections which is the critical way in which most citizens show their support...

Let us all reflect on the implications of the South Yorkshire PCC election, eight days from now. It will be fascinating to see who wins and what the turn out is...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Never give up!

I awoke yesterday morning to the breathtaking news that an Anglo-Polish team had managed to use a man's nasal nerves to repair his spine and restore some life changing functionality to his lower body. Amazing! For me, this was a Christiaan Barnard moment: a genuine breakthrough in medical science. My hearty congratulations to everyone involved, not least the courageous patient at the centre of it all.

I listened to a humble, excited and indeed 'frightened' Professor Geoffrey Raisman on BBC Radio 4 talking about how his research had begun in the 1970's. He said he was frightened (I think) because the future is now so pregnant with possibilities for thousands of people, that it is so daunting and scary.

This is of course just one case and replication will be a critical next step. But I cannot express how excited I am at the idea that our bodies can be helped to repair themselves in ways that we never thought possible. If this research can lead to treatments that can help people regain control of their limbs, bodily functions (including breathing) after traumatic injury or strokes: this is truly momentous!

All of which got me thinking: are we using all the technology available to us to build community safety, prevent crime, reduce road fatalities and generally achieve an even more peaceful society? What crime prevention ideas have been bubbling around for 30+ years (in the heads of people like Professor Geoffrey Raisman) that are doggedly being pursued but which have not yet made it, as it were?

And by technology, I don't just mean the machines that go ping or the clever use of biology or chemistry: critical though they are. I also mean the new ways of thinking, the news ways of practising that can really make a difference...

For me, one of the key ideas in this latest news above, is "don't give up": if you think you know of a way that will help humankind, stick at it! It may take you 40 years but if you know it can work...

And it all comes back to leadership: the best leaders in the world listen lots and look for every which way to support innovation in practice. How is your leadership doing?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Questions for UKIP

Twitter is awash with outrage about Mike Read's 'just for fun' UKIP calypso sung in a faux Jamaican accent. Personally, I am now looking for his covers of Al Jolson's Mammy & Peter Sellers' Goodness Gracious Me... But as I have said before, we should not be distracted by these silly antics. Mr Farage and his acolytes are no fools: they know that by consistently creating such ridiculous promos, the public will fail to notice what a) they are really doing and b) the gaping chasm of policies for any serious political party.

Did you know for example that yesterday, UKIP managed to patch together a new European Parliamentary grouping so as to save its funding? You can read the story here: Ukip does deal with far-right, racist Holocaust-denier to save EU funding Funny how that story broke on the same day that Mike Read's single was released...

And if you Google 'UKIP Policies' you get this: What We Stand For, which is about as informative as soggy food label which may contain nuts...

So, I thought I would ask ten questions of UKIP, so that we can shine a little more light on their programme for government should any of them get elected or even hold the balance of power next May...

1) Do you think that free market economics should apply to health & social care, including the application of TTIP (which is likely to mean many US companies bidding to run our NHS)?

2) You say that you will allow for the creation of new grammar schools: how will such decisions be made and who will fund the consequent costs?

3) One of your 'issues' is "No to Political Correctness - it stifles free speech". Do you have a glossary of which words, phrases or practises that would be banned? Also, does free speech include politically correct phrasing?

4) You state that you will "prioritise social housing for people whose parents and grandparents were born locally". How will this impact upon the responsibilities of local government to house at risk homeless people? And is it 'parents and grandparents', or ''parents and/or grandparents' or ''parents or grandparents'? Will there be extra points for great-grandparents too?

5) You say that you will legislate for "binding local and national referenda, at the public’s request, on major issues". What will be the threshold for the 'public's request' and 'major' issues. Who get's to decide on what is 'major', for example?

6) You say that "Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years" and this means such items as "private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing". What about other state funded benefits such as motorway maintenance, policing and the fire service? Would immigrants have to fund their own private versions of these also?

7) If the UK leaves the EU, what will happen to the millions of Brits currently working and living in mainland Europe?

8) You say that there will be "No tax on the minimum wage". Does this include people who have other incomes that take them above the personal tax allowance but decided to earn some more money on top, but at a minimum wage?

9) You say that you will "Scrap HS2, all green taxes and wind turbine subsidies" while developing "shale gas to reduce energy bills and free us from dependence on foreign oil and gas". Please can you confirm that shale gas/oil will not be subsidised in any way?

10) You say that you wish to "remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights": which Human Rights currently covered by the European Convention do you not agree with?

I look forward to the answers...

PS UKIP promised a document outlining more detailed policies... when is this going to be published?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bread & Roses: the march goes on

I have just blogged about Pride: the wonderful and inspirational new movie about the time when a group of gay men and lesbians supported some striking miners in South Wales in 1984. Please go and see this film. You will laugh, smile, cry and (maybe even) punch the air (I did).

At one point the film features a stirring and touching rendition of 'Bread & Roses', sung by Bronwen Lewis (a contestant on the Voice a couple of years ago). The film is all about the power of solidarity. This song punctuates the film with a (musical) note that the struggle for fairness and equality is not just about bread. It is about roses too.

Here are the words to the song (taken from this Wikipedia site):
As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,For they are women's children, and we mother them again.Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women deadGo crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.The rising of the women means the rising of the race.No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!
(the words are by James Oppenheim)
The original inspiration  for the poem/lyrics came from a speech by Rose Schneiderman who was a notable United States union leader, socialist, and feminist of the first part of the twentieth century. She is quoted as saying "The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too".

It is difficult to contain all of my thoughts and feelings arising from both the movie and this song into a (relatively) short blog post. I could write reams. So here are just a few thoughts:
  • I feel enormously proud and humble to be part of a worldwide movement that simply believes in people as humans, and not just as commercial units to add to a financial spreadsheet.
  • Art and beauty are as important as basic needs: we must have bread but we must have roses too...
  • There is nothing that cannot be achieved when people come together in true solidarity and open friendship.
  • While there will probably always be hate and prejudice, this will always be dwarfed by our capacity to reach out, find common cause and nurture love.
  • There are people who are intent upon building a world based on division and subtraction: but I believe there are many more of us who want a world based on multiplication and addition. (This is the Right and Left Wing Maths of Politics)
  • There is no hierarchy of equalities: creating a sustainable, fair and ambitious world rests on everyone's talents & creativity being honoured and developed. Only then will all people be able to dream and have the resources to achieve those dreams.
  • The people united will never be defeated 
  • Or to quote another movie, everything will be alright in the end. And if it's not alright, it's not the end. The march goes on.
... the march goes on...