Police Commissioner Elections

The Police Commisioner elections are coming up on Thursday. I want to encourage people to go and cast a ballot. However imperfect the system is, we are privileged to have the vote and we should make use of it.

However, many people think that the PCC elections are a total farce. They don’t want a PCC; they believe the £75 million it’s costing to hold the elections should be spent on, say, front-line policing; they don’t think that the police should be politicised. Even the former Met Commissioner Ian Blair is advocating a boycott. There are major concerns that a record low number of people are going to turn out to vote, meaning that the democratic mandate given to these new PCCs is going to be seriously questionable.

People don’t vote for a variety of reasons: ignorance; apathy; not being on the electoral roll; discontent. Also known as ‘don’t know’; ‘don’t care’; ‘can’t’; ‘won’t’. I expect most people not voting come from columns B and D.

Not knowing about elections is usually difficult, but for this one I have to make an exception. While it has been nice not to have loads of election spam shoved through my letterbox, it has made it trickier to evaluate the candidates. I found a website where you can see all the candidates up for election. It seems to think that a major factor in my decision is which candidate is most active on Twitter, and is rather bland on any other details. The official website is a bit better and of course the candidates’ own websites also give you an idea of what they’re vaguely in favour of (“less crime” seems to be the general consensus).

There are also some special gems:

“Like the rest of [UKIP], Paul sees deep unfairness in allowing the European Courts to send British citizens to rough justice abroad whilst allowing known-terrorists to flout deportation back to the Middle East. He believes that the Human Rights Act is not ‘fit for purpose’ and should be fundamentally changed.”

-Paul Bullen, UKIP Candidate

“UKIP wants to see a Commissioner who isn’t tied to any form of ‘party politics’ or ‘party whip’. Paul is, therefore, truly Independent and able to act how you, the law-abiding public, want. ”

-Paul Bullen, UKIP Candidate

The English Democrat manifesto is also well worth a read. This candidate wants to take Cambridge back to the 1820s (yes, really), when black people couldn’t vote and paperwork hadn’t been invented yet. He will crack down on the real problems affecting police work today, which apparently are:

1. “Politically Correct social engineering”

2.  “Recording matters that do not really need to be recorded”

3. Indiscriminate use of the “reply all” button in emails

4. Polo shirts.

Meanwhile, the Conservative candidate will be focusing on motoring offences, such as cycling on the pavement, and one independent clearly has the measure of the job when he states that he “believes that communicating with people will be an essential part of his work.” The Labour candidate has a stronger manifesto, although I feel he spoils what is otherwise a well argued piece with the following:

“David Cameron showed what the Tories really think of our police…”

“The Tories are making huge cuts to our police nationally.”

“The Tories are putting the safety of our communities at risk”

“As your Commissioner I will serve all residents in a non partisan manner irrespective of party politics.”

Guys? Don’t do that.

The other independent seems to be onto a good thing, vowing to work without pay for the first two years, with the money going to feed hungry deprived schoolchildren, which will prevent them choosing a life of crime when they’re older. This is actually quite admirable, since mandatory abortions are clearly out of the question, so it’s a shame he then went and put his foot in it by implying that the life of a female officer is worth more than the life of a male officer. Oops. I doubt anyone will have noticed, though.

The Lib Dems, meanwhile, have focused on preventing re-offending. The candidate draws a distinction between those offenders who could be helped to ‘go straight’, and those who simply don’t want to give up their life of crime. I’m wondering which category “pavement cyclists” fall into. It is a nice idea, and I think it could work well. The only flaw is that it’s based upon everyone being a decent person deep down, which I think is an assumption that remains to be proven.

Overall, though, none of these candidates really stand out for me. They all seem to have studiously avoided any serious topics like rape, assault or murder (except for the Labour candidate, who talks a bit about reducing domestic violence), although maybe they’re just worried about a repeat of what happened the last time people tried to talk about rape during an election. I’d like to see more discussion about how to get reporting rates up for violent crimes, but in a pinch, I’d settle for dangerous driving being taken a lot more seriously. Sadly, none of the candidates have yet responded to the sensible questions posed by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, but check the website again on the 14th. We can run a book on how long before at least one of them replies with “but…but…but….cyclists jump red lights!” If you’re keen to elect a PCC who takes this stuff seriously, I wouldn’t vote English Democrat, since they plan to expunge motoring offences entirely from crime statistics. Maybe because they didn’t have cars back in the good ol’ 1820s.

One thing is certain, though – don’t stay at home. You might think you’re making a statement, but in reality, not voting is interpreted as apathy and even tacit approval of the process.

Decisions are made by those who show up. So get out there and spoil your ballot.


  1. I spent a few hours visiting the various websites trying to figure out who the candidates are for the elections, before making my postal vote. In the end I think I just voted based on who seemed to have made a good effort on their websites. It would have been nice to be able to see some hustings online.

    I agree that if you can’t decide on any of the candidates you should still vote and spoil the voting paper.

    On this ballot paper you are able to provide a first and second preference. I would like to encourage independent candidates to stand in the future and voted accordingly. I think the independent candidates would do a better job than the candidates from the political parties.

  2. I disagree with the idea that policing priorities should be subject to a popular vote, which is essentially what is happening here. I do think independent candidates are definitely better than those from political parties, but I just can’t get on board with the concept of a Police Commissioner.

    The policing minister, Damien Green, was on Question Time last week, defending this process against an audience that was clearly hostile towards it. His response to them basically boiled down to “why do you hate democracy?”

    I don’t hate democracy, but I do hate the way that it can permit a majority to enact discriminatory politics against a minority. I don’t think that’s the kind of mandate I’d ever want to risk giving to the guy in charge of telling the police what to focus on.

    So if you disagree with the entire principle of a PCC election, a vote for any candidate would appear to give approval to the process, whereas a spoiled ballot definitely won’t. The returning officer is required to count and report the spoiled ballots, and I think that is a much more quantifiable way of sending a message about these elections.

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