Mega busy the last few weeks so didn’t post much….
Last Thursday we had an election of sorts, in which we were asked by government to vote for police and crime commissioners. This mirrors a similar policy in the US where in some parts of the country people vote for everything, sheriff, chief prosecutor, Mayor of Wastila Alaska, you name it.
However, I choose not to vote, partially because I was up the walls busy at the time, but also because of the real reason behind this election. The truth is that the main reason for these elections wasn’t a sudden conversion to democracy of the Tories. No it was more an exercise in blame allocation.
The Tories know that the next round of cuts they are planning will hit police forces hard. Naturally they’d rather have someone else take the decision as to what parts of local police budgets to cut and deal with the laying off of rank and file officers. This mirrors the situation in councils, where the Tories are leaving the dirty business of closing down nursing homes and putting grannies on the street to councils, rather than they doing the job themselves.
Ultimately the fatal flaw in the office of these new police commissioners is that the government still holds the purse strings, it still decides how much money the police services get. In short, being made one of these new commissioners is pretty much the equivalent of being made a Mighty Morph Power Ranger, you get a cool job title and a nice uniform, but no real powers.
It is also no secret that the Tories have ambitions to privatise police service, which would produce some juicy contracts for their buddies in private security firms (like G4S, who indeed have been bidding to run a number of privately build police stations).
And as if to further my point that the Tories actually care little about the deficit (the truth is, they are more interested in cutting public services that they don’t benefit from), they spent £75m on this exercise (about £20 quid per cast ballot by my calc).
Indeed, given the mess that we otherwise call the rail service (which as I’ve pointed out before costs more to subsidize in its private form than back under public ownership), the water companies or indeed the fiasco at the Olympics (where G4S security staff couldn’t be bothered to show up for work…do you really want to be relying on these people when fighting off an attacker!) where the army and police had to be drafted in, it is inevitable that a privatised police force would cost the country far more than it saves.
None of the above
The Tories position leading up to this election was everyone should vote, for you have only yourselves to blame if some Daily-mail reading bigot from our party ends up in charge of you’re local cop shop.
Unfortunately, they failed to realise that there was another option none of the above. Consider that the turn out in these elections was between 10-20% (15% nationally, one of the lowest turn out rates in an election….ever! with a rate of spoiled ballot papers ten times the normal rate). This means that some commissioners narrowly elected may have a mandate from as little as 5-10% of the electorate. Joe Stalin and Saddam could claim a more populist democratic mandate than this. Indeed it is telling that quite a number of these jobs went to independent candidates, not the mainstream parties.
I would argue that the real winner of this election was those who voted with their feet. While there does seem to be some appetite for more local democracy, clearly such posts need to come with some real powers.