Last night, Wokingham Labour Party held a hustings for the two shortlisted candidates for the Labour nomination in November’s elections for the Police & Crime Commissioner of the Thames Valley region. The two candidates are Tim Starkey and Jon Harvey, who not only have satisfactorily near-rhyming names, but who both have shiny websites so you can read up on their policies.
It was a fairly well attended affair, with party members present from Reading East, Bracknell and my own Maidenhead as well as Wokingham, and the questioning was lively. It was, I thought, an excellent hustings.
Both candidates were well qualified for the job, and were brimming with ideas of how to improve policing in the Thames Valley. Tim is a barrister, who has worked in prosecution and defence, and a former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate who defected to Ed Miliband’s Labour in protest against the coalition policy. Jon is a lifelong Labour man with experience working as an adviser to police forces and politicians, and a town councillor in Buckingham.
One of the most positive things to come out of the hustings, I feel, is a very genuine belief from both Tim and Jon that a Labour candidate can win this. I think the local elections two weeks ago were something of a game-changer. Whilst Labour progress in Wokingham was a little stalled, elsewhere across the Thames Valley area we made big gains. And here we have something to offer.
One of the most interesting ideas I heard was from Tim. It’s number one on his list of five pledges:
“To restore officer numbers in the Thames Valley to 2010 levels could be paid for by a rise in the police precept of £4 a year for band D properties. I believe this is a price worth paying. “
I reckon he’s onto something. I believe that people are quite happy to pay taxes, if they can see where those taxes are going. And £4 per year is a small price to pay for a full-strength police force, and the piece of mind that would provide residents.
Jon touched upon another policing matter, of equal importance I would say to the drastic cuts in numbers: police privatisation. Back in March it emerged shockingly that two police forces had already offered major contracts to private security firms, and that others were considering following suit.
He also showed this worrying image:
Police privatisation is a serious threat. It also seems to be Conservative Party policy. Like Jon, I think that a great many ordinary residents of the Thames Valley area would find the idea of a private security guard patrolling their streets very worrying.
Like I said before, Labour do have a real shot at this. And though I haven’t made up my mind yet whether I’ll vote for Tim or Jon, I know whichever of them wins the selection, they would both make an excellent candidate and an excellent Police and Crime Commissioner.