Reading East

Thames Valley Police Commissioner – Labour Nomination Hustings

Tim Starkey and Jon Harvey- the two shortlisted candidates for the Labour nomination for Thames Valley police & crime commissioner.

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.

Dining with Woodley Labour

Gareth Thomas MP gave some tantalising hints of new jobs policies emerging as the budget gets closer.

The local elections are almost upon us, so all over the country local branches of political parties are holding fundraising events to fill their coffers for the fight. Thursday night saw Woodley Labour Party’s; a dinner at the Oakwood Centre.

Woodley straddles Wokingham, Maidenhead and Reading areas (depending on who’s asking, and what for), so the Labour Party there is a little more lively than other local areas. This meant that there were representatives from a few different groups present-  a nice melting pot of local left-wing politics.

I was there, flying the flag for Maidenhead CLP (and, of course, Twyford and District branch) along with a few others, and we were joined by Cllr Matt Rodda and others from Reading, as well as members from Wokingham-proper. The whole thing was hosted by Greg Bello (who will be standing in Bulmershe and Whitegates ward, come May), who did an excellent job.

The speaker was supposed to be the Rt. Hon. Douglas Alexander MP, shadow foreign secretary. Sadly, he was unable to attend, but was let off after a promise to come next year and sending Gareth Thomas MP, shadow minister for civil society, in his place. Mr Thomas gave a good speech, a little shaky when he started on local matters (understandably, really, given that Harrow West isn’t really next door to Reading East, and that he was no doubt asked to give it on very short notice), but much stronger when turning to what Labour need to do in order to win a majority in 2015.

He also answered questions from the floor, and in response to mine on what policies Labour will adopt to encourage job

My souvenir from the Woodley Labour fundraiser - a Smith Institute pamphlet, signed by Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander

creation, as a cure for George Osborne’s austerity-induced slump (and, in all probability, recession) with some rather encouraging comments. He started by pushing Labour’s five-point plan, which whilst not new was certainly encouraging, as it represents an immediate plan of action to tackle the growth and jobs crisis. He followed that up, though, with the promise that more policies directed at increasing employment would be revealed as the budget, in March, gets closer.

After Gareth finished, and had to rush off, there was a raffle and an auction to raise more funds for the election campaign. A bottle of House of Commons wine signed by Ed Miliband went down quite well (and fetched a good price), and yours truly picked up a copy of a policy report from the Smith Institute signed by Douglas Alexander and Gordon Brown. Yes, I’m a massive political geek. I’ve come to terms with it.

All in all, a good evening- especially when me and Ashleigh seemed to clean up at the raffle. It was also a very encouraging prelude to the local election campaign, boosting-morale and providing a funding base for taking on the Tories and Lib Dems on traditionally hostile soil.

Bring on the fight!