Are Labour abolishing democratic selections by the back door?

labour ballot

This is not the blog I wanted to be writing today, 77 days until the elections — for local councils and Police & Crime Commissioners.

I have to preface this by saying that I am very happy that Chris Vince has been selected as the Labour candidate for Essex Police & Crime Commissioner. Having met him and campaigned alongside him, I think he’ll be an excellent candidate.

I also still regard Police & Crime Commissioner as a ridiculous non-role, a waste of money and an unnecessary politicisation of the police, a sorry abuse of democracy to paper over wave after wave of cuts to police forces up and down the country by a Conservative government. I’d abolish the damn lot of them if I could.

However, I can’t. So we fight the election.

The process by which Labour has selected its candidates, though — regardless of whether it ended up with the right candidates — has been woeful.

Read on…

Tim Starkey selected as Labour candidate for Thames Valley Police Commissioner

Tim Starkey, Labour candidate for Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner

Well, the votes are in, and Tim Starkey has been chosen to stand in the Thames Valley region as the Labour candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner. And the vote was a close one. Very close. In fact, he only beat Jon Harvey to the nomination by twenty-four votes.

In light of this, I feel incredibly vindicated saying back in May that they were both excellent candidates. Clearly there were a lot of Labour Party members who had as difficult a time making the decision as I did.

But the decision has been made, and as far as I’m aware Tim is the first confirmed candidate for Thames Valley. The Tories are still selecting — and, actually, it looks like they’re still searching for a stand-out candidate — the Lib Dems aren’t standing candidates, and I haven’t heard anything about smaller party and independent candidates.

During the selection campaign, both candidates sparkled with solid and exciting ideas, and I hope to see a manifesto emerging including the very best of those policies. In particular, Tim impressed me with his plan to restore police numbers to 2010 levels with a £4 increase in the police precept.

It is my belief that people are happy to pay taxes if they see the benefit to them. Declining police numbers under the Tory-led government are a real concern in the Thames Valley, and given the choice between a tiny tax increase or a dwindling police force, I think residents would choose the former.

Additionally, this has appeared on Twitter:

So congratulations to Tim, commiseration to Jon, and let’s hit the campaign trail running!

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.