tim starkey

The Thames Valley Police Commissioner results (and what they mean)


So, it’s all over. The votes have been counted, collated, and are in the process of being picked over by those sad individuals with nothing better to do with their time (such as myself). But Anthony Stansfeld has been elected as the first Police and Crime Commissioner, so congratulations are due to him.

Below I have assembled a breakdown of the results by candidate and first/second preference. I feel mine are more accurate than the BBC’s, as for reasons best known to themselves they have decided not to include the spoilt ballot figures. Personally, I think spoilt ballots making up over 3% of the total vote is worthy of mention, but anyway:

Name 1st pref 2nd pref Mandate
STANSFELD, Anthony (CON) 76,011 — 33.60% 94,238 — 54.76% 7.28%
STARKEY, Tim (LAB) 56,631 — 25.00% 70,403 — 40.91%
HOWARD, Geoff (IND) 31,716 — 14.00%
HOWSON, John (LD) 20,511 — 9.05%
COOPER, Barry (UKIP) 19,324 — 8.53%
AWE, Patience Tayo (IND) 14,878 — 6.57%
SPOILT 7,445 — 3.29% 7,445 — 4.33%
Total 226,516 172,086

So there you have it. The turnout was a mere (and embarrassing) 13.3%, which is the lowest turnout I’ve ever seen in an election. When I say that Commissioner Stansfeld has the support of only 7.28% of people in the Thames Valley, it’s not sour grapes, but an underscoring of the real winner of these elections: voter apathy.

Thames Valley voters simply did not turn out on Thursday, and from everything I’ve heard it’s simply because they do not believe that we should have an elected Police Commissioner.

I am, of course, disappointed that Tim Starkey did not win. I wasn’t in favour of the role, but I thought he was definitely the best candidate and would have made the best job of it (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). It was always going to be a long shot, but still. Disappointed.

And more disappointment over the Liberal Democrat candidate only polling in fourth. Don’t get me wrong, normally hardship for Clegg’s party would be a cause for giggles (and many hearty giggles were had over their losing their deposit in Corby), but John Howson lost out to “Independent” Geoff Howard, a man who has formerly been a member of Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP, and who offered absolutely nothing to voters. I am forced to conclude that he garnered many votes simply because he ran as an independent.

I’m a touched surprised that UKIP’s Barry Cooper didn’t do better than he did. Possibly it was his views on police armament which hurt him, or maybe all of the fringe-right eurosceptics stayed at hime. It’s hard to tell really.

But none of it changes the outcome. After what has frankly been a disaster of an election (and of policy execution) Anthony Stansfeld will head the Thames Valley Police until May 2016. I still have a great many concerns about him, and I worry that he will be a model of unaccountability in the role — which is ironic, really.

Hopefully he won’t now be refusing interviews with the media and refusing to answer questions put to him, but I have my doubts. At any rate, with the support of only 7.28 of his constituents, and offering no concrete policies in his campaign to boot, I am adamant that he has no mandate at all for radical changes to policing. And you can be sure I will call him out if he attempts any.

I suspect that, regardless, he has just been made a patsy for police cuts to come and rising crime as a result. But his success would benefit all of us, and is in all our interests. So I wish him the very best of luck. I reckon he’ll need it.

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Go and vote for your Police Commissioner!


The day is here. November 15th, the polling day for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. And it is essential, absolutely imperative, that you go out and use your vote today.

A lot of people aren’t keen on this role at all. I, actually, am one of them. I’d rather that we weren’t politicising the police forces of England and Wales, and spending a fortune in order to do it. However, not voting won’t stop that from happening, and it won’t lead to a positive situation.

Tomorrow we will have a Police Commissioner, even if only 1% of the registered electorate vote. In many cases, a low turnout will allow someone not at all right for the job to win. The opportunity that you have today is to vote for whoever you feel would be best for the role of the candidates before you.

I’ve already declared how I will be voting. My first preference will be Tim Starkey (Lab) and my second preference John Howson (Lib Dem). I’d urge, naturally, everyone to vote for Tim because he’d make a great Police Commissioner, and would focus on keeping policing numbers and standards up in the Thames Valley, rather than just enacting Tory cuts.

If you haven’t managed to see his leaflet yet (and I know that’s a lot of people — Thames Valley is big, and although I and others have been working hard, we’re a long way off covering the whole area), then here you are you lucky people!

But whatever you do, whoever you vote for, do go out and vote!

Who I’m voting for as Thames Valley PCC


The Police and Crime Commissioner elections are upon us at last, and now in the absence of Jim Gordon on the slate (more’s the pity) we must decide who we’re going to vote for.

I’ve already made up my mind. In fact, I decided in the aftermath of the public debate in Finchampstead. So to help anyone who us still undecided, I’m going to share my choices and the reasoning behind them.

Just as a note: PCCs will be elected by a supplementary vote system, meaning you can vote for a first and second preference (if no candidate achieves 50% of first preferences, all the top two go through to the next stage, and the second preferences of the rest of the candidate’s supporters are distributed). Like many other supporters of AV in 2011, I will be using both votes.

So, in reverse order, my thoughts on each candidate, culminating in the two I’m voting for:

Patience Awe, one of the two independent candidates, was supremely unimpressive, and has been so throughout the campaign. She has systematically failed to give any reason to vote for her, barring her IT experience. That is, to me, not sufficient reason to warrant giving her my vote, and I do not feel policing would be safe in her hands. I will not be voting for Patience.

Geoffrey Howard is the other independent, and although he has a very long CV, he has also been less than impressive. His primary selling point seems to be that he is a magistrate (both laudable and relevant) and that he is an independent candidate. But Mr Howard has left off that he has previously been a member of three political parties, and aside from rhetoric seems to have few ideas for the role. At the Finchampstead debate, he did not contribute beyond an opening statement – I’m not sure how that fits with his pledge to “make the role accountable to the public”. I will not be voting for Geoffrey.

(This is a shame. I do not believe that the PCC role should be party political, and thus to have no independent candidates of merit is another nail in the coffin of the policy)

Anthony Stansfeld, as regular readers of my blog will know, is the Conservative Party candidate. He has a very impressive business and army CV, and has served on the Police Authority — even if his claims about his achievements in that position feel a bit far-fetched. I don’t agree with his politics, though I know there are many who will, but for me it’s his cavalier attitude to transparency that is most troubling. Questions still remain over his declared interests, which he has repeatedly failed to clear up despite opportunities to do so. I will not be voting for Anthony.

Barry Cooper, the UKIP candidate, is the surprising and alarming entry at third place on my rundown. First off, I disagree with UKIP’s reactionary and diversive politics more even than the Conservatives. But Barry did present himself as at least having some clue what the role would entail and what he’d do with it. He was articulate and confident, and in the end it is only his politics and his views on police armament which put me off. I will not be voting for Barry.

John Howson is the Liberal Democrat candidate. Many other Labour supporters (as well as independent voters) have been aghast at the idea of voting for a Lib Dem after all the damage that they’re doing in government. I find it a touch distasteful too, but I have two votes and that’s two opportunities to deny the role to a right-wing candidate who would pursue policies I disagree with intensely. At Finchampstead, John was imaginative, confident and exuded the kind of competence I believe essential to this role. I will be giving my second preference to John.

Which leaves only the Labour candidate, Tim Starkey. I know that most readers will be entirely unsurprised at my support for him, but truthfully he has it because he has convinced me that he is the best man for the job. I don’t like the idea of PCCs, and had one of them been best for the job I would have had no qualms about voting for an independent. But Tim has the experience of the justice system and victims of crime necessary to make the best of this role, and has shown that he has the policy ideas to improve policing in the Thames Valley. In particular, he has been the only one to focus on lesser noticed crimes like domestic violence. I will be giving my first preference to Tim.

So there you have it. Whether you’re surprised or not, those are my choices and the reasons behind them. I urge voters in the Thames Valley to use the final few days before the vote to read up on the candidates, and put questions to them if possible. Above all, I urge all of you to go out and vote on Thursday. Like it or not, Police and Crime Commissioners are happening. Abstention is only abdication of your choice and responsibility.

Finchampstead Police Commissioner debate – a review


So, last night saw a very well-attended public debate between the six Police & Crime candidates at Finchampstead Memorial Hall, at which I was present. I was, actually, very impressed with the whole arrangement. I had feared initially that only the three main party candidates would be there, but fortunately all six were present. And the audience as well as being numerous (I’d estimate something like fifty in attendance) were also involved and engaged.

Each candidate was given ten minutes to give an initial pitch of who they are and what the want to do in the job, before the floor was opened to some very well-thought out and interesting questions.

A number of issues came up. One was cross-border co-operation between police forces, to which Cllr Stansfeld responded that he thought having a single figure at the top of the police force would help increase such co-operation. He seemed less than happy with my question, though, on the confusing differences between his various declarations of financial interests (which you can read more about here).

The issue which really got the debate going, however, was arming the police. Most of the candidates were very much against routine armament, with Tim Starkey saying that he would be willing to look into more widespread use of tasers. UKIP’s Barry Cooper, however, went against the grain and said that it was an operational matter (as opposed to political), that if Thames Valley Police wanted it he would say yes, and that he personally favoured routine armament.

Beyond that, there was a lot of concern from the audience along the lines of “Why do we need a Police & Crime Commissioner?” and “Who will hold them to account?“. To which the answers seemed to be that, to the first, the previous Police Authorities were indirectly elected and unaccountable, and that the Police Commissioner would answer only to the electorate and the indirectly elected Police and Crime Panels.

Tim Starkey was the only one who would admit that there were still pretty huge accountability problems with this system, and stressed (as I have) that although we may disagree with this policy, after 15th November we will have a PCC, and so need to make the best of it that we can.

So now I’ll summarise the performances of each of the candidates, and my thoughts on them.

  • Patience Awe (Independent) – Very disappointing, if I’m honest. Her main selling point seemed to be her IT experience, though its relevance to the role seems fairly limited. She repeated herself a lot, didn’t manage to say anything that someone else didn’t say better, and overall was a chore to listen to. I couldn’t discern any policy from her speech or from her leaflet.
  • Barry Cooper (UKIP) – One of the stronger candidates, actually. Mr Cooper actually seemed to have some idea what he’d do with the role, though in something of an embryonic stage. I disagree pretty strongly with his policies (particularly his attacks on “political correctness“, a line which always seems to mask something altogether darker and more sinister), but he came across at least as competent. Though his misstepped hard and lost the room with his comments over arming the police.
  • Geoffrey Howard (Independent) – The second independent came across reasonably well in his opening speech, though his only real qualification for the job seems to be serving as a magistrate. Like Patience, he was big on rhetoric and low on policy. I wish I could say more, but he uttered not a word beyond the initial speech. He seemed to forget he was there — and honestly, so did I.
  • John Howson (Liberal Democrat) – John came across as being fairly sensible. I don’t really believe he stands a chance, but for what it’s worth he didn’t seem to have any objectionable ideas. He didn’t have any leaflets at the debate though, so I can’t refer back to any particular policies, and none really were mentioned.
  • Anthony Stansfeld (Conservative) – Ah, the great Cllr Stansfeld. He played big on his experience in the army and as a business leader, and not being the Home Secretary’s candidate of choice. Which is a point in his favour, I suppose. But he was convinced that this role is definitely a positive thing, which put him at odds with many at the debate (and many of the electorate, I suspect). For such a major candidate, though, I am very much alarmed to have no idea what he would do if he wins.
  • Tim Starkey (Labour) – Personally, I think Tim came across best. You might say that I would say that, but he was frank about the position, and that although Labour voted against the policy it is going to happen, and actually mentioned specific areas of crime beyond what the candidates had all read off the internet about Finchampstead (burglaries and anti-social behaviour). He said he would focus on domestic violence, which is an important area which has been neglected by candidates and central government alike. And he was calm, personable and confident. Which always helps.

So there we go. I’m not going to pretend that I’m unbiased, but several other (neutral) people I spoke to thought Tim came across best. But what struck me most of all was just how poor a slate this is. The independents were useless, Cllr Stansfeld still seemed to me like he was already ordained as PCC, and it was a fight between Tim, Barry and John as to who was the most sensible person in the room (something which preferences for giving police guns didn’t help).

Those three were the only ones who had anything resembling policy, and were willing to contemplate a rise to the police precept (an element of council tax) in order to maintain essential services in the face of cuts. Overall, however, the candidates were big on vague statements and lacking on real ideas.

The elections are two weeks away now. As I’ve already said, they will be happening even if you think that the position is idiocy. So please, read my views, read the candidates’ websites (bare though some of them may be), and ask questions of the candidates on social media. Make your decision, and go down and have your say at the ballot box on November 15th.

Thames Valley Police Commissioner Hustings in Wokingham


The most common thing I hear from people when I talk to them about the Police & Crime Commissioner elections —  now less than three weeks away — is that they have no idea who the candidates are, or what policies they are standing on.

It’s an understandable problem, really. The Thames Valley is a big area, and the elections have been both terribly timed and remarkably unpromoted, given that they’re for a major new public office. Unless voters have specifically gone looking for candidates’ positions (or maybe not even then) or they have been canvassed by activists then there is little chance they will have much idea what each candidate is proposing.

So local hustings have been of primary importance in this campaign. There have been several already, but Wednesday will see the candidates coming to Wokingham for a public debate. The Finchampstead Society will be hosting a debate at 7:30pm at the Memorial Hall (Wokingham, RG40 4JU) where the candidates will be speaking and available to answer questions.

As far as I’m aware, only the three main party candidates have confirmed attendance: John Howson (Lib Dem), Anthony Stansfeld (Conservative), and Tim Starkey (Labour). Which leaves the two remaining independents and the UKIP candidate may well not be there. But it’s better than nothing.

I shall be there, and I urge any residents of the Thames Valley area who can make it to join me. This is a serious and major public office, and we are running a real risk of allowing a candidate to sleepwalk into it with no real scrutiny or democratic process. Come along on Wednesday evening, and put your questions to the people vying to be your first Police & Crime Commissioner.

The Shape of Things to Come?


In the light of the mess G4S have made of Olympic security, this should be a worrying warning about the future of our policing.

It’s a said state of affairs, isn’t it? The army have been called in to the Olympic Games, to cover for a shortfall in the number of security staff provided by private security firm G4S.

They were to be paid £284million, to provide 10,000 staff, but apparently won’t be able to meet it in time due to problems with “scheduling and development”. It’s looking very much like they tried to do things on the cheap, and got caught out.

Which is embarrassing, but at least the army can bail them out. The more worrying thing is G4S’ involvement in the ongoing scandal of police privatisation. Not only are they one of the bidders in West Midlands and Surrey police forces plans to outsource some of their policing duties to the private sector. They’re also going to be building and running a police station for Lincolnshire Police.

Privatisation of the police force scares me, honestly. The idea of streets being patrolled by private security guards, of law and order functions being handed over to these companies, should be something that we’re all opposed to, and I think the majority of people would. Privatisation has done little good for the customer in areas where it has been rolled out historically — whether the train companies or water companies — as the “public service” ethos always seems to get lost in a blind dash for profits.

And G4S don’t exactly have a rosy history themselves:

Not a favourable record (and don’t think that the other parties interested in police privatisation are any cleaner…), and especially worrying about the problem we already have with deaths in custody.

Enter into this volatile mix, the elections of police commissioners in November. Here in the Thames Valley, the only candidates we have declared so far is Labour’s Tim Starkey, and the Conservatives’ (“TOTALLY OFFICIAL” apparently) Anthony Stansfeld. I have heard with my own ears Tim disavow police privatisation, and so can say without a doubt that he would not countenance it. I cannot, sadly, say anything similar about Mr Stansfeld.

The Conservatives have nothing to offer in these elections. They are cutting police budgets by 20%, are pathologically against all taxes regardless of justifications, and have no new ideas of how to improve policing. They do, however, have a track history and zeal for selling off public services to the private sector, to the benefit of businesses and detriment of the public.

I, for one, shudder at the possibility that publicly accountable police officers could be replaced by thugs hired on the cheap to make quotas and profits for the likes of G4S. They’ve cocked up Olympic security, and the army have stepped in — but the army won’t be able to do the same on Thames Valley streets.

Will Anthony Stansfeld pledge not to privatise police if elected as Police & Crime Commissioner?

UPDATE: Well, one good thing seems to have come of the G4S Olympic shambles (and yes, Theresa May, your private security company drastically under providing for a major international sports competition is the very definition of shambolic): the BBC are reporting that Surrey Police have dropped plans for privatisation. Very good news, but I can’t help but fear that the plans might be stealthily resurrected following November’s police commissioner elections.

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.