Lynton Crosby, received wisdom has it, is something of a wizard. The bruiser of an electoral genius who put former Australian PM John Howard in the top office, and helped Boris “£250k is chickenfeed” Johnson win the mayoralty in a traditionally Labour London bleeding under Austerity.
The fact that he failed to spin similar magic for Michael Howard at the 2005 election in a particularly nasty campaign is usually — and conveniently — left out of this estimation, but it’s hard to argue that his co-option for David Cameron’s ailing and divided Conservative Party hasn’t given the rank and file footsoldiers a little more confidence.
So when they harp on that Labour is being foolish by focusing on the question of his involvement in the controversial decision to drop plain packaging for cigarettes, it should be viewed in light of this state of affairs.
Today is the last day before the polling stations open for the election of Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales, and in the Thames Valley there are still serious issues surrounding the Conservative Party candidate Anthony Stansfeld.
I’ve written much already about the West Berkshire councillor, who seems to think that the post is his by right, and voiced my concern about him on a number of fronts. Those concerns have only multiplied during the election campaign. Having declared who I intend to vote for, I said of Cllr Stansfeld earlier this week that he has a “cavalier attitude to transparency”.
Other bloggers have done the hard work on this matter, so I really can’t take the credit. In fact, most of it is due to Jon Harvey — a man who Cllr Stansfeld accused me of being briefed by, but who I have unfortunately not spoken to since the Labour hustings. Jon presents two questions in particular about disparities in Cllr Stansfeld’s interest declarations (the background to which can be read here):
“Why did Cllr Stansfeld declare ‘ELS’ on his Thames Valley Police Authority register of interests but an entirely different company (FIDAS) on his West Berkshire Council declaration?
“Why has mention of him being “Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry” now slipped off later CVs and his campaign newspaper?“
These questions remain unanswered, and were brusquely and rather rudely shrugged off when I confronted him with them at the hustings in Finchampstead last month.
Additionally, this is a man who claims the primary reason for introducing PCCs is because the Police Authorities were not fit for purpose. Cllr Stansfeld is a member of…erm…Thames Valley Police Authority. Indeed, a prominent claim made in his campaign literature has been that he “introduced neighbourhood policing”. As an interesting point, this is what former Thames Valley Chief Constable Peter Neyroudhad to say about it:
“I introduced Neighbourhood Policing into Thames Valley, with the full support of the Police Authority. Mr Stansfield was never a member of the Police Authority when I was Chief… the Tories ran a consistent knocking campaign against Neighbourhood Policing until it became clear that NP and the PCSO’s, who were introduced to support them, was a winning idea with voters“
Finally, for anyone still wondering about my claims of Cllr Stansfeld’s attitude to transparency, it’s worth noting these tweets from Channel 4 News’ political correspondent Michael Crick yesterday:
Still no news on current whereabouts of Tory PCC cand for Thames Valley Anthony Stansfeld. Surely someone knows where he is this morning?
The end result of Mr Crick’s investigation is rather alarming, considering that this man wants to control the police after Thursday. I’d suggest watching the whole thing:
“That’s the fifteenth attempt we’ve made in the last two days to contact Mr Stansfeld or one of his campaign team. I did briefly manage to speak to him at home this morning, and he said he’d ring back and tell me what he was doing today. He didn’t.“
What is it that Anthony Stansfeld has to hide? Why doesn’t he want to speak to a reporter from a major news organisation, mere days before the election? Is it his financial interests? His dubious claims? Or maybe his utter lack of policies (apart, of course, from a car and chauffeur for the new Commissioner)?
There is something deeply suspicious going on here. In a matter of days, the winner of this election will be in control of the Thames Valley Police, and its budget of some £380 million. As John F. Kennedy asked voters in 1960 about Richard Nixon, “Would you buy a used car from this man?“