Over the weekend, I went to Corby to help in the forthcoming by election. I had a couple of interesting discussions with activists from other parts of the country, who are dealing with the November Police and Crime Commissioner. I understand where the idea comes from, the Tory "localism" agenda, which is really just an excuse for the government to dump the job of cutting public spending on local bodies, thus trying to escape blame.
We don't have the American idea of directly elected this and that, we have always preferred elected bodies from which an executive decision making body is formed, like Parliament or local councils. I think direct mandates for commissioners will lead to confused and conflicting mandates, duplication and meddling in operational metters. It's the latter that bothers me, because there has always been an important separation between politicians and services. Politicians are indeed accountable to the public, but should never interfere in any operational matters. If the police and crime commissioner is not about operational matters, then what is it for? I'm not sure it has a purpose at all. If the commissioner has real power then won't it clash with those of the Home Secretary? or the actual police? Who knows how this will work out, because as usual with this Tory Government, they haven't planned it properly.
That said, although the Labour Party is opposed to this waste of time and money, we have met the challenge head on, and selected some quality candidates, selected them early and campaigned for them. We shoud take all elections seriously, even those we don't support. If the system exists, Labour should be there to represent our values. But I do hope we abolish the roles if we win the next election.