Next Thursday across the North West you have the chance to brave the dark and the rain to vote for Police and Crime Commissioners(PCC) in the five force areas in the region. These are new posts where power is being given to one individual to hold the police to account on behalf of the public. They will decide how the budget is spent and will develop a plan to tackle crime.
Merseyside police could be in for a big shake up if Jane Kennedy becomes PCC there next Friday.
The former Labour MP for Wavertree has ministerial police experience in Northern Ireland, so tackling the bloated bureaucracy of the outgoing Merseyside Police Authority should be a breeze. The authority that once chose Norman Bettison as Chief Constable has 29 committees and a posh headquarters in Pall Mall. All that could be set to change if Jane Kennedy wins.
If Merseyside voters don’t want the Labour candidate, they have five other options. Paula Keaveney is the former Lib Dem group leader on Liverpool Council but apart from her party’s dire poll ratings she is faced with the challenge of another ex Liverpool Lib Dem councillor Kiron Reid. He explains his defection from the party by stating that PCCs should be independent of party. Liverpool born Geoff Gubb is standing in the Conservative interest, Hilary Jones for UKIP and Paul Rimmer for the English Democrats.
In Greater Manchester another ex Labour MP, Tony Lloyd, seems assured of victory. The only question is why the ex Central and Stretford MP would want to give up a safe parliamentary seat and chairmanship of the Parliamentary Labour Party to take on the crime problems of this large urban force area.
For the Lib Dems, Matt Gallagher brings 30 years of frontline policing to his candidature. The problem is that his party has been haemorrhaging councillors across Greater Manchester in the last two years. Michael Winstanley represents the Conservatives, Steven Woolfe UKIP and Roy Warren is an independent candidate.
The outcome of the elections is less clear in the three remaining police force areas. Labour’s candidate in Lancashire Clive Grunshaw will face a spirited challenge from Tory Lancashire County Councillor Tim Ashton who’s pledging to end what he calls a “softly softly” approach to crime. Afzal Anwar stands for the Lib Dems and Rob Drobney for UKIP..
Cheshire may provide the closest contest. A former Assistant Chief Constable for the county,John Dwyer is the Tory candidate. Halton councillor John Stockton opposes him for Labour. Cheshire businesswoman Sarah Flannery is attracting some support for her independent candidature. Ex Macclesfield councillor Ainsley Arnold represents the Lib Dems and Louise Bours UKIP.
In Cumbria Patrick Leonard is standing in his first election for Labour. Barrister Pru Jupe represents the Lib Dems, magistrate Richard Rhodes the Conservatives and Mary Robinson is an independent.
Crucial to the success of these new Commissioners will be their relationship with their Chief Constables. Under the old police authorities there were major battles between the senior police officers and the authority chairs. Remember Margaret Simey and Ken Oxford on Merseyside and Gay Cox and Jim Anderton in Greater Manchester.
Operational matters are to remain with the Chief Constables under the new arrangements, but what is operational and what is a pet project of a newly mandated Police and Crime Commissioner. The potential for conflict is there.
MANCHESTER CENTRAL BY ELECTION.
I had the pleasure of hosting a hustings meeting for the parliamentary by election caused by Tony Lloyd’s decision to contest the post of PCC for Greater Manchester.
The Friends Meeting House was full to hear from ten of the eleven candidates standing. Labour’s Lucy Powell is certain to win but most of the candidates put up a good show. I was particularly impressed with the fresh approach to politics of Loz Kaye of the Pirate Party and Catherine Higgins of Respect. While her party leader George Galloway is all about himself, Catherine was all about the people of Hulme and Moss side where she lives.
I did get a bit exasperated with Peter Clifford of the Communist League who gave the same answer about the crisis in capitalism to all questions including one on fluoridation!
The by election is also on Thursday along with the PCC elections.