As regular readers will be aware, I am a Conservative in Lancashire, rumoured in the press to be interested in standing for the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner post. I try to be straight with people, and welcome the contribution of all candidates to this site, including Independents and members of the Labour party. This is not a campaign site, but what should I do when information comes my way that is of relevance to what is happening with Labour in Lancashire? Well, if it was anywhere else and was any other party, I would probably check it and report it if it was of decent quality and likely to interest my readers. So, even though I may have an interest, here goes:-
You may remember the first Labour candidate in Lancashire out in public was Chris Maughan, the young Blackpool Councillor with a knack for campaigning on YouTube (the videos now seem to have gone). The party decided not to longlist him, so despite being good enough for the party to put on Lancashire Police Authority, he didn’t even get an interview to be Labour’s candidate for the Police Authority’s replacement. Funny that.
The Independent Lancashire Police Authority member Ibrahim Master’s candidacy was announced online, not by him, but by Operation Black Vote (and now confirmed with a website containing an endorsement from Jack Straw). If you don’t know Mr Master, I do. He has a long history in local political and community matters, particularly in Blackburn, and once headed up Lancashire Council of Mosques. When Blackburn Muslims talk of ‘our Lord and Master’, they are referring to Lord (Adam) Desai and ‘Ibby’ Master. I have known Ibby for a long time, get on well with him (I think!) and worked with him on projects in the past, but it remains to be seen whether his appeal within Labour can be extended beyond the community politics of East Lancashire.
The shortlisting produced a surprise third candidate, Lancashire-lad and former PR-man for the Local Government Association Mark Atkinson, now working for a London-based autism charity. The response within Lancashire Labour brought back memories of when Jacqui Smith was appointed Home Secretary, and many people spent a few weeks calling her Jacqui Who. “Mark Who?”, they said, and consequently it took TopOfTheCops an uncharacteristically long couple of weeks to find out more about him. Seems nice enough, by the way.
Then two new mysteries…
The fourth candidate was long known to be County Councillor Clive Grunshaw, but he didn’t go public till outed by Michael Crick, and comments to the Lancashire Evening Post soon followed. Clive has been on Lancashire Police Authority for a long-time, surely long enough to know that he is not the Chair of the Police Authority. The current Chair, Blackburn Councillor Malcolm Doherty, retires in May, but he hasn’t gone yet, and there hasn’t been a vote for his replacement, so why for the last 3 months at least has County Councillor Grunshaw’s county council website (since amended) claimed that he is “chair to Lancashire Police Authority”, which is demonstrably untrue? If Lancashire Police Authority now vote him in as chair, it looks like all those ‘Independent’ members have been taken for granted as his supporters. With 7 of 8 having already backed his proposal to refuse £2 million from the government, preferring instead to hike Council Tax by £1.7 million, thereby leaving the Constabulary £300,000 out of pocket, you can perhaps understand his confidence.
Clive Grunshaw’s County Council mini-site above, with a magnified excerpt from paragraph 5 below.
And then, it turns out that there has been a secret fifth candidate all along. Chris Cheetham, former County Councillor of 28 years experience, including a time in charge of the County Council’s finances, reportedly applied for the nomination, waited to hear about the next stage while other candidates were interviewed, and then found out that he had been longlisted, but they had quite simply forgotten to interview him. So imagine finding yourself on the panel that has to deal with that mess- what do they do with Lancashire’s former cabinet member for Adult and Community Services having already decided the shortlist? Interview him late and then turn him down! No need to amend the shortlist.
A conspiracy-theorist would love this. With the plum Greater Manchester nomination falling into Tony Lloyd’s hands unopposed by the time the shortlist was decided, are Lancashire Labour members being offered Hobson’s choice:- Clive Grunshaw, or someone else whose backing may be confined to East Lancashire, or a London-based PR man most of them have never heard of, but with the experienced competitor and the young innovator being swept aside?
Not for the first time in this campaign we ask “Cock-up or conspiracy”. I’m still tempted toward the former, but neither are inspiring.
TopOfTheCops approached North West Labour for confirmation of the part of the above report about Chris Cheetham’s application being forgotten, but they would not confirm or deny any details, instead releasing the following statement…
“The Party wanted to hear from a diverse range of people, from all walks of life, who were interested in becoming a Police and Crime Commissioner in their area. We laid down rigorous criteria to find the best candidates possible who share our values and understand the challenge ahead.
“The NEC long listing panel made their decisions in accordance with this selection procedure. We had a great response and unfortunately not every candidate can be successful. We won’t be publishing the names of applicants at this stage of the process.”