Editor’s note:- At elections most candidates lose. Even those who seek out ‘safe seats’ find them heavily contested within their parties. Without people prepared to run the risk of the public rejection and embarassment at the end of an election there is no democracy. However for some candidates the risk is greater. Some have taken substantial risks to put themselves forward and, at this point, have done so without even knowing whether they will be chosen to fight the election at all. As part of a new series on TopOfTheCops, these people explain what that is like, and why they have done it, starting with Keith Hunter, applicant for the Labour nomination for Humberside Police. You can read more from Keith at keithhunter4pcc.com
I was asked if I would prepare a short article as one of relatively few potential PCC candidates who have had to ‘give up’ something tangible in order to even put themselves forward for selection. It may be strange for some to understand but I didn’t, and still don’t, think of myself as having made a sacrifice. Nevertheless, on being asked to contribute this article it did give me cause to reflect on my journey.
I was never one of those ‘high flyer’ types in the police. Although I passed my sergeants exams with 2yrs service I didn’t actively seek promotion until I had 10 years service, largely because I enjoyed the front line so much. Having once started on the upward journey I found I had the ability to see through problems others faltered at. My ambition, moulded from my front line experience, was always to make the organisation better able to deliver a service to those who required it. Personal ambition was always very much in the background. This led to some interesting hiccups in my career. Nevertheless I progressed to the largest command in force and with 29yrs service was successful in passing the National Strategic Command Course which qualified me for promotion to Chief Officer rank. For those not in the police it is difficult to explain the significance of this achievement. To the ambitious it is seen as the pinnacle of achievement and the opening of the door to riches and power.
Being relatively new to the Labour party and seeking office some, understandably, question my motives. The truth is that whilst on the Strategic Command Course, when everyone else was planning their future within the service, I came home one weekend and joined the Party. Admittedly I had been a life-long Labour supporter but the push I needed to join was the realisation of what was on the horizon for policing. This followed many weeks mixing with the most senior Police Officers in the land together with Government and Shadow Ministers and senior people from all walks of life. My concern became not how to progress further in the service but how best to create a coherent counter argument to the prevailing culture, now being seen in creeping privatisation and the Winsor review. I felt this could best be done through the Labour Party.
When, some time later, the Party indicated it would fight a PCC election my decision was effectively made for me. It was a big decision to take, but not a difficult one, to leave the service on the verge of a massive promotion. I believed that because of my experience and success I offered the best chance of a Labour victory in my area and that felt more important than personal employment security. So, I am now living on my pension and funding my own campaign from it. It doesn’t however, feel like a sacrifice. It feels as if I have maintained the principles I displayed during my progress in the service; do what you believe in for the right reasons and live with the consequences. That creates a feeling of empowerment, not sacrifice. Others refer to the many unpaid hours of work I now spend on my campaign and the salary I could have earned if I’d just kept my mouth shut and my head down – much more than the PCC salary in this area. It is my honestly held view that had I done so I would be feeling a much greater sense of personal sacrifice than I do now.