Chapter 12 of the Second Book of Samuel is possibly my favourite chapter in the Bible. In it the prophet Nathan tells King David a tale about a rich farmer with many sheep who, to feed a guest, takes his poor neighbour’s one and only lamb and slaughters it. David’s righteous anger is kindled, before Nathan explains that the story is about David himself, who has taken Uriah’s wife Bathsheba to bed and had Uriah killed. For us Brits the tale of the poor underdog falling victim to someone rolling in money is almost as powerful as the story of the powerful man brought to public shame for private iniquity.
If you think politicians are all nest-feathering duck-house owners, ruling the roost like David, whereas Top Cops are struggling by on their last few, er, coppers, then last week must have been a convention-challenging time on TopOfTheCops:-
First we revealed ACPO inviting PCC candidates to attend one day out of a 3-day ‘mutually beneficial’ conference. Want to go? £267 please!
Then the contrast of a parade of one candidate after another who had sacrificed income and advancement just to take a shot at public service in the Police and Crime Commissioner role. Hmmm. These people don’t have a whole lot of money to spend.
You may also recall that ideas behind this website – listing potential candidates by police force area and featuring statements by those candidates, were such good ones that they were robbed by the Home Office for a website they will set up in a few months time. Well, I should have sued, because, launching this week we have policecrimecommissioner.co.uk where you can browse a re-formatted version of the Police Foundation candidate list, without the tedious detail of the updated information the Police Foundation provides as to whether those people are still candidates. Like TopOfTheCops, the new site hopes to provide candidate statements too, and PCC news, which is perhaps why they follow the TopOfTheCops twitter feed.
There is a catch though – to get some of your details and a candidate statement on that site will cost you £299 + VAT, and your statement will be limited to 250 words, not the 400 words you get here FOR FREE. Goodness, if I had been charging like that, I could have paid for my campaign already!
Of course, if you have serious money to burn, they will do you a ‘professionally designed dedicated candidate website’, for a mere £1,499 + VAT, which seems to include not your own “.co.uk”, but a subdomain of theirs, or what I would call a share of a domain name you could buy for £2.50 per year.
Just supposing you can’t stretch to their £1,499, I am prepared to charge you £1,000 for a site with a cheap-and-cheerful design very much like this one but with each of the promised inclusive features, which admittedly will leave me with well in excess of £900 spare – but for that ridiculous profit you buy my silence – so none of your voters will know that you lack the very basic, not-much-more-than-web-browsing, IT skills to set up a simple site, and they’ll never find out about your tendency to spend money like it grows on trees on possibly-over-priced products. Now that silence has got to be worth way more than £1,000. Any takers?
My point is that if anyone coughs up £299 + VAT for the “Standard Web Presence” on that site, when they could get better here for free, they should be issued with a set of “I’m with Stupid” T-shirts for their companions to wear, because by appearing there they are virtually admitting they should never be let within several miles of a police budget or computer system.
So who has thought of this daring way to extract the pounds from PCC hopefuls? Well, the site has few details of who is behind it all, but their domain name is registered to a certain Mike Glanville at a PO Box in Dorset. Wait a minute! Could this be the same Mike Glanville who has just retired as Assistant Chief Constable of Dorset? Well, that changes everything! If he has to eek out his meager ACPO-level police pension, I can hardly advise those poor penny-pinching potential PCCs to do anything other than spend, spend, spend.
In one other curious development, the example the site gives for the sort of email address and domain you get in your £1,499+ VAT package is firstname.lastname@example.org, but further investigations show that the norfolkpcc.co.uk domain is actually registered to Norfolk Police Authority. Enquiries with said Police Authority are continuing.
Update: Since this article was published the example email has been amended to point to norfolkpcc.com, which is registered with the company concerned.