Editor’s note:- Some are attracted to the PCC role as an opportunity to be at the centre of something new, but Tal Michael, as Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority, already had a ringside seat. That wasn’t enough, so he has stood down from that role, and is currently shortlisted for the Labour PCC nomination in North Wales. See more from him here.
The assumption that politicians are “in it for themselves” is very depressing – avoiding public service is usually much more lucrative for those concerned. Status is of course something that people look for in politics and if they are going to get vilification instead, I fear for the future.
There can’t be many posts where in order to secure promotion you have to forgo a salary completely for eight months and then if you are successful, you take a pay cut…
To be fair, I think lots of people go for career changes for a whole host of reasons. People talk about “downshifting” but really what it comes down to is that money isn’t the main motivator for many people, particularly once they have achieved an income level where they can be comfortable. I think over a certain level salary is a way of keeping score rather than a motivation in itself. If you want to do “something else” you may well take a cut or even a break.
My personal decision was influenced by my desire to return to active involvement in politics. The fact that the Government wouldn’t listen to expert advice on police governance is only a small part of the bigger picture where they have ignored the lessons of history in relation to economics. So although I have given up a successful career as a non-political public servant I am actually looking forward to the opportunity to having a responsible role where I am also allowed to engage in politics.
I do think that Theresa May made a serious mistake in not requiring PCCs to take a cut in salary if they don’t perform the role of Commissioner full-time. I intend to work full-time and to maintain and publish records to confirm that I am doing so. It is important that political activity is seen as additional to the work of a PCC not a substitute.
The more I considered resigning, the more liberated I felt. Being a politician is often seen as an act – being clever, popular and having “the common touch” are all seen as essential. I decided I would just try and be me – and since my politics is part of who I am, I realised that I have spent a lot of time carrying it as if it was a guilty secret. I don’t think it would be good for us to move to an American model where civil servants are appointed for their politics and change over every four years, but I think we should be a bit more relaxed about senior people being open about their political affiliation.