The view from the panel

Mick Thwaites is a former police officer and now Independent Candidate for Essex Police and Crime Commissioner. This week he was a panellist at the ACPO conference, and I asked him to share how that felt, in his own words.

I was asked to appear as a panelist at the ACPO conference in Manchester, Wednesday 23rd May 2012; they wanted an Independent prospective PCC candidate, to give their thoughts on the role.

I was told the Chair of the panel and question master would be ‘Michael Crick’ and would also consist of a Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat aspirational PCC. At the time they could not confirm the other members of the panel, so I was unaware if suddenly I would be sitting next to John Prescott or some other ‘high Profile, celeb type’.

I have seen the American type hustings, which now appear to be part of our political scene, and always wondered how it felt to be part of such a process. More to the point, could I survive such an environment? As it was I met Michael Crick just before our session was due. He was extremely pleasant but gave no clue as to what the questions would be. I was also introduced to my fellow panel members, Conservative David Burbidge and the very experienced politician from Manchester, Tony Lloyd; apparently they were unable to find a Lib-dem any where in the country who was willing to appear.

I was starting to get a feel for what everyone means when they say ‘It’s Politics’. Michael Crick briefed us by saying he wanted us to butt in when we wanted, which gave me the impression he would like some combative type exchanges, to liven things up. I have spent many years in public order, firearms type situations, but I can tell you I was starting to feel completely outside my comfort zone.

The questions included, “In what circumstances would you sack the Chief Constable?” I could see half the room pick up their pens to record every word. “How long a contract would you give the Chief?” – more frantic writing. “As an independent with no historical links to the community, unlike political parties, how do you feel you can represent them?” There was a discussion on the American type governance, where there is a buffer between the operational policing Chief and the Commissioner, interesting thought!

This is the world I am going to be part of over the next 6 months and you never know, several years to come.

Does it suit me? – ‘No’.

Will I learn from the experience and take some positives from it? – ‘Yes’.

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