Yvonne Mosquito has had an interesting week so far.
On Sunday the Birmingham Councillor would have learnt that her bid to become Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner had been unsuccessful, and that Bob Jones, who incidentally had been far-sighted enough to provide TopOfTheCops with our first ever Candidate Statement, had won the nomination.
On Monday, the rest of the world found this out.
This morning (Tuesday) she announced “I’m delighted to be running with Lab candidate Bob Jones as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mids“
Hmmm. Didn’t take long to bury that hatchet, presumably in Mike Olley, who may still be fuming about Labour denying him the opportunity of being on the party’s internal ballot paper.
And so we have the first PCC American-style ‘ticket’. Forget Obama/Biden, or McCain/Palin or Romney/whoever – welcome to the world of Jones/Mosquito. Is this how business will be done?
Of course, the Americans actually have an office of Vice-President. It’s in the Constitution and everything. On this side of the pond PCCs are allowed to have a Deputy, but they don’t actually have to have one, and obviously Deputies cost money, that has to be both taken from the taxpayer and spent on the Deputy rather than on other policing purposes. Will the public find the provision of a salary for another politician to be acceptable? Is jobs for the girls really any better than jobs for the boys?
In truth this will probably need to come not from the core policing budget but the budget of what up till now has been known as the Police Authority, so what staff reductions or tax increases are being contemplated to make way for that?
In America the Vice-President is elected. Their name is literally on the ticket, and voters vote for them as the Plan B every bit as much as they vote for the main candidate. This will not be the case for Cllr Mosquito. Only the candidate’s name will be on the ballot paper. What we have here is a promise to create at least one Deputy Commissioner post and nominate a certain person to it. It seems to offer that person a slice of the mandate, placing the Police and Crime Panel in an awkward position when the confirmation hearings take place.
The appointment to a position of Deputy Commissioner is, if I understand rightly, one of the few appointments of someone who is politically active that a Commissioner can make. Yet, just because they can be political does not mean that they must, and this action seems to suggest that a Deputy post will be like the Prime Minister appointing a Cabinet, or a Council leader appointing an Executive – something entirely subject to personal discretion, without the normal processes of applications, shortlists, interviews, and all the other equal treatment malarkey. Of course, even the PM or Council leader have checks on what they can do. Ministers need to have a seat in the Commons or the Lords, Council Executive Members need to be elected Councillors, and their appointments often need Council confirmation. Here we have none of that – just an appointment telegraphed 5 months in advance of being elected. Is that how it works?
Tickets are often balanced for a purpose. John McCain, a liberal Republican who many of his party had doubts about, chose Sarah Palin, a not-very-liberal Republican who those doubters could openly embrace. The Vice-Presidential spot is not a consolation prize for the runner-up, but an opportunity for someone to bring some electoral advantage to the table. There is already speculation on Twitter about Humberside. Can Lord Prescott overcome the rancour of the campaign, and tempt ex-police-chief Keith Hunter on board for all the kudos of expertise that might lend to his campaign among ordinary voters?
Finally, in my list of questions and issues that tickets raise, is the tacit admission of ‘I can’t do all this myself”. The Deputy Commissioner is not mainly there in case the Commissioner gets shot. They can have functions delegated to them. Will candidates be willing to go to the public with such an admission, especially facing candidates who are confident that they are quite enough, given all the advisors that come with the job anyway?
Time will tell.