There are three briefing events for PCC candidates this week. Today was CREST Advisory’s bespoke event for PCC candidates. Thursday sees a PCC- inspired day at the LGA’s annual conference, and Friday sees the Association of Police Authorities in drag as the newly formed Association of PCCs. Very Dame Edna.
I’m not going to the latter two events, but not because of my feelings toward either organisation, which are not as strong as my occasional complaints may lead you to believe. I would have spied out the land, as the APCC did today at CREST, and seen what they had to offer, but commitments are piling up and I am actually running a selection campaign at the moment. No point being a very well-briefed person who is not selected – well, not if I can avoid it. So, if any of the readership want to volunteer to do a guest blog from either of these events, let me know at Editor@TopOfTheCops.com
Today’s CREST PCC event was superb, and not simply because I didn’t speak for long. The other speakers were able to convey their expertise in bite-sized chunks for those of us that require that sort of thing, and to be fairly inspirational.
Hazel Blears, MP for Salford, formerly Police Minister then Communities Secretary, started off the day alongside her Tory successor, and she chaired it very well all the way through and had helpful discussions with attendees during breaks. Nick Herbert demonstrated his passion and commitment for the reform, not least because he attended on an otherwise distracting day, but also because of how he spoke about the posts. In response to my question about whether he’d got the big candidates he wanted, he made clear it was up to local people and parties which person is selected or elected, and that he still wanted big Independent candidates, even if his party and his party’s PCC candidates were not much fond of that idea.
OK, I must admit to playing with the vagueness of ‘big candidates’ by asking him whether he wanted them tall or fat. Yes, I said that. Yes, to the Police Minister, but, in my defence, I do have a personal interest in at least one of those options, and the unspecified nature of what is meant by ‘big’ has given Michael Crick and others a narrative to play with in suggesting that the remaining candidates are not ‘big’ enough.
I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account. You can get something like that from my Twitter feed from today. But what I do want to give you is a sense of the event. I’m guessing more than two thirds of the attendees were hopeful PCC candidates (including some who aren’t yet public). They were from different parties and there were a fair few independents, a number of whom came with helpers that the party folk did not have. They really engaged with the speakers, who were generally very senior in their fields, in a large room, rather than something more akin to an arena. This allowed a fair bit of back and forth, and shocked reactions, like when one of the speakers estimated a low percentage election turnout but said it didn’t matter. Perhaps I’ve been to too many conferences where delegates have been paid to attend. This lot were here on their own time and on CREST’s money and getting value for what was being spent.
The other thing, which I had completely missed until someone commented while leaving, was that there was no party politics. Not from the prominent politicans, not from the rival candidates, not from any of the diverse range of speakers. People managed to talk about policing, PCCs, campaigns, and the necessarily political role of the PCC without party ever being an issue. Is it possible this worry about the police becoming infected by party politics is a little overblown?
Finally, there were more people there than will be elected as PCCs, and they all fitted nicely in the room and got on with it. Whatever national representative organisation emerges out of the ashes of current arrangements, it may be able to be fairly slim and light, as it is clearly possible for this number of this sort of people to meet together in a way that the combined membership of the Police Authorities cannot.