A Balanced Ticket?

You may remember that Bob Jones and Yvonne Mosquito, at one time rivals for the West Midlands Labour Police and Crime Commissioner election, quickly buried the hatchet on Bob's victory and became running mates. Well, this week there was the intriguing development, also in the West Midlands, whereby freshly selected Tory candidate Matt Bennett, not to be outdone, announced he would have a running mate too, Walsall Councillor Mohammed Arif.

Now, OK, the West Midlands is a big area, so big that its PCC will get the maximum £100,000 salary, and will replace the 17 members of the West Midlands Police Authority, but it's not the United States of America. The new police chief will not get their own plane, a contingent of bodyguards and a set of codes with which to unleash Armageddon. In this time of austerity does no-one feel the need to say, 'actually, I'll be alright on my own', or 'between me and the staff, we can probably cover it'?

Bob Jones took a risk. Politicians sometimes do. He was the first to be open about wanting a political helper in this role and it was open to his main opponent to suggest that this was an unnecessary expense and an admission of inadequacy, so Matt's decision may be just an admission of the realities of the job, but it also threw away an advantage. In the West Midlands, one of the areas where the Tories need every advantage this too is a significant risk, and suggests a powerful reason.

So what's it all about? Well, I'm going to have to entertain an uncomfortable suggestion, but to make you all more comfortable with it, I'm going to have to move you a few thousand miles West. Back in America there is ongoing speculation about who will be Mitt Romney's pick for Vice-Presidential nominee. Every four years there is a similar debate. Will it be someone from a state with a large amount of delegates? Will it be someone from the other side of the party? Will it even be an Independent? Will it be a soldier to bolster the military experience of the Commander in Chief? Will it be a woman, or someone Hispanic or Black? In asking these questions there is no necessary implication that a candidate having any of these attributes is a less-worthy candidate. There is a wide pool of talent, and a number of good choices may be available. But this is politics, and aspects of their identity may be politically useful, so the discussion goes on.

With Cllr Arif being selected, what should we debate? Is it the fact he's from Walsall, balancing Matt's background in Birmingham? Is it his experience at the Police Authority, which Matt doesn't have? Or is it that he is a prominent local member of the Asian-heritage population, and that may give the Conservatives an edge in accessing an area of the electorate that Labour may take for granted as being in some way theirs? (Despite my long-established feeling that for many in this community the Tories would be a more natural philosophical home)

I don't know. I almost feel that, being British, and used to local government, I'm not supposed to notice or speculate, lest someone think it is racist.

But I've had other news recently about Deputies around the country. Shenanigans among rival candidates as to who will back out in favour of whom. Ipswich spy live-tweeting the questions and answers for each candidate in Suffolk, including a lot on Deputies that seemed to assume that each would definitely appoint one. (By the way, does anyone else think that live-tweeting questions and answers could give candidate 2 advance knowledge that is unfair to candidate 1?)

Oh and one suggestion that selected Labour candidates had been told to find themselves a deputy with knowledge or experience of policing. Which raises the question of why that type of person didn't get selected in the first place.


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6 Responses to A Balanced Ticket?

  1. ipswichspy says:

    In Suffolk the candidates didn’t seem to have given a huge amount of thought about who their deputy would be. The eventual winner of the Tory nomination expressed the view that his deputy should have urban experience as a foil to his rural background but that was about all.

    The questions at the Tory Primary in Suffolk were mostly from the audience. The five set questions would only be a surprise to the first candidate, because the other two candidates both had family and supporters in the room and would have been told anyway. It doesn’t seem at all likely that the later two candidates were given substantial advantage by our live-blogging and tweeting from the meeting, especially when you look at the results – Tim Passmore, the selected candidate, went first.

    The assumption certainly did seem to be that if the Conservatives win the PCC elections (and without a Liberal Democrat, added to the voting system and low turnout, that isn’t as straightforward as some might think) then the winning candidate would appoint a Deputy. Suffolk is geographically spaced out, with the drive from Lowestoft to Newmarket being closer to two hours, and it makes sense to have the option of having a Deputy. Not only that, but as one candidate pointed out, even PCCs will need holidays. All three candidates were asked questions about a Deputy from the audience, and it was surprising this wasn’t one of the set questions.

  2. The rumour that Labour PCC candidates have been told to find deputies has been specifically denied by for instance Godfrey Daniel (Sussex).

    And you are talking lack of policing experience look at the cv of his Tory opponent Katy Bourne:

    a) Served just one-year as Mid-Sussex district councillor for Cuckfield ward elected in May 2011 (prev stood in a Haywards Heath MSDC ward 2007 and WSCC division 2009 and beaten in both by Lib Dems)

    b) Serves on two MSDC committees (neither is a cabinet post):
    Better Mid Sussex
    Scrutiny Committee for Leader and Service Delivery (Vice-Chair)
    Also is Tory Chief Whip

    c) Member of Ansty and Staplefield Parish Council since 2007 (AFAICT)

    d) Governor of two schools: Roedean (fees £10,450 per term) and Oriel High (a comprehensive secondary school in Crawley)

    e) Educated at Roedean and Aberwystwyth (BA history)

    f) National Chairman of Conservative Women’s Organisation since March 2012

    e) Gives employment as ‘SME Development Consultant’

    Owns Private Angel Investor ‘venture capital and private equity’ from 2005. 4 start-ups:

    a music & dance broadcasting company (2005-06)
    electric transportation company bidding for a contract with major European city (2007-08)
    operational management software for educational establishments (2009)
    a low-carbon economy financial modeling company (2010-12)

    Owned Rebel Roc a ‘leisure company’ founded in 1999 and sold 2005

    f) Claims ‘first-hand experience as a member of a local police panel’ – unclear which panel or for how long but this would seem to be her only contact with policing.

    Now while she sounds like an ideal contestant or perhaps judge in The Apprentice or Dragon’s Den none of this to me indicates the executive and political experience needed to oversee an organisation employing 5,000-odd staff with a budget of £165m….



    • samchapman says:

      Wasn’t making a party point here because, as I have mentioned before, and will likely mention again, this is not just an issue for Labour, but also the Conservatives. It just happens that the info that came out, via an Independent as it happens, was about the Labour party.

  3. Tom Kelly says:

    The question of deputising for PCC has a long history. Indeed what would happen in the event of a period of prolonged absence of the elected PCC through ill health? The assumption is that the Chief Executive of the retained Police Authority Unit would assume control. He/She is an appointed professional with no democratic mandate at all. The deputy question needs the clarification of
    a) Is this a dual ticket
    b) Is the candidate saying vote for me and I will appoint person A to be my deputy which is something less than a democratic mandate for person A more a prior endorsement of an unelected appointment by the incoming PCC.
    The next question would be do you stop at one deputy. The Mayor of London has 7 each on substantial salaries none of whom have been elected.
    I think any appointed PCC wpould be wise to look for support in what will be a demanding task but the democratic credentials of any such appointment remain open to as much question as those of the Police Authorities they replace

    • samchapman says:

      The legislation provides for a Police and Crime Panel to appoint an Acting PCC for such issues, or for a fresh election if it’s a long-term problem, if I remember rightly.
      Who the PCP choose is up to them, but it does not have to be a Deputy.
      Also, the work of a PCC is strategic not operational. Some have suggested thy’ll need a Deputy to cover if they go on holiday. They won’t.

  4. George Smith says:

    This is much more likely to be about getting a better geographic spread. I myself am not sure what the demographics of the average West Midlands Mosque are but if anyone really votes based on such tribal notions of ‘I’ll vote for him because he looks like me, or speaks I’ve me or is from the same market town’ then one would expect Mr Bennett’s Islamic faith to get him more votes than having a particular Deputy PCC who he could completely sideline if he chose (as often happens with US VPs). However, I personally think such notions to be often substantially exaggerated by the media. There was much nonsensical Semi (and not so semi) racism against Barack Obama but he still landed the top job and Al Gore failed to carry his home state.

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