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.