The SDP election

I think it was 1987 when I saw it – a TV news item about some General Election billboard poster ideas from the Conservatives, some of which had not seen the light of day. While a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament had been taken care of with an image of a soldier, his arms raised in surrender, and the words “Labour’s Policy on Arms” – (how I laughed), the anti-Alliance poster had not made it. Three words, each with their initial letter highlighted to spell out the initials of one of the parties – S.D.P.

The words were “Still Deciding Policies”.

TopOfTheCops began some 6 months ago with a pregnancy analogy for this election. 9 months is a long time when you are waiting for something, whether it be a baby or an election. And here we are, about to enter the final Trimester, and this could be the SDP election, because actual policies are very thin on the ground.

Sure, we’ve had themes and a bit of central direction from the Labour party. Don’t cut, what is it today, oh yes – don’t cut the cops, or bad things will happen – you’ll put crime up. If we have learned anything over the past 15 years it is that the public generally stand very ready to believe that crime will go up, so let’s use that. Oh, and local priorities will mean that domestic violence is a priority everywhere, even where they deal with it well.

And we’ve had a stern-faced “it’s all about the deficit” feel from the government, a new way of arranging the various interventions on anti-social behaviour, an effort to make the courts a bit quicker but not much ‘red meat’ as such.

It is, according to one way of thinking, a local election, and yes, we have had individual candidates with commitments here and there, though they can be a tad operational. More special constables, cop shops, a campaign to save a police station here or there.

But very little in the way of what I would call policies.

In June the assembled ranks of PCC candidates from all parties and none at the Crest Advisory event fell quiet to listen to the government’s Crime and Policing Advisor, Lord Wasserman. As he hammered home his view that the PCC role was completely and utterly political, he mentioned that the major parties would “each draw on their traditions”. I thought this was a good way of putting it. It needn’t be seen as ideological, but people from different parties have different values and habits of thinking, and these perspectives could produce some policies to choose from. Policies that were different from each other.

I just haven’t seen it yet. This was my effort on a small, local and tentative initial scale, but I think we need a proper national debate. This is the one time in our lifetimes when we can have an election that is just about crime. We should savour this chance. We should use this opportunity. This is the time to differentiate what parties, independents and candidates actually mean and propose to do. This is a time where our votes can actually make decisions between different ways of viewing the world.

Without this, are we not just voting for our favourite colour?

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3 Responses to The SDP election

  1. bunnyson says:


    It would be helpful if there was a debate on what the police actually do regarding crime. In the UK we are generally hopeless with property crime, as illustrated by the detection rate and recovery of stolen property. With violent, personal crime the UK has a better rate of success, especially with murder; there are other violent crimes that have lower detection rates.

    Over the years the police by “magic” have stopped recording nearly all cheque & credit card crime, referring complainants to the bank or card issuer to investigate; who in turn find it hard to get the police to co-operate with an investigation. Now a couple of years ago reporting commercial fraud, which was always hard, became subject of a ‘reported for intelligence purposes’ to a central clearing house run by the City of London Police.

    I use the word “magic” as I cannot recall any public debate, nor an explanation when the Home Office published official crime statistics. Although I can recall claims crime was down, it would be if those crimes were excluded.

    It is quite obvious that the public know a lot more about the realities of crime reporting and investigation, which accounts for the lack of reporting, for example theft from motor vehicle. At one point Which or The Economist I think published a table showing reporting rates; it was shocking to learn even with house burglary (with items stolen) a large number were not reported. Anecdote suggests public reporting of crime has declined – why bother being the refrain.

    A start for a PCC would be to publicly admit a lot of property crime cannot be detected and explain why. Then publish the police’s figures for a couple of years, to enable comparisons to be made. Let the public decide if they want to report a crime, if they do tell them what will happen, if that means filed immediately so be it.

  2. Colin Skelton says:


    You are right to raise this issue, they are no manifestos or concrete policies of any note. I suspect that this is partly because we have candidates who don’t really understand Policing, crime reduction or the law. I’m being a bit harsh there but candidates are generally politicians, ex operational Police officers and a couple of military types.

    Anyway, if you wanted to pull together a coherent manifesto based upon sound evidence you could do worse than to read the following documents and books;
    1. Preventing crime. What works, what doesn’t and what’s promising. National Institute of Justice, 1997. Sherman, L.W.
    2. Reducing offending. Home Office research series. 1998 Nuttall and Goldblatt
    3. Evidence based crime reduction (2006). Routledge. Sherman, L.W and Farringdon, D.

    In a nutshell, these three documents outline what you have to do to reduce crime, based upon the best scientific evidence and how good that evidence is. It would be a simple matter to turn this best evidence in sound policy that would make a difference.

  3. As I published when I was in the running to be the Labour Thames Valley PCC candidate, these were my policy starters for ten. Would these have clear red/blue water between them and what a Tory might campaign on?

    – Yes to innovation, efficiency and value for money, no to rampant, ideological and ‘chummy’ privatisation
    – Yes to high visibility and resilient local policing, no to any unfair distribution of scarce police & community safety resources
    – Yes to policing that works (evidence based), no to policing that does not
    – Yes to human rights, no to any attempts to water down our historic and proud commitment to freedom & fairness
    – Yes to real and respectful community engagement, no to consultations that just go through the motions
    – Yes to policing that focuses on tackling harm and hate, no to policing that overlooks people who already feel ignored
    – Yes to prevention, no to endless quick fix responses
    – Yes to restorative justice that reduces offending, no to retributional justice that increases it
    – Yes to proper funding, no to draconian cuts
    – Yes to fair working conditions and pay for police officers and staff, no to imposing new working arrangements in a way that would make a Victorian mill owner blush
    – Yes to carefully blended neighbourhood policing teams with a suitable range of skills and powers, no to beat policing on the cheap as stage one in outsourcing local patrol
    – Yes to imaginative and slim procurement that (for example) develops local apprenticeship schemes and boosts our economy, no to bureaucratic and inefficient procurement that reduces value for money for local tax payers
    – Yes to making sure that victims are supported with dignity and respect, no to cuts in services available to help victims of crime rebuild their lives
    – Yes to tackling anti social behaviour robustly (especially where vulnerable people are being victimised), no to action that criminalises people who are not criminals
    – Yes to local partnerships making a difference through empowering communities to improve community safety, no to dry and dusty talking shops that fail to represent the diversity of society
    – Yes to tackling disproportionate stop & search tactics, no to all forms of racism (and other ‘ism’s) getting in the way of effective community engagement


    Or there is my original blog post where I began to raise the issues as to what might appear in a PCC manifesto: (published just under a year ago) – and a revamped version of this for Labour List a few weeks later after the party conference ( – which includes the statement “We will stand up for policing that will never, ever lose sight of how many women suffer crime and its consequences” fyi, Sam, which I thought you might appreciate given your “bang goes localism” link above.

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