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?