You could not make it up. If you wrote it as fiction, the book would be panned for stretching credulity.
But no, it's true. The once fugitive multi-millionaire businessman Asil Nadir returns to Britain from Northern Cyprus to clear his name, and is found guilty at precisely the same time as his former-MP friend, and one-time comforter Michael Mates, seeks election as a Police and Crime Commissioner.
Had the jury decided differently this week, no doubt Mr Mates would have taken it as the most tremendous vindication, with a consequent boost to his campaign. But as his friend begins 10 years at Her Majesty's Pleasure, is it really the best time for Mr Mates to seek 3 1/2 years of further service in a role overseeing policing and crime?
Not everyone thinks so. Twitter has a number of people ready to say it – though those of you searching for references to Michael Mates better be prepared to wade through lots of mentions of other people called Michael and their mates.
One account is called NO2MATES4PCC – not perhaps the most subtle, but the Conservatives also now find themselves up against a new challenger, former Police Authority Chair and former Conservative Councillor Simon Hayes, standing as an Independent.
Is Hampshire going to have an informal instance therefore of the sort of primary election I referred to back in March, as two de facto Conservatives battle it out in the first round of the PCC election count to see who should be the preferred Conservative candidate?
Should the Conservative party not be looking to put in place a candidate untainted by these difficulties? They had several possibilities, including a runner-up less than half the age of Mr Mates, who is seeking election at 78.
And perhaps the party should be looking at how on earth it got here in the first place. Had the party delivered proper primary elections, not meetings that are subject to being predetermined when packed by arrangement, but real postal elections as many thought had been promised, then perhaps they would not be at this point. Instead the Conservatives allowed ad hoc committees not elected by the membership for this purpose to decide the peculiar form of selection to be used locally, and unsurprisingly the forms chosen have on occasion favoured some otherwise inexplicable results.
Had they gone back to one of the architects of Police and Crime Commissioners, Douglas Carswell, now the MP for Clacton, who this week celebrated 10 years since publishing a paper advocating what has become PCCs, they would have found him a strong advocate of open primaries as the preferred method of selection.
This approach may also have prevented another unofficial primary election in Surrey, where Conservative candidate Julie Iles finds herself up against Independent candidate Kevin Hurley. They faced each other before, when Mr Hurley sought the Conservative nomination. His explanation on Twitter has been that a series of polls show the public have a clear preference (he says 94% to 6%) for candidates with the police experience that he brings to the role, and seeing a pattern of such experience being rejected by the party makes him think that the electorate should still have the choice the party has denied.
Even a postal ballot of party members may have resolved these issues. Had they resulted in exactly the same candidates as have now been chosen at least the participants may have felt they had a fair crack of the whip, but the Conservatives have let Labour steal the lead on this, granting a legitimacy to the final part of the Labour selection process that the first part of it would otherwise have denied.
And so the Conservative party, in 2 counties at least, faces the prospect of reaching its own nadir in unofficial primary elections that are practically of its own making, but without being able to take any credit for the innovation.
Kevin’s interpretation of the YouGov poll is clearly skewed Sam. It’s accurate to say that only 6% of those surveyed thought that a politician had the right sort of experience to make a good PCC – that doesn’t mean that 94% were against politicians. I am not and never have been a politician. These particular stats were nothing to do with police experience. I won the Conservative party selection in Surrey because I have relevant experience as a magistrate, youth justice adviser and crimestoppers committee member. I have also been active in the conservative associations and the women’s organisation. Kevin says on his recent (and very numerous tweets) that he was told he’d go down well with the public but wasn’t political enough. He neglects to mention it was also thought that he would micro manage the chief constable and would be unable to draw the line on operational independence.
Your experience speaks for itself. The fact that selection processes are poor does not mean that every candidate selected by them is also wanting.
The criticism is not of you, but of the curious selection processes used across the country that have put the Conservatives at a disadvantage to Labour, who should themselves have been embarrassed about their procedures.
These processes harm good candidates, by creating a legitimate sense of grievance in others that looks set to manifest itself on the ballot paper. It is extraordinary that a flagship policy has been so undermined by the party. The attitude of recognising no criticism and carrying on will do little to help the situation. Sometimes the party would do better to admit its mistakes.
I do not have any issue with Julie being the Consevative Candidate for Surrey she has a record of public service in a number of areas relating to Criminal Justice. She brings experience from the private sector. Her work as Deputy Chairman (Political) Mole Valley Conservatives and as Regional Chair Conservative Women’s Association Southern demonstrates her political activity as a Conservative.
At the selections, I did receive a question about my relationship with the Chief Constable and whether I would micro manage , I was also asked if I would be too close and not hold the Chief to account. As a career police officer I am used to damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
I was told afterwards by the Chairman of the selection ” good speech …but not political enough”. He offered no other feedback.
Later Julie asked if I would be prepared to offer advice on policing matters and also asked if I would stand as an independent “as I could split the vote and be an issue on second preference” . I must confess I was ignorant of the fact there was a second preference vote. I told her I would only do so on principle if Humfry Malins the ex MP was supported at the next hustings. I understand he withdrew later. I changed my mind when ToC published the yougov poll and saw that all the parties had ignored the view of the people by appointing mainly politicians or activists everywhere. Most candidates then went on to say they would listen to people and engage, this after just ignoring the data from several polls of what the public want. For me this is about listening to the people.
Excellent piece; good points about the Balkans style Conservative PCC primaries
Good post, but it’s a form of primary that will be massively weighted towards the selected candidate! They’ll get (some) party support, access to party membership and the resulting infrastructure and pool of potential volunteers, and perhaps most importantly they’ll have the party label on the ballot paper. Unless the independent ‘conservative’ does a v.good job of getting their name out there, many voters may not know they’re a conservative at all.
Quite right, Jon, which is one reason why it is damaging when it could have been an important innovation.
The Hampshire and IoW selection procedure was flawed because so few turned up. In some cases members knew nothing about it and sadly there may have been a “couldn’t care less” factor too.
In addition to his relationship with Nadir MM still has questions to answer with regard to finance whilst an MP.
I worry that the internal machinations that exist within all organisations to varying degrees, have become too dominant within our political parties. Political parties are supposed to be a place where ideas are debated and promoted, and as a minor element where internal issues are organised. Sadly as the need for ideas to be discussed has diminished due to similarities of views on many issues across the middle ground and the fossilisation on the issues that do seperate, all that is left is the internal debates which has filled the space. Political Parties are supposed to exist for the benefit of people who are not members. This has all but been lost as your stories illustrate. I don’t think I am alone in being appalled that party candidates stand as ‘Independents’ simply because they fail a party husting (full credit to those who resist that temptation). It is equally tragic that candidates whose past catches up with them, or whose selection was clearly based on a flawed system hold onto their nomination at all cost to the party and the electorate.
I’m aware there is a debate as to what constitutes the Unpardonable Sin, but I had never previously heard that it was ever having been a member of a political party.