Jon Collins is Deputy Director of the Police Foundation. Here he shares some facts about the candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner.
The last couple of weeks have probably been the busiest yet for the media debate on Police and Crime Commissioners. With the Olympics out of the way and most national politicians taking the chance to go on holiday, the news vacuum has been filled by some much-needed debate on the forthcoming PCC elections. To prepare for the interviews that came my way I looked into who the candidates for the elections are. Here’s what I found.
To date there are, I think, 140 confirmed candidates for PCC.* 41 are representing the Labour Party, 36 are representing the Conservative Party and three are Liberal Democrats. There are three representing UKIP, four standing for the English Democrats, and one each for the EDL and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. There are also 51 independent candidates.
But putting aside their party affiliation, or lack of one, what do we know about these people (few of whom are household names)?
Prompted by a press release from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, one of the first issues to come under scrutiny was the candidates’ gender. “Men to dominate police commissioner elections” said a subsequent Guardian headline. Certainly the candidates are overwhelmingly male – of the 140 candidates, only 28 are women (20%). Five of the 36 Conservative candidates are female (14%), as are 13 of the 41 Labour candidates (37%). None of the other party candidates are female, while only eight of 51 independent candidates (16%) are women. One commentator described this as depressing and anti-democratic, while according to PCC hopeful Vera Baird a “phalanx of stale, male and pale”candidates was almost inevitable.
Following this intervention, the candidates’ ethnicity also came under the spotlight. In total, 131 of the 140 candidates are white (94%). 45 of the 51 independent candidates are white, as are 39 of Labour’s 41 candidates, 35 of the 36 Conservative candidates, and all of the smaller parties’ candidates. If recent predictions on ConHome, based on now fairly dated Police Foundation research, are accurate, and unless an independent can break through, the only non-white PCC will be Jas Parmar in Bedfordshire, which is thought to be a very marginal area that could well go to Labour.
More recently, the debate has shifted to look at the candidates’ backgrounds. Of the 140 candidates, nine are current or former MPs, three are current or former MEPs and one is a former Welsh Assembly minister. 55 are current or former local councillors (though many will have had another job at the same time). So 68 candidates in total (49%) have previous experience as an elected politician.
These are not spread evenly, unsurprisingly. 55 out of 77 Labour and Conservative candidates (71%) are current or former ‘politicians’, as are six of the 12 candidates from other parties. But only seven of the 51 independents (14%) have previous experience as a councillor or MP.
In addition, a number of candidates have run for election unsuccessfully in the past, for example Sarah Flannery (an independent candidate in Cheshire) and Nick Varley (the Conservative candidate in Durham).
Unsurprisingly, given the abundance of former councillors, many of the candidates have also been a member of their local police authority. 31 candidates are current or former police authority members (22%), with 10 representing the Conservatives, 13 representing Labour and one representing the Liberal Democrats. Seven current or former police authority members are standing as independent candidates.
In terms of other backgrounds, the most discussed has been the number of candidates who have previously been police officers. In total, 19 candidates (14%) are former paid police officers (at least three further candidates – Fraser Pithie, Jim McArthur and Matt Stockdale – have been special constables). Only five of these represent political parties (three Conservatives and one each for Labour and the Liberal Democrats), while 14 are independents.
In addition, 14 candidates have served in the military (including two as reservists). Nine are standing for the Conservatives and one each for Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, with two standing as independents. Other candidates have a range of professional experience. Some have a background in business, while others have worked in local government or the voluntary sector. A few are lawyers. More unusually, one used to be a fire–fighter while another was, until recently, a commercial airline pilot.
But does all this matter? Well, the lack of many household names exacerbates current concerns about turnout. It is disappointing that the pool of candidates is not more diverse. And obviously people will want to know about the people they are voting for, so their previous experience will be a consideration and will affect their credibility. For those candidates who have been on a police authority their track record will be particularly relevant, and they may find themselves having to explain, or distance themselves from, decisions made by the authority while they were a member.
But more important that what candidates have done in the past is what they would do, if elected, as PCC. So I, for one, would like to see the future debate focus on policy. I hope that this post is helpful in informing some of the inevitable discussions about who the candidates are. But I hope that, as election manifestos are published and the election gets closer, we’re busy discussing what candidates would do to tackle antisocial behaviour or organised crime, not whether they have been a local councillor, a cop or a pilot in the past.
As RosBaston succinctly put it on Twitter, ‘Get back to the issues, guys’.
* This only includes those selected by their party and independents who have confirmed that they are standing (subject, of course, to finding the required signatures and deposit). It does not include Liberal Democrats who have not yet been selected but are believed to be the only contender in their area (Pru Jupe in Cumbria, Ron Tindall in Hertfordshire and Robert Teal in South Yorkshire) or Liberal Democrats who have said that they are interested but who have not yet been selected (for example Linda Jack in Bedfordshire, Lembit Opik in Northumbria and Andrew Smith in Sussex).