Revealing Questions

Earlier in this election I was advised by one candidate to take care about what questions you ask, as it can reveal more about your plans than your actual statements. It was a fair point, and one that police forces and police authorities may need to consider. Some have taken to publishing the questions they receive from candidates, or at least the answers to them.

Some thought this was a wonderful idea, but I have significant reservations. If a candidate is bright or well-informed enough to ask the right questions, why should less bright or less well-informed candidates benefit from their work, when they can then pass off the results as if they were their own.

And there also seems to be a bias in what answers are published. Is it just the answers to written questions, or just the answers that are most interesting? At a candidates briefing we were told that we could ask what questions we liked, and could report them, but could not attribute statements to those who were present, so I'll not name the source of my favourite questions by a candidate so far in this election. They were at the end of a detailed presentation from the police authority and partners and related entirely to some basic matters:- “First of all, what is 'Lancon' and secondly 'what is a B.C.U.?'

The Police Authority has never to my knowledge published the response, that Lancon is short for Lancashire Constabulary, and that B.C.U. is a Basic Command Unit – often thought of as a Division, yet for many officers and other professionals these questions reveal a stark lack of basic knowledge that tell them just what they want to know about a candidate.

One tale I have heard this week makes the wider point. One candidate asked his force how many police houses they had on their books, which revealed there were quite a few, worth quite a bit of money. The answer was published and a rival candidate has thanked the person who asked, as now it has allowed the rival candidate a bit more leeway in their budget plans.

Authorities and chief officers need to respect the candidates who are better prepared, who ask them such questions, or who take time to check out the operational impact of promises before making them. If they don't allow these candidates to benefit from their natural advantage then they are much more likely to end up working with candidates who know and understand very little of what they need to, and will find their time consumed by endless fights to implement promises that should never have been made.


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6 Responses to Revealing Questions

  1. ianchisnall says:

    I agree with this to a large extent although if you are the only one getting questions answered it does help you to appreciate where the other candidates are at in terms of their level of engagement. There are also opportunities to ask one to one questions being provided in Sussex so the chance to stay smart in isolation exists. Indeed at present the only people not wanting to speak to candidates individually are the IPCC which suggests something of where the cultural barriers lie (plus HMP!)

  2. Which doesn’t quite gell with your apparent enthusiasm in other posts for non-politicians and general animus against the councillors and former MPs who are standing.

    If you are not already either a member of a police authority or a serving/former policeman why on earth should you know what Lancon or a BCU is?

    After all these acronyms and TLAs don’t just exist to save printers ink and typists fingers from repetitive strain injury – they are the private language by which professionals and fanatical enthusiasts of every sort assert their common identity and separate themselves from the un-initiated masses.

    Wilful ignorance in political candidates is indeed alarming (according to a member of Labour’s frontbench Home Office team one party member interested in standing asked her in all seriousness whether they’d get to wear a uniform like Juliet Bravo – which I think trumps your Lancon and BCU) but hardly unusual and we could fill volumes with clangers dropped by witless parliamentary and council candidates.

    But Parliament and councils being collective bodies have well-tried and mostly successful mechanisms to keep the worst idiots away from positions where they can do real damage – they can get elected but they then have to spend years proving their basic competence and trustworthiness to at least their own colleagues to become ministers and whips and cabinet or committee members.

    The problem is precisely that your party has foolishly created what is fundamentally a very high level and responsible managerial/regulatory post and then made it elective, so that people who know nothing whatsoever of policing or justice and have no experience exercising oversight* over organisations spending hundreds of millions of pounds and employing thousands of staff can parachute straight into it as long as they can persuade a few dozen or at most few hundred local party members to let them wear a blue or red rosette.

    And this of course assumes that no one has a collective brainfart and elects an independent like H’Angus the Monkey Mayor in some vague spasm of disgust against all politicians.

    The whole concept was flawed from the very beginning and one can only hope that enough of those ‘professional’ politicians who do know their Lancons from their BCUs actually do win election to prevent it from becoming a real disaster,

    *(I know none of these terms – managerial/regulatory/oversight – do properly describe what a PCC will do – but the difficulty of finding words for what they are supposed to be is another part of the problem),

    • Ken Little says:

      Roger MaCarthy.

      Are you for REAL… “Professional” Councillors or Politicians best for the job?
      The idiots (some District and Local Councillors) running Kent Police Authority have lost over £6 Million in Icelandic Banks, wrote off £800k 2010-11 accounts, spent Millions on a IT system no one knows anything about.
      Kent County Council lost Tens of Millions in Icelandic Banks; they employed a C E on over £200k who left months later (with a golden goodbye) more tax payers money lost.
      They sacked staff (children’s services) made others redundant, then gave them all Golden hellos to re employ them months later.
      As for MPs well I could be here for the next 50 years listing the incompetence of ministers, (cabinet members) who have lost US Billions on idiotic ideas that never were going to get off the ground.
      And YOU are afraid of monkeys!
      Which monkey came up with this idea then?
      Ken Little.

  3. Plus in your final paragraph are you really advising Chief Constables to fix the election by selectively doling out important information only to those candidates they want to work with and denying it to those they consider to be unworthy of the job (and that job-worthiness and access to information should be defined by the circular logic of what the candidate already knows)?

  4. he is not the servant of anyone, save of the law itself says:

    “The whole concept was flawed from the very beginning and one can only hope that enough of those ‘professional’ politicians who do know their Lancons from their BCUs actually do win election to prevent it from becoming a real disaster, ”


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