It is with great sadness that I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the elections to be Thames Valley’s first Police and Crime Commissioner.
I put my hat into the ring after much soul searching – and after watching the increasingly politicised campaigning with candidates “on message” from their party HQs and with no “local” manifesto. Having been a member of the Police Authority for 9 years I was very concerned about the possible politicisation of policing in Thames Valley and the subsequent loss of public confidence.
However, despite the Home Secretary’s insistence that she wanted to see high-profile, high-quality candidates from beyond the world of politics, this flawed piece of legislation means that it is impossible for an independent candidate to effectively campaign in an area like Thames Valley with 3 counties, 21 constituencies and 2.2 million residents.
The hurdles facing independents include the need to provide 100 signatures in support of their nomination, including name, address, voting area and voting number. To obtain this I have had to directly approach the returning officer for each area and manually trawl through their records – with very little practical support. Political candidates are simply required to demonstrate their party’s nomination.
Without a party political “machine” with a network of MPs, councillors (at county, district, town and parish level) and party loyalists practiced in campaigning, the 2200 square miles of Thames Valley presents an impossible challenge.
The deposit required to stand has been set at £5000 – 10 times that asked of candidates standing as an MP and the cap on campaign spending is £303,303. Without access to party funds, unless an independent has substantial personal wealth or rich friends it would be difficult to raise the funds needed to effectively campaign right across Thames Valley.
The government has also refused to fund a mail shot to inform residents about all of the candidates – a democratic service paid for in all parliamentary, mayoral and European elections. Instead the government has offered candidates 300 words on a web site which will be available just 3 weeks before the elections. And the 300 words include the name, address and telephone number for my agent. So with, effectively, only 250 words to explain my skills, experience and manifesto this really is an election by sound bite and the public deserve better.
The people who don’t regularly access the internet, people with sight difficulties and those who are vulnerable or isolated will not know about the range of candidates and what they stand for – if they are even aware of the election at all. And the unfamiliar 2nd preference voting system is likely to further confuse the public.
These are elections which nobody wanted, which few people know about and which, despite the insincere rhetoric of government, have turned into yet another party political campaign. And it is interesting that the architect of this policy, the former Policing Minister, Nick Herbert MP, has himself walked away from the problem, a mere 9 weeks before the elections: a move that can only be interpreted as moral cowardice.
With the odds stacked against independent candidates – a challenge exacerbated in Thames Valley given its size and geography – I have made the difficult decision not to stand in these elections.
This is a flawed policy that had been badly implemented and in these political elections I believe that the public are the real losers – uniformed about the election, ill informed about the candidates and what they stand for and with a serious risk of the politicisation of policing.
November 15th will not be a good day for policing in England and Wales.
(former Chairman of Thames Valley Police Authority)
I concur with every point made. An opportunity is being lost to bring the public’s knowledge of and ability to be heard about the maintenance of our safety from out of the dark.
Equally disappointing is that this candidate as a Chair of the Police Authority would have an understanding of the complexities of the role.
Yet, as he explains has concluded that without major party support , his candidature is not likely to succeed.
Congratulations on you withdrawal from this politcally motivated PCC proposal that is stacked against independents.
A sad, eloquent encapsulati
It is sad that you are in this position thanks to the Government, and you are not alone by any means – May should resign. I know David Bowles my Indy candidate in LIncs is using just his own money and the assistance of real friends – the playing field is as level as Ben Nevis but he will win..
Also remember however that as well as the politicians with their funding, there are some indies “Buying votes” and that concerns me more in some ways. M Barrett in LIncs has just announced he has FULL PAGE adds in all of the county’s newspapers, as well as everything else which is well documented – 365,000 leaflets, video, offices, special advisor, etc – He has admitted to private donors but won’t tell the electorate who they are before they have to vote – One has to ask “Who and why?” That sort of person who refuses to be open and transparent should not even be a candidate in my opinion – ironically they will be wasting their money, and that is why I lose no sleep over it, as he will do well to come third – So ithe slogan should be Keep Politics and Privately Sponsored candidates out of Policing Elections
I have the hugest of respect for Mr Juna. He added much wisdom, experience and wit to the first PCC Hustings on Monday last. I am sorry to see him exit the race.
Once this new elected position was established, it was always going to be very political. The governance of such a large and significant public service has always been and should be political. The police authorities were statutorily required to have a majority of nominated elected members on them from the councils in the area covered by that police service. Decisions about precept had to be carried by a majority of those members. Whilst the party affiliation of those members was muted it was nonetheless present. This was leavened by the addition of a number of non-aligned / independent members who were selected and appointed on the basis of their professional expertise. Mr Juna remains one of those skilled independent members on the PA.
Now I know that the ‘Indies’ in these elections are running on the ticket of ‘keep politics out of policing’ but I would contend that what they really mean is ‘keep party aligned politicians out of policing governance’ since the governance of vast policing budgets is necessarily political and should be open to democratic scrutiny. To repeat, it always has been in police governance.
The public are rightly concerned however about the investment of so much political power in the hands of one individual and have expressed this as favouring independent candidates. Based on similar regarding City Mayors, had November 15 had been a referendum on this new system, the public would have roundly rejected it, I suspect.
But as I have said on many occasions over the last months, we are where we are.
However, there are some points in Mr Juna’s statement above that I would take issue with. The party aligned candidate will still have to get a real set of 100 signatures on their nomination forms (there is no pass on this). The problems of reaching 1m households in Thames Valley is a significant challenge for all political parties although as Mr Juna points out there is a network of people who will be out delivering leaflets over the next few weeks – I will be one of them.
But what I fail understand are the reasons why Mr Juna has cited for withdrawing from the race. Of all people, given his role, he surely would have known of all the hurdles he outlines when he decided to enter the race in the first place. He surely cannot have just discovered them after doing so. Which, for me, raises some critical questions:
– Was Mr Juna only entering the race in order to exit with a flourish only a week or so later?
– Did Mr Juna really not realise the uphill struggle he was facing, in which case, how did he not realise this?
– Has he given us the full and true reasons why he is now exiting from the race?
I understand his anger. This is a daft piece of legislation and I predict it will be repealed on the basis of daftness rather than for any particularly party political reasons. Our great police service deserves to have a proper form of governance not this one dreamt up on the back of a fag packet by some policy wonks a few years ago.
But (I say again) we are where we are…
The slow motion car crash continues.
Did anyone see the NewsRoom SE article of Dutch PCC’s? They are abandoning them after 20 years as they have found them inefficient!
But they weren’t PCCs – they were unelected and are being replaced in a move to a national police force that answers to a Government Minister.
Not quite true – they were appointed by locally elected mayors – similar to the way most small USA LE agencies work. There is no direct equivalent to the UK system meaning the UK system is untried and certainly untested.
You seem to want it both ways – describing them as PCCs rejected for being inefficient, and then when it is clear they are not PCCs, the UK system is condemned for being untested. Grumpy either way?
Reminds me of Lord Imbert describing PCCs as ‘Commissars’ and as an American system in the same speech. Maybe we should accept they are here and see how they work out? It’s difficult to lead the way if you insist on following others.
I have sympathy for all independent candidates in this election and can understand why they would feel at a disadvantage. The question they have to answer, however, is how you would stop political parties supporting a favoured candidate. Suppose a bunch of Conservatives or Labour people in Thames Valley thought Mr Juna was the very best candidate – would he disavow their support and donations to maintain his independence?
The proof of the idea will be in the conduct of the successful candidates, once they have taken the oath of impartiality! This is local democracy in action and takes power away from the Home Secretary. Far from resigning, she should be praised for such a bold move.
And while one has the chance, may I suggest the police should note they are not occupying the high moral ground just now. Too many disasters have come to light. They would be well advised to keep a low profile and wait till the PCCs are elected…
“It’s difficult to lead the way if you insist on following others.”
HA Ha Ha – you mean – we don’t need evidence – lets just suck it and see! What could possibly go wrong?
We are about to find out.