Mitt Romney Style?

Fraser Nelson makes some important points in today's Telegraph article “Elected Police Commissioners: a criminal waste of a good idea“, even if a few of the details are off (the Badger Party lady is no longer standing). A section worth focussing on is this :- “To the Tories’ horror, the race has become party political. Labour is fielding several well-funded candidates. Some policemen who wanted to stand have dropped out, saying they can’t afford the cost of campaigning, estimated at anything up to £50,000.

Some might contest his first point. Were the Conservatives not the first party to indicate they would be fielding candidates under a party label? Well, yes, I think they were. But I'll back up what Fraser says here. 18 months ago it was clear to me that the party was really in two minds about whether to put forward candidates or to wait for credible independents to emerge who they could then back. As time went on there was, shall we say, no rush to a decision, and in the end of the day, as the selection and resignation of a candidate who refused to join the party showed, there seems to have been an effort to merge the two options, in an effort to have the best of both worlds, which sometimes gives you the worst of them instead.

His third point is also telling, though it should be noted that it is not just police officers who have been tested by the funding requirement. The Conservatives genuinely wanted successful independents to stand – that is evidenced by Theresa May's secret meeting with Simon Weston, followed by the sudden launch of his campaign. But someone seems to have missed that the giant constituencies, combined with the lack of provision of a candidate's booklet to electors, would mean that any Independent would have to be able to lay their hands on significant amounts of cash in order to get any sort of message to voters. Yes, the parties have the same problem, but that's why they already have in place fundraising arrangements and volunteers to hit the doorsteps. Is this a problem with the notion of 'successful Independent'? Success is something not best measured in pounds and pence, and we shouldn't assume that the best candidates would be able to sing along with the Mitt Romney parody above, and the line “you should elect me 'cause I got so much mon-ey“.

A small number of Independents are spending away though. Mervyn Barrett in Lincolnshire has a professional campaign team, campaign video, newspaper adverts, and DVDs being distributed, with money from…. well, Mervyn ain't saying. And Mervyn doesn't have to say – the only funding spent outside the election period that needs to be declared is any donations from a single source above £1,500 – but that doesn't apply to people who aren't in a political party or elected office already, so Mervyn has an advantage for once over his party opponents.

And that brings us to the second point that you may have thought I skipped over – those “well-funded Labour candidates“. I have already expressed my surprise that TopOfTheCops regular Clive Grunshaw is the only Labour candidate in the country to have declared mailshots of over £1,500 in value funded by a trades-union in his selection campaign. Other candidates had union backing, mailshots funded from somewhere, and the same problem to solve, namely how to fund a message or two to the several thousand local members of the Labour party who were doing the choosing. Did none of them really rely on that level of support from a union?

So I asked the Electoral Commission to take a look, and they are doing so. I wasn't going to name names, as I genuinely do not know whether any funds have changed hands, never mind whether anything improper has occurred, but I note that there is an email in circulation among Councillors in South Yorkshire which states of Councillor Shaun Wright that, as of last Friday at the latest, “the Electoral Commission are satisfied there is no case to answer.” That struck me as odd, as only yesterday the Electoral Commission told me of the same case “We can confirm that our case review is on-going and that we have not yet reached a determination.

I'll be honest – I would find it as worrying for a candidate to accept any funding at all from a union that represents employees in the organisation they intend to lead as I would find it if a candidate was taking money from a company with designs on winning contracts from that Commissioner. It revives in me a sense of horror I experienced over 20 years ago, when I first looked at US campaign finance, which I thought shocking even though at that time a Presidential candidate's expenditure was not measured in billions of dollars, as it is today.

But my concern is not simply that Commissioners may end up beholden to interests other than the public interest. I am not suggesting Mitt Romney has done something wrong. With his personal wealth he would not need to, but that very wealth is what has sustained him through two shots at the Republican nomination for President, in my view to the cost of better candidates, such as Mike Huckabee.

I am worried by every step we take down the path of limiting elected office to those who have the cash or can get it from some vested interest. As the Returning Officers take the last of the £5,000 deposits today, it strikes me that this is a trend in politics that we need to avoid.


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7 Responses to Mitt Romney Style?

  1. Colin Skelton says:


    You make some very good points, I’d like to pick up on a couple of them. I look on in horror at the US election and the fact that money buys you access. Without a couple of billion to spend you have no chance. Its not like this here but we must not be complacent. The PCC elections have the potential to be bought. The person in Lincs, Mr. Barrett, if he is buying advertsing, DVD post outs and the like then in essence, is he buying the election? Of course in the UK we don’t like that sort of thing, so it may backfire.

    We should avoid setting up structures that only allow weathly people or those backed by a party to be able to run for public office. Not only is this unfair and an affront to demoncracy but it excludes a whole swath of well qualified people who could an excellent job. When I survey the people we have currently elected to run our country, I see underqualified, overacheivers messing it all up and I include all political parties. When the Home Secretary says (straight faced) that people without internet access will be able to request candidate information by e-mail, you have to question their competence. Almost all the top politicians, went to university, became political advisors and then got pushed into a safe seat. They are out of touch and so govern badly.

    The potential for corruption is a real concern. Who is funding these PCC candidates? I’m a fan of Trade Unions, they will be transparent but I’m uncomfortable with direct support from them to a candidate. Corporate donations, what do they want in return? Wealthy candidates funding themselves, so wealth buys you a commissioner post. The whole thing stinks.

    Here’s a good news story though. I’m running my campaign on a shoestring. I have to decide today weather to spend £70 on some more leaflets, its tricky, I’m unemployed and have no income. However, in terms of newspaper coverage, I’m streets ahead of the political parties. I’ve worn through three pairs of socks delivering 20000 leaflets, I’ve been interviewed on air 6 times. I’m outperforming the party machine and running a professional and charming campaign. Is it enough to win?



  2. Ken Little says:

    Date 18th October 2012.
    Below is My Withdrawal notice from the P C C election in Kent and my reasons.
    To whom it may concern.
    It is with great sadness that I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the election to be Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent.
    • I believe the legislation produced by this Government is flawed and grossly overburdened.
    • The “system” to become a Police Crime Commissioner candidate has been made unnecessary protracted, and undemocratic by this Government.
    • There is without any doubt an entrenched bias towards political parties by this Government; example the deposit of £5k is disproportionate when that is compared to electing an MP {a much lesser deposit}.
    • The application process for access to the voters register is protracted and difficult to overcome in the time allotted to independent candidates.
    • After a recent enquiry I was advised I am not on the electoral role in Kent, this is a key starting point to stand as a PCC in Kent without being on the electoral role you cannot stand.
    • My campaign has been relentlessly hindered {K P still investigating} to date no update. I am certain it will be made more difficult as time to select the P C C draws closer.
    • My ability to affectively campaign is unrealistic; the outstanding issues with Kent Police/CCC have become and remain a distraction.
    • I have been further hindered by the application process by the lack of producing and providing information that I asked for from the appropriate “authorities”. They have made it impossible for me to continue with my campaign.
    • Athena is a private Ltd company project that has cost £32 million to date; NO candidate is talking about Athena and what it involves, or perceives to do, the get out clause will be extortionate. No vote on using that Ltd company {Athena} for you in Kent was taken.
    • We already have a “join up” privatisation with Essex/Kent police forces headed by the previous Chief Executive of the Kent Police Authority Mr Gilmartin earning over £100k a year and proposed “bonuses”. No vote on that in Kent. In effect more privatisation.
    • The adopted policies by Kent Police are I suggest set in stone. Those policies will remain in place after the P C C election to the detriment of the vast majority of Kent tax payers depending on the turn out {who bother to vote}.
    • The Chief Constable retains control he has already set his policies in Kent by endorsing Athena, and the join up with Essex Police and other policies, that will prove difficult to abandon.
    • Fact is the new P C C in Kent when elected will also have to deal with and potentially be “hindered” by 18 “political” Councillors on this new overseeing board that “they” have elected themselves on. The new board is called-, The Shadow Kent and Medway Police Crime Panel. No vote in Kent on that either.
    • Political parties can spend over £225K on campaign leaflets, advertising no independent can match that amount of spending.
    Let me give you an example of how Kent Police crime figures can be distorted.
    I must add these {bullets} are not “my” research because most of my enquires were labelled vexatious by K P and K P A.
    • I am told of the 101,793 crimes reported in Kent to year end March 2012- 67,862 were drug related.
    • In June 2012 there were only- 94 drug offences recorded on the Kent Police Website, an average of 3 a day across the whole of Kent, the figures do not add up do they?
    These figures have been for years endorsed by Kent Police Authority {who were supposed to oversee Kent Police}.
    • I am advised there is open drug dealing in areas where children congregate in and around Schools, skate parks and other parks and open spaces. At these locations apparently the kids are offered ‘Buy one get one free’ and a bonus of more drugs if they introduce their friends.
    • The drug figures on the Kent Police Website are so ridiculously low because it appears the Policy within Kent Police is to try and keep the figures low. I have been reliably informed that the figure could and should be 30 times higher each month.
    • I am told that drug suppliers are not pursued as it is potentially too difficult and costly.
    We are told that there are 20 children homes in Clifftonville, {I have asked for a response on this subject-, again thwarted by K P.
    We do know K P have had reports of gangs of children “hanging around” Clifftonville K P response… “Move them on”, does anyone know what “they” are doing?
    We are told by the previous chair of K P A Mrs Barnes that “crime” is down in Kent. Really?
    Ask yourself who produces and endorsed those figures?
    Maybe crime is down because some crime is not reported as a crime or dealt with as a “priority” {young and vulnerable children}, just look to Yorkshire and see the Chief Constables stance on that subject (children) to get a understanding of “priorities” of Police areas.
    I am sorry to disappoint the many people who encouraged me to run for PCC in Kent.
    The hope I had for Kent tax payers was for more Police openness, more Police transparency, and more Police accountability, three words you will not hear any P C C candidate or Kent Police talk about as a wish list, or indeed a “wish” policy in this election.
    The facts above further add to my total disillusion that this election process is a process simply to generate more jobs for the already entrenched “old boys and girls club”.
    As the time draws closer to declare {19th October} it is clear the “bar” the Government has set is too great to overcome for any “truly” independent candidate like me to run for the post, all the above has made my position to stand untenable.
    IF the authorities had been more forthcoming it would have allowed a reasoned debate, or at the very least an alternative to what you will evidently end up with that is… more politicians or ex K P A members becoming the P C C, or at the very least sitting on the board that oversees the new P C C something I want nothing to do with… it is totally undemocratic.
    The 15t November 2012 election for Police Crime Commissioners will become a date that will be remembered in history throughout the UK for changing EVERYTHING… and absolutely NOTHING.
    Mr Ken Little.

    • samchapman says:

      Not a huge surprise – difficult to know where to start. Suffice to say that getting on the electoral roll is not difficult, and that if you can’t tell the difference between drug crime and drug-related crime, this probably wasn’t the job for you. All the best, Sam

      • Ken Little says:

        Sam on my withdrawal notice You said-, “difficult to know where to start…Start at the beginning.
        Clearly the fight for “justice” goes on IF you read the latest missive {late and apathetic} response from Kent Police I will need all your “all the best “wishes” { if genuine} from you to get a final result from those authorities, but in any event I will stick at it.

        Sorry to disappoint but what you say is not true, you said-, “getting on the electoral is not that difficult”.
        Clearly it is “VERY DIFFICULT” As I had undertaken ALL that is required to get “on it” {the Electoral Role} only to discover {late} I was not on it.

        Clearly again you did not read ALL the reasons why I choose to abandon my candidacy.
        I have no idea why you cannot start at the top of my “withdrawal list” and work your way down it, {if inclined} the getting on the electoral role was number 5 in the list of reasons for withdrawal.

        If you are to comment please keep to “facts” and not innuendoes, assumptions, or whatever else is running around in your head.

        Fact is I clearly do know the difference between drug crime, and drug-related crime, the POINT I was making “generally” was how “figures” are distorted to create the belief that “crime” in Kent is down, it clearly is not down …“drug crime or drug related crime”, or home theft etc.

  3. Big Jim says:

    Pretty good article again – top job with the site Sam! In regards to the elections I still don’t understand how can anyone argue that an “independent” candidate is best suited to this role as they “aren’t political”!?! The very nature of the role is political, like it or not everyone who stands for election is political. Many are also ignorant of the fact that a major part of the role will behind the scenes horse trading with the government, government agencies, 3rd sector, other commissioners etc. As such whoever is elected will need to be au fait with the system otherwise they and their Force will fail. With a low turnout there is a danger that a bunch of well meaning but deluded individuals will be elected on a ‘Mr Smith goes to Washington’ type ticket. From what I’ve read most of the “independent” candidates are one man bands or ex coppers who’ve set up some social media profiles and knocked together some pretty woolly/un-costed manifesto promises – most of which relate to things which aren’t even part of the role remit! They are now spending their time telling everyone that they aren’t political and political types are not suited to the role. Staff at ‘Private Eye’ will be licking their lips hoping that a few of these will get elected as their pages will be awash with stories about hapless and naive “independents” coming a croper for years to come.

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

    Yes – as others have said more succinctly – a bad idea poorly implemented.

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