A fortnight ago Mervyn Barrett withdrew from the Lincolnshire PCC election in a blaze of publicity that continues to burn bright, and in the last week Lee Barron attempted to withdraw from the Northamptonshire race with a fair amount of attention that will follow him where ever he goes. There has been another withdrawal however, not greatly celebrated in the media, that of Charles Swabey in Derbyshire, who got all the way to being nominated, only to withdraw a few days later. For what reason? He didn't want to split 'the Independent vote'.
There's a curious concept. Independents are supposed to be, well, independent, yet apparently they can also stick together. In some places in local government whole swathes of Independents band together to form majorities in a Council, and some suggest they act exactly like political parties but under a different brand. But of course one cannot brand all Independents this way, because they are, er, independent.
If there is a tantalising aspect to the PCC election surely it is the question of whether voters who appear to disapprove of political parties involvement in policing will actually in the end of the day vote for Independents instead. Depending on how you count them there are around 55 people who have parted with £5,000 of someone's hard earned cash because they think they may see it again by getting over 5% of the vote, and may even win.
But will they?
In my view, even if there were a surge of support for Independents, most of them would not win for precisely the reason that Mr Swabey chose to withdraw. One Independent might attract some interest, but more than one would split that interest, and more than two in an election where people only get to vote twice would have been fatal to it.
Where there are two Independents people may think that it's OK, as they can use their supplementary vote to switch from one to the other, but that only happens where one of them gets into the top two in the first round. There are no bronze medals in the PCC elections.
So, while I remain to be convinced that the anti-politics feeling will really crystalise into votes for Independents who people do not actually know, here is my list of areas where I think Independents will struggle the hardest, because there are too many of them (number of Independents in parentheses):-
Devon and Cornwall (6)
Hampshire (2ish) – Don Jerrard is standing under the 'Justice and Anti-Corruption' banner)
North Wales (2)
South Wales (2)
Surrey (2ish) – Kevin Hurley describes himself as “Zero Tolerance Policing ex Chief”
Thames Valley (2)
West Midlands (3)
So in 34 of 41 areas there are Independents standing, but in 15 of them there are so many that they threaten the possibility of Independent success. That makes 19 areas where a powerful surge to the Independents could pay off, but 7 where there is no Independent option, and 15 that share 36 Independent candidates. If this is a shockingly good election for Independents there remain 22 areas where party candidates have an edge, i.e. most of the areas.
There is no allowance here for the force of their personality, the effectiveness of their networks, or the impact of their campaigns. For some this may not be electoral suicide, but it sure looks like the first evidence of lemmings in Devon and Cornwall, and the failure of so many Independents even on a good day could hit the numbers next time round.
The best chance for an Independent to win has to be in an area where as you rightly point out there is only one Independent standing and one where one of the main parties is not fielding a candidate.
Both Warwickshire and West Mercia fall into this category and must have a great chance if they can take a portion of the conservative and labour vote and the majority of the liberal vote in the first round to come second they should then pick up second preference votes from the excluded main party candidate as those voters are unlikely to opt for the other main party as their second preference.
As this then becomes a straight race they must be in with a good chance?
By way of explanation, neither Lib Dems or UKIP are standing in Warwickshire or West Mercia. Of course the area where there is no real Labour candidate is Northamptonshire but, given he will still be on the ballot, he will attract support from those who don’t know he is disqualified and from those who vote for him in an attempt to re-open nominations. John Norrie has been campaigning as an Independent there for months, and it may therefore be the most likely place for an Independent to do well.
How Independent is an independent? In Hampshire we have two contenders. One has never had anything to do with party politics and the other is party political discard. One thinks originally, the other is influenced by 25 years as a conservative councillor, representng party views against other political parties. One is openly funded by his own pocket, the other says that “friends” have funded him.
So we are left with the question on the ballot paper of how Independent each one really is?
Is this the same with other counties? Flags of convenience should not be used to lure voters. In Portsmouth naval dockyard, you used to get flogged for less !
I agree that independents are going to be hard pushed at this election, however, there is never going to be a better chance for independents to win and this is why.
1. The public have an underlying feeling that Policing should not be ran by politicians, it just does not feel right and I share that view. A lot of voters will be uneasy voting for their party and may seek an alternative. Voting independent.
2. The public are extremely disillusioned with politicians and rightly so. Starting with the expenses scandal, running through to, what is perhaps, the worst and most incompetent government ever. You may disagree with this, but just look at the shambles of this election. Disillusioned voters may protest by voting independent.
3. There is going to be a low turnout for a variety of reasons. This may favour independents because only the most committed and informed will vote. These people will know the candidates and know that independents are generally better than their political counterparts.
4. I’m speaking for Wiltshire here but I have been keeping an eye on a couple of other places. There is an almost complete absence of policy from the political parties. In Wiltshire, only I produced a manifesto and budget, no one else did. I don’t count the Conservative manifesto whichis a “cut and paste” from management text books and the WPA Policing plan. Down here in Wilts, the Conservatives main message is that he will “not make promises he cannot keep”; Labour will “fight the cuts” but only 8% of the suggested 20% cuts. The Lib Dems and UKIP, nothing and a second independent who wants to set up a Hillsborough style anti-corruption enquiry to investigate something he can’t tell me about.
Independents are the only ones talking policy, more recruitment; domestic abuse policy, ASB; innovative suggestions to tackle crime and drive it down. Nothing is coming from the political parties.
And even more disingenuously, Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour are actively avoiding talking about their main policy, 20% or 12% cuts and the effect this will have. When your main policy is to wipe away a fifth of the Police Service and you don’t talk about it, the voters notice.
For these reasons I think that independents have the best ever chance to win. I’m saying they will win, but no many are going to lose their deposits, whereas some political parties will.
You can’t be truly Independent. You have been a Police officer and you are looking to raise another 300 constables. No matter what you tell yourself that is not an independent stance. You are working for the agenda of your colleagues and about to promote yourself from constable to making the Chief Constable accountable to you.
Every candidate is carrying some baggage, some policy, influenced by their experiences.
At least with the political parties, we can see what we are getting. With independents it changes with the wind.
Money is tight for real people. The PCC is required by the Act to appoint a chief exec, chief finance officer, etc but you claim to be able to meet the costs of 300 extra officers from a handful of salaries. Each constable costs something like £40, 000 per year. 300 x 40,000 = £ 12 million. Must be some salaries for those government posts !
If you were Independent you would be listening to voters not to your colleagues in blue. Come back when you are representing them not your mates.
Dear Rose Bowl
Of course no one is truly independent and we all carry baggage. But you mention representing people, well the 300 figure for recruitment is not a job creation scheme (although it would boost the local economy and stimulate demand) its what people want. Out and about, the number one thing people have consistantly told me is that they want more Police Officers. I agree, better for victims, drive down crime, better for the economy. The recent RAND Corp study (backed by many others) showed that for every £1 spent on Police Officers, a £3 saving was made in the wider economy. RAND is a right wing think tank. By my calculations £12m investment would lead to a £60m saving, thats a good deal.
You are right we see what we are getting with the Political parties, incompetence, neglect, and short term (ism). They will be a disaster. Of course here in wiltshire none of the party candidates are talking about their main commitment, to cut funding by 20%. If you think this is a good idea, I hope you are never a victim of crime in the post 20%cut era.