Saturday, November 17, 2012
Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales
Must admit to never having been a great supporter of the Police and Crime Commissioner idea - though did become more supportive after sitting through the Prime Minister's Statement on the Hillsborough Disaster a few weeks ago. I cannot imagine police behaviour so incredibly awful happening if there had been a head of police answerable to voters at an election - even if it was over 20 years ago. The idea of PCCs was a clear Conservative manifesto commitment in 2010, so I dutifully voted in favour as the legislation went through the House of Commons. Soon as it became an act, I wanted the new system to work as successfully as possible.
Of course yesterday's turn-out was disappointing. In large part this has been because people decided to just not vote, or spoil their ballot papers, as their way of registering disapproval. Personally, I think it would have helped if each candidate had been allowed one free election communication. In Dyfed/Powys we put a lot of effort into helping Chris Salmon engage with voters, but still many felt they knew nothing about who was standing. Its a very difficult job for a candidate to engage with such a large dispersed population. But I do not buy this stuff about low turn-out depriving the new PCCs of credibility or authority. That will depend on the personalities of those newly elected and how well they work with their Chief Constables.
Wales threw up some surprising results - in two of the four elections anyway. Labour were expecting to win three for certain with high hopes in the fourth, but won only one. Very bad day for Labour in Wales. Alun Michael was elected as PCC for the South Wales Force. Had my run-ins with him over the years, but he's a very sound man on law and order. So I reckon he'll do a good job. Big surprise in Gwent where Ian Johnson, an ex-policeman standing as an Independent defeated the favoured Labour candidate. And another surprise in North Wales where Lib Dem member and former Counsel General of the National Assembly for Wales defeated Labour's favoured Tal Michael. The competition in Dyfed Powys was close, with our man, Christopher Salmon just squeezing out Labour's Christine Gwyther. I believe Chris will be a great success in the job.
Lots of very sensible people decided not to vote, and several thousand defaced their ballot papers. It is their right of course, but I just do not agree with this. The PCCs legislation was properly enacted within our democratic system. Lots of things have become law over the decades that I disapproved of - but I've always voted, and accepted the result of the ballot. That's how democracy works. We now have PCCs in place, and if any of them do not perform as required, those who did not vote will not be in any position to complain. Lets hope that in four years time the turn-out will be nearer the 50% it should have been.