Readers of LDV will have noticed that there is an announcement about Police Commissioner candidates – presumably placed by the English Party.
Of course, none of us want these elections (and most councillors in other parties don’t either) but it’s in the Coalition agreement and so we are to an extent stuck with a particularly silly bit of the Tory manifesto. Such, I guess, is the nature of Coalitions.
What is troubling, however, is the fact that the English Party has decided to play the centralist card: candidates need in essence to be approved like parliamentary candidates.
One of the main objections to this piece of impending legislation is that it takes powers away from councillors and transfers them to someone mightier and less representative of the diversity of the people being policed.
The right and proper people to take on local roles are local councillors or those aspiring to be local councillors. These are local elections and the English Party, which always claims to champion devolution to regions, has reserved to itself a process which has frankly nothing to do with it.
Worse still, we are given to understand that the selection rules may not be available until November – meaning that these high flown candidates will not be in place until less than six months before the likely election date of May 2012.
As you might imagine, Lib Dem council leaders and group leaders have expressed fury. A number of us are appealing to next week’s Federal Executive to acknowledge that these are local elections, both philosophically and practically, and that the selection process should be undertaken in the same way as for (say) county councillors.
In particular, this process needs to take place now so that the Lib Dem message on crime and disorder – and why your Police Commissioner needs to be a Liberal Democrat, not a reactionary – starts being pounded out in the local media and in Focus from the early autumn at the latest.
Mark Valladares this week eloquently critiqued the English Party’s record on pointless bureaucracy – and its fundamental unaccountability. There is no English Party conference. The leaders of the English Party are indirectly elected by an indirectly elected electorate – something that should have passed into history with the last Doge of Venice. Indeed the top posts are contested by an electorate which can be counted more or less on the fingers of two hands.
The result of course is an outfit rather detached from the necessities of campaigning.
Once the battle to localise the selection of Police Commissioner candidates has been won, we should perhaps tidy up our over-complex constitution and pass the English Party’s functions as far as possible to the regions and local parties.