As a campaigner with a strong interest in the European Elections, I am really happy to see a number of counties moving towards selection of a Liberal Democrat candidate for the Police Commissioner elections in November.
This is because in the European Elections an important message for Liberal Democrats is that we are effective on crime. Crime crosses state borders within Europe. We need co-operation and integration to ensure that our police’s powers to bring criminals to justice, the rule of law, and important civil liberties cross borders too. The other parties won’t make the commitment that we will to tackle cross border crime.
Standing a Liberal Democrat candidate in November is a chance to publicise our strong policies on crime – that it is not about being tough or soft but about being effective. Getting this message across in November will help us get it across in 2014 and 2015.
Being effective on crime was the key message in the brilliant policy paper “We Can Cut Crime” produced when Nick Clegg was Home Affairs spokesman in 2007. The paper needs updating and the Federal Policy Committee should make this priority work in good time before November.
Public focus on police powers of surveillance raises a clear opportunity for Liberal Democrat candidates for Police Commissioner to distinguish themselves against the Tory and Labour candidates who come from more authoritarian political traditions.
Lib Dem candidates should say loudly and clearly,
“I’m the candidate who will make sure, as you Commissioner, that you are not spied upon.”
That is because whatever an Act of Parliament says a police officer can do, it is another matter as to whether a police choose to use that power. Police have many powers that officers decide they don’t need to use in any given case. This professional discretion is very important.
A liberal candidate for Commissioner can properly say,
“I am against people’s emails being read without a warrant. If Parliament passes an Act that allows it, my police force will not do it. If we have good reasons to intercept communications we will get a warrant. I will not have local people spied upon as a matter of routine. As a Liberal Democrat, I will protect your privacy better than any of the other candidates.”
* Antony Hook is prospective MEP for the seat currently held by Sharon Bowles MEP (number 2 on the South East list).