With the Electoral Reform Society anticipating a record low turnout, 15th November could throw up unexpected and undesirable results. Here in Bedfordshire we have a candidate currently on bail, with a criminal conviction, who thinks that anyone who supports a multi cultural society should be sent to the gallows, that it’s OK to tell racist jokes and who is apparently happy to have members in the EDL who condone the actions of Breivik. That candidate is Kevin Carroll, co-leader of the English Defence League and candidate for their political wing, the British Freedom Party. With a low turnout it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could win. This raises the stakes and makes it even more important that we work hard to get our vote out.
If anything demonstrates the veracity of our fears about the role this does. Do we really want the leader of the EDL running our police service? But it also demonstrates just how important it is that the people of England and Wales have a liberal choice. That they have the opportunity to vote for candidates whose first priority is dispersing rather than hanging on to power. Candidates who are committed to what works rather than kneejerk reactions based on wanting to appear “tough”. So whether you support the role or not I urge you to get involved in this campaign – use it as an opportunity to demonstrate what is the truly liberal democrat response to cutting crime and the pain and misery it causes so many of our fellow citizens.
So having shared the misgivings of many in the party about having PCCs I find myself beginning to see the potential the role has for good as well as ill. An opportunity to act as a catalyst for real change, to be a strong voice for those with no voice. To hold not only the police to account but also all those who should play a role in both cutting crime and helping others deal with the consequences of crime.
Key to this in my view is having a sound youth policy. You’d expect me to say this having chaired our Youth Policy Working Group that produced Taking Responsibility – after all, young people are disproportionately both the perpetrators and victims of crime. This starts with recognising the work that needs to be done to rebuild trust between the police and young people, particularly those from BME communities. Giving young people a voice. Working with others in order to stop young people getting involved in the criminal justice system in the first place as NE Lincs has done so successfully using detached youth workers to make contact with the most at risk young people(I well remember when I was a member of our Crime Policy Working Group and two experts told us what we needed wasn’t 10,000 extra police officers it was 10,000 extra detached youth workers!). As I have argued elsewhere, ensuring police and others are properly trained to work with young people and changing the way we deal with young people in the criminal justice system is also key. Restorative Justice is, unsurprisingly, particularly effective with young people and something I hope all our PCC Candidates will be promoting.
Good PCC’s, in my view, will spend as much time listening as acting, will recognise the need to have a holistic approach to prevention, will pay as much attention to victims and witnesses as to perpetrators. So even if you don’t have your own Liberal Democrat candidate – I urge you to challenge the candidates you do have about whether they believe in a fresh, liberal, evidence based approach to policing and crime or just more of the same, tired, ineffective kneejerk responses.
* Printed & promoted by Henry Vann on behalf of Linda Jack (Liberal Democrat) both at 35 Castle Quay, Bedford, MK40 3FG
* Linda Jack is a member of the Liberal Democrat's' Federal Policy Committee and Chair of Liberal Left.