Liberal Democrats must fight every PCC election in 2020

Like most Liberal Democrats I opposed the introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners, and I still do. I would support abolishing them and returning the governance of our local police constabularies to boards of elected councillors.

In Gloucestershire where we have co-terminus boundaries with the county’s constabulary we could be even more radical and hand back the governance of police to Gloucestershire County Council.

Under this government we know major governance changes won’t happen and that in 2020 we shall have elections for the PCCs in England and Wales. In 2016 Liberal Democrats only stood candidates in 30 out of 40 PCC contests. We cannot let this happen again. We must field a candidate in every Police & Crime Commissioner area.

In saying this, I just wonder what the party is doing nationally about the PCC elections for 2020? I see adverts for selections of parliamentary candidates, but not for budding Police and Crime Commissioners.

In Gloucestershire, during the 2016 elections the Liberal Democrats did not field a candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner. Some members argued that to do so would be to bring politics into policing. Gloucestershire elected an independent PCC.

When Gloucestershire County Council was the police authority we always had manifesto polices related to policing and fighting crime. The quality of policing is rightfully a matter of political debate. A big issue for us in the county is the disappearance of police officers patrolling on foot and the problems of anti-social behaviour that is going unaddressed.

It is my belief the party nationally must act now and instruct all local parties to field a Liberal Democrat candidate in 2020.

To have any hope of being successful a Liberal Democrat candidate will need at least a year to be challenging the incumbent. The party needs to take these elections seriously.

* Cllr Jeremy Hilton is Leader of Gloucester City Liberal Democrats and member of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board

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  • Jeremy, I agree we should put candidates up in every Police & Crime Commissioner election unless local circumstances suggest we shouldn’t. However, it has very little to do with Local Parties. It is the responsibility of Regional Parties to organise the selection of candidates and provide the finance for the campaigns. Unless things regarding candidates has changed radically since 2015 then the State Parties should draw up approval procedures for candidates and in England decide if the State or Regions shall carry out the approval process. (It might be better for England to do it, via the English Candidates Committee [I assume this still exists]).

    So if you feel strongly about it, get elected to your Regions Candidates Committee or better still get elected as it Chair.

  • Paul Schofield 4th Jun '18 - 2:38pm

    For Northants £5k deposit says no thanks

  • Leon Duveen 4th Jun '18 - 3:22pm

    Totally agree Jeremy and am working to get our County area to start the Selection process.
    However there is one reason why some areas may not stand a candidate, that-is the £5000 deposit needed. This is a major impediment for areas where we have lost money in the last two GE.
    I am hoping that the English party will formally agree to extending their proposed Deposit Guarantee scheme to include the PCC elections but this is a very real sticking point for some.

  • John Marriott 4th Jun '18 - 4:15pm

    As a County Council member of the Lincolnshire Police Authority from 2001 to 2009 I have always considered the concept of a PCC seriously flawed and a poor substitute for the democratically accountable body that it replaced. If the Lib Dems are still opposed, then they should keep out of the next contest. In any case, are any areas realistically likely to elect a Lib Dem PCC? It would be simply a waste of time and money, in my opinion.

    If party members do want to do something during the next campaign, they should urge voters to spoil their ballots if they can even be bothered to vote at all. That’s what I’ve done in Lincolnshire PCC elections twice now. As thankfully the local Lib Dems have not fielded candidates, I got my pencil and wrote “Bring back Police Authorities” on my ballot paper. Even if the local Federation is foolish enough next time to enter a candidate I shall do the same again.

  • Martin Land 4th Jun '18 - 7:08pm

    Surely this is a job for the Regional parties? After all, without the European Parliament elections they’ve lost their main role and this could be something they would be interested in.

  • This would be a lot more meaningful if the party actually used the PCC elections to promote our policies or actual values on policing and crime in general, or if we actually put up a full field of candidates that have any real qualification for the role itself. We didn’t do it last time, I have no reason to believe we’ll do it this time. So, I agree with John. If regional parties think they can find £5000 to waste, then they can crack on with it.

  • Hi Jeremy – regarding Gloucestershire’s specific circumstances, is Martin Surl going to stand again, and if so are you suggesting the Lib Dems stand a candidate against him? Would doing so not just increase the chances that the Tory candidate gets elected?

    Like many, I am against the whole concept of PCCs, but if we are going to have one I’d rather have a non-aligned independent than a Tory……

  • John Marriott 5th Jun '18 - 12:51pm

    @Joe Otten
    No. Standing for something in which you fundamentally don’t believe is not illogical but rather a sign of HYPOCRISY!

  • Liberal Neil 5th Jun '18 - 1:49pm

    If we didn’t stand in elections because we didn’t agree with the way things were organised, there wouldn’t be many elections we would stand in!

    Our starting point should be that we aim to stand in every seat in every type of election.

    There will sometimes be good reasons to not stand in some seats occasionally, but in general we should aim to stand.

    Whatever the election, it is always an opportunity to build the party in one way or another, and that’s something we have to be very careful about oting out of.

  • John Marriott 6th Jun '18 - 7:03am

    @David Raw
    I think the problem of Prescott’s Assembly proposals was that they were pretty lightweight in turns of devolving power. The election he mentions was stymied, according to some ‘experts’, by the rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland.

    I guess change is never popular but, in this case, we really have got to grasp it. Properly handled, it could still prove a winner, even for the Lib Dems, as it makes sense, which is more than the concept of the PCC does.

  • Simon Banks 2nd Aug '18 - 11:00am

    We don’t believe in first past the post. We still put up candidates under it. The nationalist parties don’t believe in the Union. They still quite rightly stand candidates for Westminster and except for Sinn Fein (which thereby lets down its constituents) they turn up and take part.

    If refusing to stand in PCC elections made a powerful point, there would be a case for it. But who’s going to listen when we announce we’re not participating on principle? And how is that principle more fundamental than for PR?

    The answer, Northants, is to make enough effort not to lose the deposit. With turnout so ridiculously low, if we made a real effort in our areas of strength and development areas it would help us in other elections and we would get a decent percentage for the PCC. In fact, we could win one or two and that would make a real impact. In one Essex town last time where we normally run the Tories close, we were the only organisation to put out a PCC leaflet and reportedly we “won” there.

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