Billingsgate – a crisis for Labour that can be solved by tactical voting for Lib Dem Joe Otten

I live in Rotherham and on May 5th I will vote to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. Since its inception in 2012 the post of South Yorkshire PCC has been held by Labour. The first incumbent, Shaun Wright did not stay the course and was forced to resign in 2014 following a report into the Rotherham child abuse scandal.  His successor, Labour’s Dr Alan Billings has fared little better and was last week caught up in the aftermath of the Hillsborough inquest verdict. He bungled the suspension and replacement of the South Yorkshire Police chief constable and has subsequently failed to answer questions about the £18m of public money his office authorised to be spent on lawyers who unnecessarily presented false allegations against innocent people throughout the Hillsborough inquest. Incredibly Dr Billings failed to see any of this coming. On the very day of the Hillsborough verdict he was occupied launching his re-election campaign by declaring war on litter.

If the ballot papers for the election had not already been printed it seems unlikely that Dr Billings would have survived to fight another day and his ill-timed poor performance has placed Labour in an impossible position. They must back their candidate 100%, but if successful they can hardly be looking forward to the prospect of facing a growing crisis that seems likely to lead to Dr Billings’ resignation. Win or lose Labour is in trouble. The electorate will decide the good doctor’s immediate fate, but if a historic turnout for South Yorkshire PCC elections of under 15% is maintained a Billings victory is unlikely to convince the general public that he has a legitimate mandate.

With the Hillsborough families blaming Dr Billings for failing to hold the force to account over the way it conducted the inquests into the Hillsborough disaster, even the most ardent Labour supporter must surely now be forced to balance party loyalty against the interests of justice and consider voting for an alternative candidate. Not least, tactical voting would allow Dr Billings to exit gracefully and would spare further embarrassment for Labour. But who to choose? Assuming that most Labour supporters would want to keep out UKIP and the EDL the choice is between the conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates and few people supporting an opposition party would consider voting for a government party candidate in a local election.

The Liberal Democrat candidate is Councillor Joe Otten who currently serves on Sheffield City Council and is a member of the panel that holds the police commissioner to account. Joe’s number one priority is to restore public trust in South Yorkshire Police by holding the force to account for Hillsborough, Orgreave and the Rotherham child exploitation scandal. As Joe puts it,

Above all my fight is not against the other candidates or parties – my fight is to restore trust in our police force and make our area safer for all of us.

No one can doubt Joe’s suitability for the post.

One final thought, if anything worthwhile were to come out of ‘Billingsgate’ it would be a public realisation that the role of PCC is a vitally important job that requires a tough-minded and exceptional individual who is aware that they are accountable to the people and only the people. Dr Billings is a decent man, but he is clearly unsuited to the mounting challenges of South Yorkshire PCC which is arguably the toughest political policing job outside of the Home Office.

* Phil Aisthorpe has been a Lib Dem member since September 2015 having previously been a life-long Labour supporter. In a previous life, Phil worked as an IT planning manager and business strategy manager with a leading UK financial services organisation.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Expected an article about planning for fish markets in London. Would have been more interesting.

  • What are you going to do about this, Joe ?

    Exclusive: The links between South Yorkshire Police Hillsborough and Orgreave ‘cover-ups’ five years apart

    Read more:

  • Awful.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th May '16 - 10:52pm

    I am confused by this.I sn’t there a presumption of innocence until found guilty, and were the police not entitled to legal representation? It is only after the inquest and jury’s findings that we can now know with certainty that lies were peddled.

    Was the 8 million bill run up during Dr Billing’s tenure as police commissioner?

    It does now seem possible that there has been something rotten about South Yorkshire Police as an organisation, maybe that remains the case, but the last time I was in Sheffield, a policewoman was the victim of attempted murder when she answered a call to an alleged domestic violence incident. She was in hospital with life threatening injuries so I think one should be circumspect in one’s criticism. Go after the suspected wrong-doers and praise those who do their best to serve the public.

  • ……………………The electorate will decide the good doctor’s immediate fate, but if a historic turnout for South Yorkshire PCC elections of under 15% is maintained a Billings victory is unlikely to convince the general public that he has a legitimate mandate…………..

    However, if the same turnout elects Joe…???????????

  • Chris Burden 5th May '16 - 2:08pm

    “On the very day of the Hillsborough verdict he was occupied launching his re-election campaign by declaring war on litter.” Hate to say this, but he sounds as if he could be a LibDem. 😉

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