It seemed to be the right time to reflect on why I hope 40 Labour PCCs will be elected.
I have been a Labour activist for nearly 40 years, stuffing leaflets through people's doors in the good and bad times. Some years, it has been hard to do this. I profoundly disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq (and still do), I could see how PFi would end up, I worried about a drift away from upholding human rights and so forth. I could go on!
Being a political activist is about resolving the mix between pragmatism and idealism.
In some ways I am envious of the Green Party supporter who snorted "a rather staggering amount of cognitive dissonance!" at me on Saturday. I wish I could be that pure. I almost admire the Socialist Workers Party / Communist Party of GB / People's Liberation Party of Judea for how they persuade people into stapling thousands of placards onto wooden sticks before every demo in London: so organised (and yet... so ineffectual).
But I always come home to Labour. Partly what keeps me coming home is the thought of all the people who are being exploited by the Libor fixers, the wholesale gas 'merchants', the pay day loan sharks, the glib disability 'assessors', the PPI telephone fraudsters and the people who just don't give one jot for the lot of people who live round the corner from them.
In the end, what keeps me voting & supporting Labour is the anger that we live in a society which means that millions of people don't even get to dream about a better future for themselves and their families, let alone a chance to make their ambition come true. Labour is the party of aspiration! Always has been and always will be. Because in Labour, we aim to create a world in which everyone has the resources to shape and realise their dreams and ambitions. That is what keeps us going.
But what has all this to do with policing?
Policing, like any public service, is about making choices. There will never be enough police officers / doctors / teachers / care assistants / road repairers / etc to go around. Choices have to be made as to where to deploy these scarce resources. This is a political choice. Along with the Countryside Alliance, my Tory PCC candidate wants the balance between rural and urban policing to remain as it is, even if it is the wrong balance. Why could it be wrong? It depends on where harm is greatest. If a disproportionate slice of police resources deployed in the countryside, more victims of crime will suffer in the towns. It is as simple as that.
So as a Labour activist, I want police resources distributed fairly. And I judge what is fair by the degree to which harm from crime is minimised. This is an issue that you won't have heard Tory PCC candidates or indeed Independents talk much about (although I am happy to learn otherwise). This is important and this is political.
As I have said before, I am not ideologically opposed to outsourcing (how can I be, given the job I do etc...) but (and it is a BIG BUT) I am opposed to outsourcing which exploits the citizen and taxpayer, as much of it does! Therefore this is a political issue.
The PCCs will have the power to set council tax precepts and this again is political. I would rather have a Labour PCC who focuses on value rather than someone else focusing only on cost when setting precepts in the future.
The LGIU have analysed the top pledges made by PCC candidates of various hues and at number five for Conservative candidates is "Engagement. A legal requirement of the job, but enough Conservatives are making a virtue out of this necessity to bring it in a number five". Excuse me while I fall of my chair. The Labour Party was born out of community activism. It is in our blood. What record does the Conservative Party have of being engaged with local communities, or supporting community activism? In local Tory councils, what get's cut first? Etc...
So I urge you to vote Labour on Thursday. Using the LGIU's analysis again, vote for
- Boosting neighbourhood policing.
- Protecting police numbers
- Resisting privatisation
- A real focus on victims and witnesses
- Partnership working that works
- A service that is tough on crimes that are often overlooked