The police elections became mired in further controversy earlier this week, after the release of an Electoral Commission briefing. It became clear just how the government has been ignoring their independent advice and steamrollering the Commission on the arrangements for the police elections.
First the Electoral Commission made it clear they thought a £5,000 deposit would be a deterrent to independent candidates (the deposit for General Elections is only £500). The Conservatives ignored them.
Next they made it clear that the Conservatives proposal not to circulate leaflets from all candidates (as happens in general elections) but to rely on having statements available on the internet would further disadvantage candidates and the electorate. Again the Electoral Commission were ignored and candidate statements are not to be circulated as in the past .
Finally, on Monday the Commission released a briefing paper making clear its displeasure not just on these matters but also on the decision of the Home Office, led by a Conservative Home Secretary, that they will take a lead role in publicising the elections. This is unprecedented in UK political history. Government departments normally go into a period of purdah or silence in the run-up to elections and make no comment or do anything which could be construed as interfering in them.
In its briefing paper the Commission makes it clear it ‘does not agree with these decisions’. THE independent body established to oversee fair elections in the UK has made it’s displeasure known.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May has claimed she would welcome independent candidates coming forward. However these statements seem no more than hollow spin and gloss when one contrasts these statements with the reality of the acts carried out in her name, which both deprive independent candidates of free and fair elections and the electorate full and proper information on candidates. This is the same Home Secretary who has put her name to an 8 page document in support of conservative polices for the police, being circulated in the run up to the elections. Hardly a level playing field. Using the full might of the party organisation on the one hand but depriving independent candidates the right to the distribution of leaflets on the other.
The degree to which the Conservatives wish to politicise the police, and even worse control those who run it, can be highlighted by the treatment of John Pye who was originally to be the Conservative candidate for Cambridgeshire. John Pye was an independent and originally the Conservatives agreed to back him. When they realised when he said he would not join the party, he meant it, they promptly deselected him.
Meanwhile Labour, who opposed the principle of Police Commissioners, field candidates, stay quiet and saying nothing.
Both parties have created a ‘political class’ of full time politicians paid for by taxpayers. Each Commissioner can appoint a deputy so there are circa 90 full time jobs at stake for politicians.
This all shows a very worrying trend towards politicising the police.
This has all the hallmarks of gerrymandered elections; the sort of things we would express outrage at if it were the actions of some failed third world state, not the UK which likes to hold itself out as a model of democracy to the world.
Don’t let then get away with it.