A website set up by the government’s Home Department ( I thought it was an Office?) asks me to Choose my PCC ? What does this mean? Press Complaints Commission? Parochial Church Council ? Portable C Compiler…why didn’t they spell it out? Did they think they were paying by the letter like a telegram? Let me help. It is, of course, the Police and Crime Commissioner. A central part of the Coalition’s manifesto to make the police more accountable to the electorate.
Because I like being different, I turned up to vote at Mellor Sports club. The Polling Station staff were delighted to see me as they had finished all the Sodoku and Word Puzzles in the Times and needed something to keep them awake. They did not seem to get my joke about Boss Hogg but he may as well have been on the ballot paper for all the information I had to make an informed choice.
Far from being a groundbreaking step for the Big Society, the reality was somewhat different; apathetic Britain excelled itself with less than 15% turning out to vote, preferring to stay in and watch “I’m a Complete Knob” on Sky Plus. But for once, like the proverbial stopped clock, they were probably right.
The whole process was a disaster, the information available on candidates was pathetically absent , only available online and that was not easily found (Choose My PCC???). No leaflets through the door, no posters or hustings, limited press coverage. Most people had little idea of what it was all about.
But in fairness how many people knew anything about the quango Police Authorities that operated in this role before? Most people could not tell you who was a member, how they came to be there, had never been consulted and the cynical would regard it as an expenses-paying bunfight for the people sitting on it who nobody voted for anyway. Another opportunity to apply pressure for those groups who are politically active and yet another sinecure for the serial public servant. (Tony Lloyd resigned as Manchester’s Labour MP (£65K) and won this position in Greater Manchester at a £100K.)
This debacle surely calls into question whether being elected to these positions with less than 5% of the available represents a real mandate. Is there no such thing as a quorum?