According to today’s Independent,
“Celebrities, MPs and senior officers are being sounded out about becoming powerful police commissioners in moves to hand control of forces to directly elected officials”.
And who are these celebrities, MPs and senior officers?
Well, for a start, we’ve got Nick Ross famous for earning a not inconsiderable BBC salary to tell us not to have nightmares. We’ve got the ineffectual former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson as well as Jacqui Smith, another former Home Secretary who is almost as famous for her suspected role in the Damian Green arrest as she is for her questionable second home arrangement and her husband’s taxpayer-funded interest in pornography. Then there’s little cock-sparrow, Hazel Blears, who – despite her diminutive size – once appeared to have a need for an awful lot of accommodation – which, naturally, she thought we should pay for. And let’s not forget Anne Widdecombe… Actually, though I have a very low opinion of the political class generally and I do not subscribe to many of her views, I think Anne Widdecombe probably does have the integrity and strength of character to fulfil the role – unless it requires any facility for dance, of course.
In short, the majority of suggestions being made are for people who, by and large, have not been particularly good or effective at anything of much substance except raking in considerable sums of money out of all proportion to their talents or ability. And all of this comes at the end of a week when we have seen a great deal of right-on politicos weeping and wailing about a lack of social mobility in the UK. Somehow, when it comes to actions rather than words, we always manage to fill the better-remunerated posts and the positions of power by resorting to cronyism or trawling the establishment’s own failed gene pool.
“Ah”, I hear you say; “but these are only suggestions for people who could stand. They still need to be elected”.
And you’d be right. But the justification being given for making the suggestions at all is,
‘…that the policy has failed to attract the public’s attention. High-profile figures with experience of running large organisations are needed to ensure the elections are not a wash-out’
(Nick Ross, a high profile figure with experience of running a large organisation?!).
The election of police commissioners is over a year away, hardly a cause for panic now: the campaign for the Altenative Vote has not long got under way and the election for that is only a couple of weeks away. I suspect the real intention is to pre-load the selection process so that those of us who cannot, or will not, think about anything more taxing than tonight’s TV schedule will happily pick up and run with the establishment’s ‘safe’ choices. If our government is genuinely worried about our lack of interest, would it not have been more effective and more democratic to issue a press release offering the means and encouragement for us to make our nominations for the election?
There are two bigger questions arising from this issue. According to the article, the average pay and pension package for the elected commissioners will be about £122,000 per annum and yet, the Chief Constables will remain in place: does this additional cost make any sense at all given that we are supposed to be cutting 20% from the police budget to reduce our deficit?
Secondly, a number of the existing chairmen of police authorities are thought to be well placed to run. If they are well-placed, they are presumably doing an acceptable job already: why are we going to the expense of changing the system if the answer is simply to replace those that are not doing an acceptable job?