Today the electors of South Yorkshire will discover who their new Police and Crime Commissioner will be. They will discover which man will replace the disgraced Shaun Wright, the Labour PCC who refused for months to take any responsibility for a child abuse catastrophe that had taken place on his watch whilst he was the Councillor in charge of childrens services from 2005-2010. The four candidates are all men and each of them has been nominated by a political party, UKIP, Conservative, Labour and English Democrats. Of the 4 I know only one, by reputation and I am certain if Alan Billings is elected he will make a fine PCC. However this election, like the one before it earlier this year has failed to offer the local electors a real choice.
As a candidate for the first PCC elections, in Sussex I am very aware that the original intentions of the coalition, or at least their publicly stated intentions was to see invidiuals come forward who have not been previously involved in Political life, but who could contribute to the role of PCC. It was for this reason that the scrutiny body for the PCC, the Police and Crime Panel was constructed with only 2 Independent members out of around 17. This was in stark contrast to the preceding Police Authorities that comprised of 47% of Independent members. However as we know all the main Parties, including the Lib Dems and Greens who have stayed away from this by-election, did put up candidates for the very first election in at least one of the 43 areas. The original PCC elections were held with plenty of warning and as an Independent, I was able to mobilise my campaigning some 18 months before the election which helped contribute to the very positive outcome of 3rd place, a cats whisker behind 2nd place Labour and well ahead of both Lib Dems and UKIP.
However the voters of West Midlands and South Yorkshire have been denied the chance to vote for an Independent in these elections, because the rules determine that the election must be held 52 days after a vacancy is declared. The time it takes for Independent candidates to assemble a campaign and gain widespread support makes this sort of timetable unrealistic, particularly given the geography. Indeed if the turnout is as low as the 6% predicted, todays result will be a tragic outcome on several levels. Whatever the Party Politicians dream up to replace the PCCs let us hope they reflect on the significance of 30% PCCs being elected as Independent of any Party, on the engagement by Independent candidates across all of the PCC areas in the 2012 elections and the need all parties acknowledge to bring new blood into representational politics. Most of all let us hope they reflect on the number of votes cast in favour of Independent governance of our Police service, and lets keep Party Politics out of Policing.