The On-Duty Off-Duty conundrum and Gagging

B_p2AanWEAAUXHHThese two Politicians make significant decisions on  behalf of all 1.5M residents in Sussex when it comes to matters of Crime Reduction and Policing. They spend large sums of public money to achieve this end and that gives them great power and influence. However it seems as though both of them along with Conservative Party colleagues struggle to understand the distinction between their official role as elected public officials and their chosen political interests as lifelong Conservative Politicians. This photograph was publicised for twitter with the explanation “Inside Sx’s new place of safety with Home Sec. Innovative project delivered by 3rd sector @rfmentalhealth & partners” It is disturbing that a decision recently taken by Theresa May (on the Left) in Parliament means that charities are prevented from being associated with political campaigns in the year before a General Election. This may explain why there is no representative of the Richmond Fellowship in the photograph, even though according to the text they were the ones who with partners actually developed this exciting project. On the other hand perhaps the reason why no one from the Richmond Fellowship is present in the photograph is because Katy Bourne (Right) and Theresa May wanted a photograph which focused soley on the two of them. It is assumed however that the visit to this project was not taken under Mrs Mays own personal resources as according to this news report in the Eastbourne Herald “The Conservative government minister, who was born in Eastbourne, stopped off at Giorgio’s Coffee House in Cornfield Road before being driven back to the House of Commons.”

The problem is that unlike the Police Officers and staff whose work is ultimately scrutinised by these two Politicians, they do not wear uniform when acting as Home Secretary and Police and Crime Commissioner respectively. Yet both of them believe that they can behave in a manner which switches from their professional work to that of Party advocate apparently almost without drawing breath. In the case of Mrs Bourne, she and her fellow PCCs signed an oath of impartiality which Theresa May drafted and authorised. According to the Government website ‘Although police and crime commissioners may stand for a political party, the public will expect them to represent all the people in their area impartially, without fear or favour.’ Over the weekend Katy was in Crawley supporting a local MP who hopes to be re-elected. Henry Smith tweeted a photo of Katy and himself and two other people, all holding placards. The only person who got a name check was Katy who as PCC has distributed public funds in Crawley to voluntary groups. When I sent her a message pointing out the potential conflict of interest she replied “Ian, I am not on official business here & have campaigned proudly as a Conservative since I was a teenager” Its easy to find out when Katy is on official business, as she publicises this on her website. However it does seem strange that knowing about the oath of impartiality that Henry mentioned Katy and not the other two people in his phot0. There is also a real risk that local people won’t know if Katy is on official business or working as a volunteer for her party of choice and for them to misunderstand the distinction.

The coffee that Theresa May enjoyed at Giorgios came after she had visited the shared offices of Eastbourne Police and the borough council and met with Chamber of Commerce boss Christina Ewbank. However she did not drink alone reminiscing about her youth, although she did not choose to share her coffee with the local coalition MP (Stephen Lloyd) who is a Lib Dem, but rather his Conservative contender Caroline Ansell who is a candidate in Mays General Election. It may have simply been that Stephen was hard at work in Westminster and clearly he lacked the ministreial car (with police escort) to get him to Westminster. However this is not the first time Caroline and Theresa have met and done so where the visit appears to blur the boundaries between official work as Home Secretary and Political work supporting Caroline Ansell. A previous occasion was the opening of the new Police facilities in Hammonds Drive when the two politicians along with Katy Bourne once again were photographed together and where there was no sign of Stephen Lloyd. Its almost as though the news papers are being invited in at the time which most benefits the political parties, even though the cost of the visits were being borne by you and I.

We are all aware of the need for our Politicians to distinguish when they are working for their constituents or the country and when they are working for themselves. Perhaps we also need them to distinguish when they are campaigning and when they are governing. In the meantime maybe there needs to be a bit more clarity in the minds of these powerful people.


About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
This entry was posted in Charities, Lobbying Bill, Parliament and Democracy, Police & Crime Commissioner, Policing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s