The decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute Katy Bourne over a dishonest tweet is undoubtedly the right one. No one would benefit from her being taken to court for telling everyone she had not claimed any expenses when in fact she did once use the PCC office to pay, albeit temporarily for a train ticket. However what is much more disturbing is the extent to which Politicians like Katy Bourne get away with making unrealistic promises during election campaigns and then fail to be held to account afterwards. The idea that the next election is their point of accountability is plainly unsatisfactory. Two of Katy’s promises which she has broken and never acknowledged or been held accountable for are still fresh in my mind. She promised to provide a special constable for every village in Sussex. Clearly unachievable, primarily because special constables are volunteers and no one can persuade people to volunteer against their wishes, and also a waste of resources because individual villages do not need a dedicated special any more than we need one in each neighbourhood in our towns. What we need is targeted and strategically planned resources that are properly funded. Even volunteers cost money for their uniforms and training. This brings me onto Katy’s second broken promise, that she would not increase the Police precept. She was the only candidate in 2012 that made such a promise and she broke it during her first term as PCC. Once again she was never held to account for this.
Now we are in General Election mode, another Conservative candidate has made some unrealistic promises. One has suggested they will work with other Conservative MPs to address congestion on the A27 in Sussex. This is clearly unachievable as MPs do not have the power to commission road building and in any case cannot stop congestion from developing where drivers choose to drive their cars! Similar promises like ending rough sleeping are equally unachievable, although promising to argue for more affordable housing is a bit more realistic.
I am glad Katy was not prosecuted, as much because it would have been a waste of public money as anything else, but it would be fantastic if we could find a meaningful way of preventing naive and false promises being made during elections. This is what began to emerge towards the end of the referendum campaign with various websites offering a truth test for the various lies made on both sides. What we now need is something similar for our General and Council Elections.