Friday 16 November 2012

The Tory PCC election farce

The Tory plan to introduce United States style elected police commissioners was always going to be a disaster. The British public are a fairly apathetic bunch anyway and a huge proportion of those that do feel strongly about voting are vehemently opposed to the politicisation of the police. The turnout at the November 15th 2012 PCC elections was even lower than anyone expected, with a large percentage of voters only showing up to spoil their ballot papers with phrases like "no elected police" or "keep party politics out of the police".

Weeks before the actual election the excuses for low turnout were being practiced by the mainstream media and the political classes, mainly reliant upon the theories that elections in November have slightly lower turnouts than those in May and that stand-alone ballots always have lower turnouts than when multiple ballots are combined (e.g. local elections + European Parliament elections) . This leaves us with a couple of obvious questions. Why were these elections held in November, if political pollsters knew that higher turnouts can be achieved in May? And why were these elections run as an extremely expensive expensive single-ballot, rather than in conjunction with another ballot, lets say the next European elections or the next set of local elections?

The turnout was absolutely pathetic by any measure. The first elected police commissioner to be announced was Angus MacPherson in Wiltshire, where only 15.8% of the electorate bothered to vote. MacPherson collected 35,319 votes out of a constituency of 520,000 giving him an electoral mandate from just 6.79% of eligible voters in Wiltshire.

The indicators from the other 40 police areas are just as bad. On the day of the election Twitter was abuzz with descriptions of empty polling stations, astonishingly low turnouts and spoiled ballot papers and early turnout statistics point to sub 20% turnouts all across the country.
[More analysis to follow here when the full results are made public]

It is quite amazing to think that the Tory led government have spent £100 million on these elections, a sum sufficient to pay the salaries of 3,000 front line police for a full year. Given that these 41 elected police commissioners are going to be pulling in salaries of £80,000 - £100,000 each, that's an annual cost of £3.2 - £4.1 million in salaries, lets say £3.5 million, over the course of five years that's an additional £20.5 million. Over the course of a 5 year electoral cycle, these unwanted PCCs are going to cost around £120.5 million. Enough to pay the salaries of around 723 full time, front line police officers for the full five year period.

If the ballot had the option of voting for 723 front line police, instead of 41 politicians, I'm pretty sure that option would have won a massive landslide victory.

At a time when the Tory government are slashing the number of front line police all over the country (6,800 according to the Guardian) under the guise of "austerity", this ridiculous and expensive shambles is absolutely unforgivable. Instead of creating a tier of political interference in the police, the government could have used these vast sums to keep hundreds of police patrolling the streets. Given this spectacular waste of money at a time when police jobs are being lost all over the country, it is absolutely no surprise that the police have been protesting against this lunacy alongside the people they normally kettle and beat up on demonstrations.

Given the astonishingly low turnout, it is difficult to see how any of these commissioners will be able to claim a public mandate for what they do, especially given the words of the Tory MP Priti Patel in July 2012 when talking about the threat of strike action. She said:
"Any ballot in which fewer than half of those eligible to vote do so should be ruled invalid".
Well these police commissioner ballots resulted in fewer than a quarter of eligible voters casting their votes, can we expect to see these results "ruled invalid"? Of course we can't, because the Tory way is to impose one set of extremely stringent standards on the trade unions, the plebs, the proles, the oiks, etc. Yet maintain a much lower set of standards for themselves, their party donors and their establishment mates. Thus, in Tory minds the Trade Unions must motivate more than 50% of their members to vote in order to legitimise strike action, yet party political Police Commissioners get a mandate to interfere in the police no matter how low the turnout.

Take the Parliamentary expenses scandal as another example of this brazen double-standard. Had you or I embezzled tens, or hundreds of thousands of pounds from our employers, we'd expect to be sacked and then go to jail for it. Dozens and dozens of MPs embezzled vast sums from their employers (us, the taxpayer) with fraudulent expenses claims, yet they just apologised (my carefully calculated expenses fraud was "a mistake"), paid back a proportion of their ill gotten gains and even got to keep their jobs. There are several of them sitting in the most high profile positions in government and the commons (The speaker John Bercow was a house flipper, so was Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, in government itself there are Michael Gove, Ken Clarke, Nick Clegg, Caroline Spelman and several other expenses scammers). Incredibly dozens of MPs didn't learn a thing from the expenses scandal and continue to milk the taxpayer for tens of thousands of pounds by renting out their London homes, in order to claim rent on properties elsewhere in London on their expenses, often on properties they are renting from their fellow MPs! Yet another example of this obvious one rule for us and another for them double-standard is the pleb-gate row.

The odious expenses scamming of so many politicians, the fact that they can get away with brazenly lying to the public without censure, the fact that all three political parties are riddled with vested corporate interests and the fact that all three establishment parties have told glaring manifesto lies, have led to the situation where politicians are even more despised than other hated professions such as bankers, estate agents and the police.

I heard one Tory apologist describe this farcical shambles as "an attempt to democratise the police". An attempt to party-politicise the police, more like it. British "democracy" is an absolute farce, an unelected upper house, an unelected head of state, regional assemblies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but none for England, a totally unproportional and unrepresentative voting system that creates voter apathy in hundreds of constituencies,  three establishment parties that are almost identical in economic terms. The idea that allowing elements of this self-serving, money-grabbing, expenses-scamming, pseudo-democracy to leak into the police is a good thing, is simply delusional. From here on in, we can expect these party politicians (with the most pathetic mandates in electoral history) to begin using the police forces to score party political points and to benefit the corporate backers of their particular political parties, rather than to address criminal behaviour or to enforce the rule of law.

See also

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