consider myself a politically aware person. I’ve studied the subject in some form at both college and university, I spend a lot of time at work dealing with local politics, I’m oddly enthusiastic about local elections, I’ve been a member of a political party – hell, I’ve even stood for election as a local councillor (although the less said about that the better).
So my apathy at the upcoming PCC elections has taken me by surprise. Indeed, when I attended a hustings event at Leeds Civic Hall last Wednesday, I found myself confronted with four candidates none of whom genuinely excited me. You might think so what – why does this matter? But when you consider that later this month, either Mark Burns-Williamson (Labour), Geraldine Carter (Conservative), Cedric Christie (Independent) or Andrew Marchington (Liberal Democrat) will take control of all aspects of policing across the five West Yorkshire local authorities and an annual budget of £411.7m, it becomes apparent that this election matters. A lot.
My concern is that the PCC role will politicise the police and this was evidenced at Wednesday’s hustings. The main thrust of discussion was of ‘government imposed cuts’ and how this would affect the force. What the role requires is a long-term strategy to reduce crime, improve community trust and ensure that those who do commit crimes receive the necessary rehabilitation to ensure they don’t become repeat offenders – not party political point scoring and empty sounds bites (see below).
The candidates have done all they can to not commit to a single policy, blaming uncertain funding for a lack of clarity. Indeed, one candidate at Wednesday’s hustings said their number one priory was to cut crime but didn’t provide any detail about how they would go about achieving this. This empty rhetoric is worrying and it gives the impression that whoever wins on 15 November will be making it up as they go.
And so to my dilemma. I know I should vote as it’s my chance to have my say and any complaints in the future will be hollow if I forgo my democratic right. But I don’t really believe any of the candidates are the right person for the job. I could spoil my ballot but I find the idea both churlish and counterproductive. Ultimately, I will probably vote and it will probably be for the only candidate who made real commitments on rehabilitation at the hustings, as this is something I passionately believe in. But there is something you, the reader, can do to improve the situation and help alleviate my concerns and it is rather simple. Get in touch with the candidates and ask them what their policies are. Tweet them, write to the YP or YEP, email them, call their campaign office. Scrutinise their beliefs, background and priorities, challenge their views and, above all, make them answer your questions. One of the four candidates will shortly earn £100,000/year of tax payers’ money to run the police in West Yorkshire. Isn’t it right to make sure they’re the best person for the job?