#PCC Elections: a socially and financially expensive political damp squib?

North Yorkshire Police

Previously I’ve offered some views on the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections (see here). If you’ve read any of my stuff you’ll realise that I broadly fall into the same category as the majority of the electorate i.e. apathetic!

In addition to all that I’ve said previously on the matter; I’m also now a little concerned that both our local candidates could be using this election to further their own personal agenda?

By that I’m not referring to any financial advantage or self-promotional interests, although the former issue did rear its head in a recent BBC Radio York interview (see ‘analysis’ here) and even the latter one could also be an underlying factor in their respective interests in the post?

Despite our PCC candidates bucking the national gender trend it worries me that something that is so important to our society as a whole, is hijacked and (partly) being used as a promotional tool for feminism. Indeed Ruth Potter, the Labour Party backed candidate, openly admits to her feminist political roots (see here).

I believe that the political culture in this country is still based on male-dominated late 19th and early 20th Century models and needs to be changed to work for women…(Ruth Potter)

The Conservative backed candidate, Julia Mulligan, has also suggested that her ‘network’ of female PCC candidates “naturally gravitate together and bounce ideas off each other.” But isn’t that something anyone can do, irrespective of their sex, if they have sufficient knowledge about all the issues? Even better if they have the skills to deliver solutions to the problems being raised.

The network has proved there are some very, very capable women and it’s been very interesting to swap ideas and learn from each other’s perspectives…(Julia Mulligan)

Gender issues aside, it would seem that our official candidates in North Yorkshire have also been voicing their concerns over the lack of public interest.

Candidates to become North Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner have blamed the government for not informing the public about the election…(bbc.co.uk)

There are some that would say (me included) that’s a little rich! Both candidates are suggesting that the lack of public interest in PCC elections is down to the lack of Government promotion (and spending). That may be partly correct however; how have they promoted the process across the county? What efforts have they put into informing ‘their’ electorate? How much promotional work have they actually done, outside the self-promotion inside their own political parties that is? Not very much or very well by several accounts.

Irrespective of the fact I’m no real fan or advocate of the process, in my opinion; given the great importance of this election to our society and the policing it receives, shouldn’t both candidates have put more effort into the process? Especially when it’s (apparently) so very important to them as individuals.

In addition to any personal political aspirations, both candidates should also understand all the financial impacts of the role fully. They are competing to do something that could actually have a profound impact upon all of us, something that far too many politicians very quickly loose sight of after election.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a county sometimes known for its thriftiness, the debate between the candidates running to be North Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner truly caught fire when the subject of money arose…(Nick Morris BBC)

As Nick Morris pointed out in his analysis of the recent BBC Radio York phone-in, which both candidates took part in, public cash is a big factor in policing. It also appears to be a big driving force for the candidates, or at least their expected salary of £70,000.00 pa does. Indeed, when challenged by a caller on the show about doing the job for half the money, only one of them said they were prepared to do so.

This brings me to another important issue, money. It’s a topic that to my knowledge,  hasn’t really been spoken about to any great level. It’s also one that has resulted in wholly negative impact upon the pre-election process, and all that before they even start to manipulate policing budgets to further political popularity.

Electoral campaigning and public relations require a great deal of money to be effective. In addition, anyone carrying out the PCC role, irrespective of them (hopefully) possessing the required knowledge and skills, would also probably hold some high salary expectations. But without substantial personal financial capability, or the financial backing of a major political party, as with the two North Yorkshire candidates, who could actually afford to do the canvasing job properly?

It’s also a contributory factor to why; (a) there has been so little electioneering and (b) why there are so few truly independent candidates standing. The financial considerations have, more or less, ensured there would never be any mass interest from independent candidates wanting to stand for election. It was (almost) the sole reason why I laughed off the suggestion that I should stand for election, whether or not that idea was offered tongue in cheek?

But still most supporters of the process say “it has nothing to do with politics” and/or political party popularity, I still remain unconvinced…