15 May 2012

The business of electing Police Commissioners

The elections for the 41 new Police and Crime Commssioners in England and Wales take place exactly six months from today – on 15 November.

And commercial enterprises are starting to set themsleves up offering to help prospective candidates with their campaigns.

One is run by a former adviser to David Cameron in Downing Street; another by a former assistant chief constable.

Today’s sees the launch of a new website called Police and Crime Commissioner ‘Voice of the People’  offering its services to people interested in becoming PCCs.

The site, which is adorned by a police crest (of the type you see on police helmets), looks very official.  Indeed, one might easily think it had been set up by the police themselves.  And it looks pretty professional.

The fact, though, that it’s run by a company – One Team Policing Ltd. – and has a VAT number, both suggest that it is actually a commercial operation.  Their address is a PO Box number in Dorset.

I couldn’t find any names on the site, or clues as to who lies is behind it, but when I phoned a woman told me: “We work alongside the police.”  I ought to talk to the director Mike Glanville, she said, but he was in a meeting.  It turns out to be the Mike Glanville, who recently retired as assistant chief constable of the Dorset Police.

Among other things, One Team Policing offers to set up candidate websites.

You can get a “Standard Web Presence” for £359, or a “Premium Web Presence” for £1,799.  Among the advice they offer are tips on “strategic leadership”, “cost reduction” and “working with the media”.

A second enterprise called Crest Advisory is also hoping to make money advising candidates.

They are organising a seminar for prospective candidates in London on 26 June, where the police minister Nick Herbert is a speaker, along with James O’Shaughnessy, former head of policy in Downing Street, and another government adviser Lord Wasserman.

Crest was established last year by Gavin Lockhart-Mirams, who was a special adviser on home affairs to David Cameron in Downing Street for the first year of the Coalition government, though he was usually known then as plain Gavin Lockhart.

Before that, from 2009 to 2010, according to the Crest website, Lockhart-Mirams was “the Conservative Party’s in-house expert responsible for supporting the development of the criminal justice reform programme”.

And further back, from 2006-2009, he worked for Policy Exchange, the think tank which was largely responsible for the PCC policy, where he was head of the Crime and Justice Unit.

From Police Exchange to Conservative HQ, to Downing Street, and now private consultancy, all within four years.

The man who developed the policy on PCCs when the Tories were in opposition, then firmed it up for the Conservative Party manifesto, and saw it implemented in Downing Street, is now hoping to profit from it commercially.

But for those who suspect that Crest is merely an operation for for prospective Conservative PCCs, I see that the website implies that one of their clients is Vera Baird, the former solicitor general, who is hoping to become Labour’s PCC candidate in the Northumbria.

Baird is quoted on the site as saying she is: “increasingly impressed by @crestadvisory work on info/advice for would-be Police & Crime Commissioners & partner agencies”.  That’s something she once put in a tweet, Baird has told me.  She’s not a client of Crest’s, she insists, though she does say that the information they have put out has been “good quality”.

Lockhart-Mirams tells me that in fact: “We don’t have any PCC fee-paying clients – all the advice work is pro bono at this stage, and to date we have been asked to support candidates of all parties & independents.”  He says that 16 PCC candidates – Tory, Labour and Independent have so far signed up for their seminar.

The PCC elections will introduce a very different type of election to this country, involving huge constituencies; candidates who is many cases have no experience of running elections; and political parties who are pretty reluctant to invest much in terms of organisations and money.  All to elect people whose job and role are pretty badly understood.

Update: Gavin Lockhart has responded: “… as we state on our website: When the firm was founded we agreed to back ‘people power’ and reform against vested interests or outdated ways of operating. We do this by supporting PCC candidates, helping refine their campaigns and offering expert advice about the capabilities of the police force in their area.  And as we are not tied to existing organisations or any one political party, our advice is completely independent.

We do not imply that Vera Baird is a client as Michael says (“the website implies that one of their clients is Vera Baird”), though we are grateful for her tweet praising our work.’

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