17 Jan 2012

Police commissioners: The runners and riders

Over the last few months I’ve regularly tweeted and blogged about people who might be interested in standing in the elections for Police and Crime Commissioner next November.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are hoping to contest all 41 posts, though with little enthusiasm. Very few people in either party have expressed much interest, and local parties are worried about how they are going to pay for campaigns which will cover huge new electoral areas, and for jobs about which the general public know very little. Most MPs, frankly, including a lot of Tories, think the policy of elected PCCs is plain bonkers. But they recognise that the elections are there to be contested.

Conservative associations are especially concerned about the coming election because the party high command has told them to pick their candidates through primary elections in which all local voters would be entitled to take part (be they Tory supporters or not). Holding big public meetings, and more important, publicising them, will be expensive.

The Tories have also assigned an MP to each area to trawl for possible contenders for their party nomination. These head-hunters include Patrick Mercer (Nottinghamshire) Robert Syms (Dorset), David Ruffley (Suffolk), Stephen Barclay (Cambridgeshire), Kris Hopkins (West Yorkshire) and Bernard Jenkin (Essex). There is still a lot of confusion in the Tory ranks as to how candidates will be chosen, and who is going to pay for the campaigns. And many local parties would like the elections to be postponed again – to May 2013 – to coincide with other local elections.

Ironically, given that Labour opposed elected PCCs, the party seems to be rather more advanced in selecting candidates. Labour people have to nominate themselves by 17 February, only a month away. After CRB checks, area Labour officials will whittle the contenders down to a short-list, and party members will then vote on a one-member-one-vote basis by postal ballot in May, alongside the annual elections for the party’s National Executive Committee.
Rather more people seem to have come forward so far on the Labour side, including a handful of ministers from the Blair-Brown governments, and several former policemen. The Liberal Democrats are leaving it up to local parties to decide whether or not they field candidates.

This is what I’ve managed to glean so far, area by area.

The area’s two independent elected mayors could both be contenders. Stuart Drummond, mayor of Hartlepool, tells me he hasn’t even thought about it yet. A spokesman for Ray Mallon, the mayor of Middlesbrough (and a former police inspector) says it’s 50-50 whether he’ll stand. Under the rules either man could carry on being mayor as well as serve as elected police commissioner.

The Conservative leader of Derby City Council, Phil Hickson, says he may stand. This may be slightly embarrassing, as he once described the creation of the PCC post as “absurd”. Early last year he said policing and politics should not be mixed. “I’m thinking about it,” he told the Derby Evening Telegraph last month, “but I need to think hard about and won’t make any decision until the New Year.”

Cornwall councillor Lance Kennedy, a former policeman, has declared for the Conservative nomination.

The Conservative leader of Plymouth City Council, Vivian Pengelly, has also been mooted. When I approached her office and asked if she was thinking of running, her assistant told me she “does not have a response to your question at this time”. That rather suggests Pengelly is at least thinking about it.

The former Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland Ron Hogg (and before that Assistant Chief Constable of Durham itself) is interested in running for Labour. Another name mentioned here is the current Labour chairman of the Durham police authority Peter Thompson.

Nick Bourne, the former leader of the Welsh Conservatives who lost his Welsh Assembly seat last year, tells me he’s “thinking” of standing in Dyfed-Powys. “I haven’t ruled it in or out. It’s a possibility.” This would be the Tories’ most promising area in Wales.

Tim Brain, the former Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, has been mentioned as a possible independent candidate there. Brain, who retired in 2010 and is now a university academic in Gloucester, says he has not completely ruled the idea out.

This is one of the largest police authorities outside London, so the PCC will be right at the top of the £65,000 to £100,000 pay range. The area is almost certain to elect a Labour candidate, but I am told the party is having a “real struggle” finding someone.

The Labour councillor, and former Lord Mayor of Manchester, Afzal Khan, is reported to be considering the job, but has mixed feelings. Khan was previously mooted as a contender for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election after Phil Woolas was disqualified as the MP in 2010. But Khan is also said to be considering going for another parliamentary by-election which is expected to arise in a good Labour seat in northern England shortly. Khan has yet to return my calls.

The other possibility is the Labour chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Authority, Paul Murphy, a Manchester councillor for the last 20 years. “I have no comment to make,” was his response when I asked him. “I’m concentrating on the job in hand.” Sounds to me like he will run.

Last August, however, the Manchester Evening News quoted Murphy as saying at a public meeting: “A police commissioner for Greater Manchester would have to do the work of 19 people, who I can tell you work very hard anyway. It would be preposterous. It also leaves an incredibly important role open to political policing and I’m sure the public would agree policing is far too important to become embroiled in politics. You can’t have someone who is in charge of the police making decisions with an eye on where his next votes are going to come from.”

On the Conservative side, a likely contender is Sean Woodward, the leader of Fareham Council, who has been the lead Tory on the Hampshire Police Authority for the last seven years, a Fareham councillor for 26 years, and a county councillor for seven years. “I don’t know yet,” he told me. “I’ve been approached by quite a number of people.” Hampshire will probably be won by whoever stands for the Conservatives, so as things stand Woodward is probably the favourite.

Jacqui Rayment, the chair of the Hampshire Police Authority (and its only Labour member) also tells me she hasn’t ruled out the idea of running for PCC. “I haven’t decided yet,” she says.

For Labour, a former Chief Superintendent of Humberside Police, Keith Hunter, told the Hull Daily Mail on Monday that he’s “champing at the bit to get into the election process”. The paper reported that he’ll face competition from Colin Inglis, the current Lord Mayor of Hull, and former chairman of the Humberside Authority. He claims to have “one last big job” in him. The former Labour MP for Brigg and Goole, Ian Cawsey, who was chairman of the Humberside Police Authority from 1993-97, tells me he’s “likely” to stand.

The retired officer from Iraq, Col Tim Collins was paraded at the Conservative conference as a possible candidate in Kent. But since then he’s kept a strangely low profile.

Simon Woodbridge, former leader of Broadland Council, is going for the Conservative nomination. Stephen Bett, the current chairman of the Norfolk Police Authority, has confirmed that he too is interested in being the Tory candidate. Steve Morphew, who was leader of Norwich City Council 2006-2011, is going for the Labour nomination.

The Labour leader of Gateshead Council, Mick Henry, has been reported as interested. “He’s not made a decision yet,” his spokesman says.

Elfyn Llwyd, the parliamentary leader of Plaid Cymru, tells me he’s “still giving it consideration at this stage”. But if Llwyd was to become PCC it would mean Plaid would have to find the money for the resulting by-election in his Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency. My hunch is he’ll decide not to stand.

Tal Michael, the son of Alun Michael, has announced he’s standing down as Chief Executive of the North Wales Police Authority to try for Labour, which might set up a possible Michael family double act in North and South Wales. Another possible Labour contender is Margaret Hanson, wife of Labour’s Shadow Police Minister David Hanson.

The former Labour minister, and former PPS to Jack Straw, Paddy Tipping, who stood down as an MP in 2010, has declared his candidature.

Nottingham Labour councillor and former Lord Mayor Penny Griggs is also running.

County councillor Bruce Laughton is interested for the Conservatives. He says he’s filled the forms in, but hasn’t discussed it with his family, and that a big problem is cost. The Tories are asking candidates to raise their own funds, and he isn’t sure if he can raise the necessary £5,000 for the deposit or the estimated £80,000 needed to run a county-wide campaign. Laughton stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in Sherwood in 2005 and Gedling in 2010. The Newark MP Patrick Mercer is the Nottinghamshire Tory head-hunter.

For Labour the former Wales First Secretary (before the job was called First Minister) and Home Office minister Alun Michael confirmed earlier this month that he is running. If he won it would mean a by-election in his seat of Cardiff South and Penarth. That would cost the party at least £100,000, and one of Michael’s parliamentary colleagues therefore expressed the hope he wouldn’t therefore be chosen.

Another Labour possible in South Wales is Rhondda councillor Paul Cannon, a former police inspector who was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal. “I was 30 years a police officer,” he tells me. “It’s in my blood, and my father was before me. But now, after eight years in politics, I’ve been able to see it from both sides.”

The prominent media commentator, Paul Richards, a former adviser to Hazel Blears, has told me he is going for the Labour nomination. It is not an area Labour is likely to win. Peter Jones, the Conservative leader of East Sussex, and a member of the police authority, has confirmed to me that he’s putting his name forward.

The former minister James Plaskitt, who was Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington, is reported to be a contender.

The former MEP Simon Murphy confirms that he is interested in being the candidate for Labour.

Two definite candidates have come forward: Mike Olley, a former Birmingham Labour councillor (1991-2005) who is chief executive of the Broad Street Business Improvement District.

Also trying for Labour, Wolverhampton councillor Bob Jones, who has a Facebook page ‘Bob Jones for PCC’. Jones is a former chair of the West Midlands Police Authority (1995-2000) (and now chairman of the finance committee). He was also chairman of the National Association of Police Authorities from 2005-09. More interesting, he serves too as Campaigns Officer for CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. So what are his views on drink-driving? “I think drink is wonderful in a social context,” Jones tells me, “but I would strongly advise against drinking before you operate machinery.” Jones officially launches his campaign on Friday.

Another possible contender for Labour is Birmingham councillor Yvonne Mosquito, who was previously vice-chair of the West Midlands Police Authority.

Definitely bidding for the Conservative nomination is Solihull councillor Joe Tildesley. He’s a former police inspector who spent 33 in the in the West Midlands force. He is also former Deputy General Secretary of the National Association of Retired Police Officers. He stood for Birmingham Selly Oak in 2005.

Birmingham City councillor and barrister Ayoub Khan hopes to become the West Midlands Liberal Democrats‘ candidate. “I’m definitely putting my hat into the ring,” he says.

The Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross has been mentioned in the press as a possible candidate, but he says that’s rubbish. “I would stand if there was one in London, where I live. But there isn’t so I can’t.” there will be no PCC election in London, as the role is carried out by the Mayor of London.

I’d love to hear of anyone else who plans to throw their hat – or helmet – into the ring.

Follow Michael Crick on Twitter: @michaellcrick