Simon Weston ‘inspired’ to run for police post by Tim Collins
The Falklands War veteran Simon Weston has brought some cheer to the government over plans to introduce elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs).
Mr Weston has announced that he plans to run as an independent for PCC in South Wales, where he was bought up and still lives.
The police minister Nick Herbert has told me he welcomes the announcement.
David Cameron, the Home Secretary Theresa May, and Nick Herbert, have long hoped that next November’s elections for the 41 new PCCs will not be entirely party political, and that a significant number of big name independents would also throw their hats into the ring.
This blog has been tracking the emergence of possible candidates over the last few weeks, and so far nearly all of them have been linked with the three main parties.
Many of them are former ministers, or local councillors who serve on their areas’ existing police authorities.
Ministers expressed the hope that the PCC jobs would attract famous individuals with impressive track records, people who had excelled in fields outside politics – local celebrities and people of stature, rather than just party hacks.
But the only big name outsider to come forward until now was the former British army officer and Iraq War veteran Col Tim Collins, who told the Conservative conference last autumn that he planned to run for police commissioner in Kent. But even Col Collins wants to run as a Conservative rather than as an independent.
Simon Weston tells me that he was “inspired” to run by Tim Collins’s example.
“My first thought was that if an officer can do it, then so can anybody,” he jokes.
“Seriously, Tim’s eve-of-battle speech in Iraq has lived with me ever since.”
Weston hopes that further independent candidates will come forward in other police areas. “For me, there are a lot of good people who could do the job. I don’t think the jobs need politicising.”
Although Weston addressed the Conservative conference in 2002, and in 2008 joined the party’s commission on the military covenant, he says he will not be a Conservative party candidate. And in South Wales, it probably wouldn’t do his prospects any good if he was.
He says he has had no contact with the Conservatives over the PCC contest, or any other party. Weston became known as one of the most famous soldiers in the Falklands when his ship, Sir Galahad, was blown up in Bluff Cove. Out of his Welsh Guards platoon of thirty men, 22 were killed. He was left badly injured and disfigured with 46 per cent burns.
Since his time in the Falklands, Simon Weston has achieved fame as a broadcaster, speaker and writer (including novels, children’s books and three autobiographies). He has also been active in charity work and business.
Teenage brush with the law
Weston tells me his only brush with the law was as a 14-year old in South Wales, when he was arrested in a stolen car. He was fined £30 and put on probation for three months. That was 36 years ago, so it’s hardly likely to harm his prospects.
Weston’s main opponent in South Wales is likely to be the former Welsh Secretary Alun Michael, who hopes to secure the Labour nomination. On past figures the area would be expected to vote Labour, but Weston’s fame and popularity may make him a formidable challenger.
It will be interesting to see whether the other parties in South Wales, such as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, now decide to stand aside and back Weston.
Weston says he would be delighted if any party chose to support him, but he is not actively seeking endorsements from political parties.