14 Nov 2012

They want to run UK policing – but who are they?

Who controls policing in the UK will be decided at the ballot boxes on Thursday. But who are the people in the running to be police and crime commissioners?

When the government announced its plans for the new commissioners in the summer of 2010, concerns were immediately raised that Britain’s far-right parties, using “tough on crime” slogans, would target the elections.

However, the reality is that it is independent candidates, not far-right candidates, that will dominate the ballot papers on Thursday. Around 28 per cent of candidates are running without political affiliation – from former GP Dr Raj Chandran in Nottinghamshire to IT project manager Neil Eyre in Humberside.

Independent candidates are standing in 36 out of the 41 areas holding commissioner elections, a significantly higher proportion of independent candidates than run in general elections (see graphs, below).

Below left, political make-up of candidates in police and crime commissioner elections, and below right, political make up of all candidates from the largest parties in the 2010 general election.

The large number of independent candidates could, in part, be a backlash against a perceived “politicisation” of policing. Earlier this month Lord Stevens, chairman of the Independent Commission on the Future of Policing, told the Sunday Telegraph he was “very worried” about the merger of politics and policing.

“It concerns me that you’ve got one person covering a massive area, without the breadth of the old police authorities and their multiple members,” he said.

What role will police and crime commissioners play? Read more.

Indeed, such politicisation is the stated reason why the British National Party, one of the right-wing parties it was assumed would make a big play in the elections, is not putting forward any candidates.

A blog on the BNP website last month derided the elections as a “dangerous attack on Britain’s proud democratic tradition of policing free from political interference”. It also bemoaned an absolute ban on anyone with a criminal record standing for the role of commissioner.

Police and Crime Commissioner candidates careers

Most candidates for the roles, which will pay a salary of between £65,000 and £100,000, are former councillors (see graph, above). In total 89 are former councillors, representing around 43 per cent of candidates.

Current or former members of police authorities, which the commissioners will be replacing, make up 19 per cent of candidates, and former police officers make up 15.5 per cent of candidates.

Sixteen of the candidates are formerly of the military, and 16 are current or former magistrates. Current or former MPs, such as John Prescott, MEPs or Welsh Assembly members, make up 14 of the candidates.

As per usual in British elections, the majority of candidates are men – though at a high proportion than usual. For the commissioner elections 82 per cent of candidates are men compared with 79 per cent of candidates in the 2010 general election.

Read Michael Crick on the "extraordinary elections" for police and crime commissioners.