Monthly Archives: September 2012

Two important elections

On 15th November there will be an election for a Police and Crime Commissioner for each police force area. On the same date there will almost certainly be a by-election in Corby. Both of these contests will be closely watched by the media and could point the way towards the next general election, which will almost certainly be held in 2015.

I spent 7 years growing up in Northamptonshire. The town of Corby is a former steel making centre, where many of the residents are of Scottish descent, having moved here when the steelworks opened. The town in solidly Labour supporting in the urban Scottish manner. It is surrounded by some of the loveliest small towns and villages in England. They tend to vote Conservative. But the seat is a genuine marginal, and, given that we are in the middle of a Parliament, then if Labour cannot win it will be a disaster for Ed Miliband and his team. The Coalition has had to take a number of tough decisions and the public has not yet felt the benefit of them. The former MP abandoned her post having decided during her term to marry someone whose life was in New York. I became aware of Louise Bagshawe, as she then was, when I was a peripheral member of the Oxford Union and she was an officer. She has never quite been able to decide whether she would prefer to be a pillar of the Establishment or a rock chick and has learned that it is very difficult to be both at the same time. The Conservatives have selected Christine Emmett as our candidate. She was a finalist when we selected Dominic Raab as our Parliamentary candidate and has a good track record as a campaigner. She will give Labour a good run for their money.

The PCC election is a different ball game. Surrey is reliably Conservative supporting and therefore our candidate Julie Iles will probably start as favourite. I am all in favour of placing the police under the guidance of an individual who has been elected to represent the local community and who can ensure that the force’s priorities mirror those of the public. I am however disappointed that all the major political parties have decided to make these elections a party political contest. I am all in favour of national parties being represented in local authorites – that will come as no surprise – because local authorities are Westminster in microcosm and the public can elect individuals knowing generally what the principles are for which they stand. But a police commissioner has a clear and narrow remit: “the core functions of Police and Crime Commissioners will be to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force within their area, and to hold the Chief Constable to account for the delivery of the police and crime plan. Police and Crime Commissioners will be charged with holding the police fund (from which all policing of the area is financed) and raising the local policing precept from council tax.Police and Crime Commissioners will also be responsible for the appointment, suspension and dismissal of the Chief Constable.”

That is not a general political remit. And whilst I would of course argue that Conservatives are more likely than other parties to encourage policing which is responsive to local needs rather than furthering a wider social agenda, it does not follow that the Conservative candidate will always be the best placed to give leadership in such a narrow field. This not just another election.

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Summer

It’s been a while. The long summer holiday has been very busy. We had a by-election in Esher, which thankfully we won after a hard-fought campaign. Esher normally returns Conservative councillors but with fairly narrow majorities and therefore in a by-election it becomes marginal. Conservative supporters from all over Elmbridge turned out and in the end our excellent record as an administration and the professionalism of our campaign operation paid off.

Then there was the sport. Over the summer months I managed to fit in trips to Lord’s (for the South Africa test) and the Oval (for a 1-dayer), Goodwood, Wimbledon (for the Olympics), Olympic beach volleyball (a splendid sport that amply fulfils the Olympic ideal) and the Portsmouth Road in Cobham, to watch Bradley Wiggins whizz by on his way to gold. In between these days out there was laways the day job and hence no time for blogging. I have to admit I was in the cynics’ camp before the Olympics. Colleagues on the council were enthusing about the whole event and I simply couldn’t share their enthusiasm. In a time of austerity, I wondered, should we really be throwing huge sums at a 2-week jamboree? Did we really need lavish opening and closing ceremomines? Panem et circenses, I might have muttered.

I was wrong. Completely wrong, utterly wrong, and realised this as soon as Team GB picked up its first medal. Then I was hooked. I had the BBC Olympics page open on my computer all day every day. I watched Gabby Logan’s programme every evening (she’s far better than Gary Lineker). I bought my daughters souvenirs. David Cameron is right: this summer will be the 1966 of my generation, the year GB led the world. To cap it off Andy Murray won the Olympic tennis gold and the US Open. As I wrote in July, I’ve been waiting all my conscious life for a British man to win a men’s singles Grand Slam event, and last night that happened too. It has been a memorable few months.

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