Sunday, 11 November 2012

I was thinking of breaking the habit of a lifetime

I was about to do something I've never done before: I was not going to vote in an election. You know, the one for our first police and crime commissioners? The one that we've had all the publicity about? Or not!

There are number of reasons that lead me to think seriously about not casting my ballot.

1.  I am not convinced that it's a good thing. Despite what is being said, we will end up with police forces controlled by politicians. I can see all sorts of problems with this, all stemming from the fact that politicians are shallow populists who will always have an eye to the next election. The crimes that voters get most passionate about are not always the most damaging or dangerous. Domestic violence, sex trafficking and organised crime are not so visible as youths on street corners! Guess where the votes lie!

2.  I do not dispute that the British police need to be made more accountable (think Hillsborough, think Orgreave) But will a single elected commissioner hold a chief constable to account better than the existing Police Authorities? I don't think so. I believe that what is required is a change in culture, not a wholescale reorganisation.

3.  And what about the cost? This has been variously estimated to be around £100 million to set up and who knows what the running costs will be. At a time of financial austerity, this is almost criminal profligacy.

4.  And how effective can one commissioner be at representing the views of their electorate? They could have as many as a million people in an area of up to 21 parliamentary constituencies? It's an impossible task and can only lead to them being out of touch. Is this really an improvement on the status quo?

On top of all the above is the fact that, so far, I've been given zero information about the candidates. No leaflets have dropped through the letterbox, no election addresses and no invitations to public meetings. Yes, I have looked on-line and there is lots of information there. I've studied it but I still can't make up my mind. There is not one person who stands out as having a particularly attractive skill set. The easiest thing to do would be to say "I don't like what we are being asked to vote for and I can't make up my mind about who to vote for anyway".

I was on the brink of going in this direction when I thought "what if everybody did the same and the UKIP candidate got in by default?". Stranger things have happened and I'd be horrified if I'd done anything to contribute to this outcome.

So, what am I going to do? I'm going to vote political in a supposedly apolitical election. The tribal drums are calling me and the Labour candidate will get my vote - but I'll be holding my nose when I put my cross on the paper. This really is an uncomfortable position to be in and yet another black mark against Posh Dave for putting me through it.

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