The Government's police merger plans look in serious trouble this morning after the only two police forces that had opted for a voluntary merger - the Cumbria and Lancashire Constabularies - announced a change of mind. Home Secretary John Reid, who inherited this unpopular policy from his predecessor, may scrap the whole plan soon - another defeat for Labour's regionalisation mania.
The Lancashire and Cumbria decision is a big victory for the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for South Ribble, Lorraine Fullbrook (pictured above with David Davis). Whilst the sitting Labour MP for South Ribble was misleading his constituents Lorraine has consistently questioned claims by local police chiefs that the merger would have no significant impact on council tax and that start-up costs would be manageable. She has resisted these claims, exposed a shoddy consultation exercise that purported to show public sympathy for the merger and campaigned against the closure of the Lancashire Constabulary's Preston HQ. She has also raised concerns about the operational consequences of a merger. She feared "a damaging reduction in performance, a collapse in neighbourhood policing, and a significant loss of accountability".
Last night Lorraine was jubilant:
"This is a victory for commonsense. When I first challenged the Police Authority they said that I didn't know what I was talking about. Yet, I was the only person to consistently and persistently challenge all their bland and misleading promises that the proposed merger would cost nothing and would be good for the people I hope to represent in Parliament after the next election."
Lorraine is one of 22 candidates that were fast-tracked (all listed within this post) before the introduction of the A-list. Part of David Burrowes' recent analysis of candidate performance was that early selection yielded better results. Lorraine's sustained campaign against police mergers has brought her significant additional recognition in South Ribble and vindicates the general proposition that candidates - local or otherwise - need time to win community support.