By Timothy Barnes.
Across England and Wales last Saturday, small groups of volunteers were working to help candidates in the first election for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), which will take place on Thursday 15 November. I was in Cambridge for a couple of hours, helping Conservative former-MP Sir Graham Bright in his bid to become PCC for “Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”, so covering the City of Ely, where I was born and raised. Sir Graham’s campaign was supported by local councilors, party members, Cambridge University CA students and not just one, but three MEPs: Vicky Ford, Geoffrey Van Orden and David Campbell Bannerman.
Asking around amongst my friends on Monday morning, I was struck by how few people seem to be aware of the elections, and even less of the candidates, in their areas. Turnout everywhere is expected to be low, so much so that at this point 20% might be considered a good result (See Paul Goodman's article on ConHome for more on this). Regular listeners to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 would be aware of issues that have made it difficult for independent candidates to stand, such as relatively high deposits (£5,000 versus the £500 for a Parliamentary Election), but would probably be ignorant of what PCC’s will actually be able to do, or why anyone thinks we need them. Like so much of the media, Today has covered perceived problems with the principles of the PCC elections, rather than the issues that those elected might be expected to deal with.