Lord Blair of Boughton (the artiste previously known as Sir Ian Blair) has made a particularly silly suggestion. Interviewed on Sky News, he has suggested that people should boycott the elections on 15th November for Police and Crime Commissioners:
“I’ve never said this before but I actually hope people don’t vote because that is the only way we are going to stop this.”
Like most other people, Ian Blair thinks the proposed system of elected Police and Crime Commissioners is flawed. There are no proper checks and balances in the governance arrangements, many of the police force areas make little sense as electoral districts, there is a risk of politicising aspects of operational policing that should not be politicised, and the changes are a waste of money at a time when frontline police budgets are being cut as never before.
However, the legislation rightly or wrongly was passed last year with a its flaws intact (despite the best endeavours of some of us in the House of Lords). The elections ARE going to take place in just over three weeks time (holding the elections in November when it is likely to be cold, wet and dark was an incomprehensible sop to the Liberal Democrats). And yes, the turnout will probably be low – maybe very low – but a boycott is simply going to mean an even lower turnout and an even greater risk that maverick candidates will be elected.
Police accountability matters. This may be the wrong system, but on 15th November forty-one Police and Crime Commissioners will be elected in every part of England and Wales with the exception of London (where we have the “benefit” of an elected Mayor in charge of the Metropolitan Police and where the Corporation of London retains its own medieval system of oversight of the City Police).
A boycott will achieve nothing. I am confident that before too long this new system will have to be changed – probably drastically. In the meantime, because police oversight is so important in any democracy, everyone will have to make the best of the flawed arrangements. And that means ENCOURAGING people to vote on 15th November.
No doubt I will be told that I don’t understand the nuances of American politics, but I can’t help feeling that Tropical Storm Isaac’s disruption of the Republican Party Convention at Tampa in Florida is not the problem for Mitt Romney’s strategists that they are suggesting it is.
Conventional wisdom is it that a Presidential candidate – particularly one that is already securely nominated – gains a political boost from his Party’s Convention and the TV exposure that it brings. In this case, the Republican Party was hoping to relaunch/repackage their Presidential candidate and demonstrate to/bamboozle an excited American electorate that Mitt Romney was Presidential in timbre, had the vision thing, and was an-all-round nice decent guy (oh and that his Mormonism is OK really).
Now that some of the Convention has already had to be cancelled because of Tropical Storm Isaac this plan is in disarray.
However, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is also determined to use the Convention to write into the Party’s platform their particularly weird mix of ideology, including such gems as:
This, of course, would be on top of Mitt Romney’s own platform of massive tax cuts for the wealthiest and tax increases for other Americans (sounds familiar).
Maybe I am naive but wouldn’t TV exposure of all this stuff strengthen the Democrats?
So perhaps Tropical Storm Isaac is actually a boon to the Republican Party and will in fact boost the chances of the rest of the world having to come to terms with President Romney in a few months time.
The Government is pushing through changes to voter registration in this country. This will mean that each elector will have to fill in a separate registration form – a change from the current arrangements where only one form per household is required. This is allegedly designed to reduce electoral fraud.
Interestingly, these same arguments are used by Republicans to justify changes in voter ID rules in key states in the United States
And here is the Pennsylvania Republican House Leader boasting to his State Republican Party that the real purpose was to ensure that Romney wins Pennsylvania this November:
With research suggesting that the numbers on the electoral register will plummet under the proposed new arrangements in this country, can we expect a gung-ho David Cameron boasting to a future Conservative Party Conference that the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill (interestingly introduced in the House of Commons by Nick Clegg) will deliver a future Tory election victory?
As you know, I am never normally one for unsubstantiated gossip (stop giggling at the back!), but on this occasion I thought I should pass this on for what it is worth.
Over the weekend, the Conservative Party in Kent chose its candidate to be Police and Crime Commissioner for the county. The successful candidate is Councillor Craig MacKinlay, a former Deputy leader of UKIP who joined the Conservative Party in 2005.
A little bird tells me that Jan Berry’s candidacy had been promoted by no less a person than Nick Herbert MP, the Minister for Policing, who apparently took the view that Jan Berry would be the sort of high-profile candidate that his policy of electing Police Commissioners should be seen to have encouraged and would also be a slap in the face for the current leadership of the Police Federation for whom he has notoriously little time.
His choice, however, did not go down well with some of the local MPs and one in particular, Mark Reckless, is said to have campaigned ruthlessly and effectively against Jan Berry and for the ex-UKIP man.
All I can say is “interesting, if true”.
And good luck to Harriet Yeo, the Labour Party candidate.
Much as I enjoyed all the “tainted Prime Minister” stuff in Ed Miliband’s speech this morning to the Labour Party National Policy Forum, I was struck by the enthusiasm with which he spoke about local government and the contribution being made by Labour councillors:
“Labour Birmingham. Labour, in whom the people of Birmingham placed their trust in May. A Labour council changing the way we do politics with a manifesto built on 12 months of conversations with the people of this city. A Labour council improving our society with 5,000 new homes a year. And a Labour council changing our economy by paying at least £7.20 to every city council worker. A decent living wage.
And let us recognise the work of every Labour council making a difference in tough times. Liverpool’s new Mayor Joe Anderson and h is council that is building 2,500 homes. Manchester keeping open its Sure Start Centres. And Newham, standing up for tenants against unscrupulous landlords.
Labour councils whose examples will inspire our next manifesto. And let us applaud them for their work.”
Here at last is a recognition that Labour local government can be in the vanguard of delivering effective public services that meet the needs of their communities, that Labour local government is not something to be apologised for but is Labour’s future, and that the platform for winning future General Elections will be found at local level.
David Cameron’s flagship policy of having elected Police and Crime Commissioners is in danger of unravelling. Despite the Tory claims that the elections would deliver high profile “serious” figures to hold local police chiefs to account, this now looks as though this is not going to happen – at least as far as the Conservatives themselves are concerned.
The latest news is that Colonel Tim Collins has dropped out of the selection process to be the Conservative candidate to be the Kent PCC – apparently he was too busy to attend the selection meetings (which does raise the question as to whether he would ever have been able to fulfil the role even on the part-time basis on which he was offering himself).
And, if you look at the latest lists of runners and riders compiled by the Police Foundation, the Tory Party now has no significant high-profile candidates publicly in the running for selection.
By contrast, the Labour Party has already selected a number of impressive candidates and there are a number of well-known names in the frame for the remaining selections, particularly those which the Party is likely to win. (The LibDems, of course, have run away from the whole process and may not run candidates at all.)
So where does this leave the elections in November? The turnout will undoubtedly be low. The date chosen has only half the daylight hours of a more traditional May polling day and the weather may be unpleasant. The Government has vetoed a free postal distribution to candidates, so the elections will not be well-publicised. And with the rejection of the other Conservative flagship policy of elected Mayors in all but one of the major cities that held referenda there will only be the Bristol Mayoral election on the same day to boost the turnout.
We can now expect the Tories to downplay the whole process and I suspect there will be a number of those in the Parliamentary Conservative Party scratching their heads to remember why they wanted to make these changes in the first place.
I have written a short piece for the Labour Lords website.
You can read it here, but the text is as follows:
London elects its Mayor in one week’s time. The choice is a simple one. Do Londoners want someone who cares about (and will do something about) the issues that affect them, such as rocketing transport fares, falling police numbers and poor prospects for young people? Or do they want a Mayor who is more pre-occupied with costly vanity projects and using the Mayoralty as a platform to gain the Leadership of the Conservative Party?
The brilliant Labour election broadcast was attacked by the Tories for being “scripted” (since when was an election broadcast not scripted?) and (wrongly) of having used actors. The attacks were typical of a Conservative campaign that has sought to keep away from any proper policy debate or focus on what directly affects Londoners.
Indeed, what is interesting about the Tory campaign is what they do NOT talk about. Their candidate’s manifesto barely mentions the word “Conservative” – relegating it to the published and promoted by small print at the end of the page. But more significant is the failure to mention childcare or child poverty, the different faith communities that make up London, or LGBT Londoners. And black Londoners are only mentioned in the context of crime. The manifesto itself is light on policy and says little about what Boris Johnson would do in a second term in office.
By contrast, Ken Livingstone’s manifesto makes a series of striking pledges that match the concerns of Londoners. Ken has committed to cut fares – saving the average fare-payer £1,000 over four years; crack down on crime by reversing the Tory Mayor’s police cuts; and help reduce rents with non-profit lettings agency for London. The Labour Mayoral campaign promises to provide free home insulation for those in fuel poverty and campaign to force the utility companies to cut heating bills; establish a London-wide Educational Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 per week to help young people stay in education; and support childcare with grants and interest-free loans.
Ken Livingstone has also promised to freeze both the Mayor’s share of Council Tax and the congestion charge for four years and to invest in improving transport services, build new homes and cut pollution.
On 3rd May, Londoners will also be electing twenty-five members of the London Assembly whose role is to hold the Mayor to account and to speak up for the interests of Londoners. At present only eight of the seats on the Assembly are held by Labour (the Tories hold eleven with three LibDems, two Greens and one ex-BNP “other”). With the Assembly being a mix of fourteen constituency seats and eleven more “additional members” elected to achieve proportionality, there is a real prospect of the balance shifting significantly. Labour is hoping to gain Barnet and Camden where the incumbent Tory has made his name by making controversial statements and there are several other constituency seats being targeted.
With just one week to go and the public increasingly focusing on what sort of policies they want from London’s government, there is all to play for.
Youth knife crime has gone up in London by 23% in the last four years – with more than five and a half thousand young victims in the last year and at the same time police numbers are being cut. Of course, four years ago a promise to get to grips with knife and serious youth crime was central to the election manifesto of Mayoral candidate, Boris Johnson. The record of his four years as Mayor, however, demonstrate the shallowness of that promise and his strategy over that period has been described as “directionless” and “a shambles” by one of the experts brought in to advise on it.
It is not surprising therefore that Richard Taylor, the father of Damilola stabbed to death in Peckham twelve years ago should be so disappointed, saying earlier today:
“Knife crime is still a huge issue for London. The problem is not going. It is still there. Something must be done. … As someone who has been through it this makes me so disappointed. More and more families are suffering as a result of the negligence of the authorities. There has been a failure to address the problem properly.”
He was hopeful that the plans announced by Ken Livingstone would help with the problem, saying:
“Ken has been able to see the weaknesses of the present Mayor so he should be able to capitalise and do something about this. … It has to be dealt with once and for all. It has to be handled with an iron fist.”
Ken Livingstone’s proposals include a plan for every one of London’s 432 state funded secondary schools to be assigned a dedicated police officer committed to tackling knife crime by providing better intelligence, increasing detection levels and building better relationships between young people and the police.
Ken Livingstone has also announced plans to back London Citizens’ ‘City Safe Havens’ scheme, which builds the power of local communities to tackle crime and the fear of crime. The scheme works with willing local businesses and other organisations that are open to the public to make them ‘safe havens’ offering their premises as a place of safety for people who are in immediate danger.
Labour’s candidate for Mayor has promised to work to ensure that all organisations that support City Safe Havens scheme will be given a service agreement from the Metropolitan Police that would include:
• A named officer assigned to the premises
• Regular visits from their Safer Neighbourhood Teams
• A panic button alarm service for emergencies
And his campaign have issued a fact sheet about Tory Mayor’s lies on knife crime.
My webmaster, the excellent Jon Worth has posted on the row that has developed about Boris Johnson usurping the Mayor of London Twitter account for his political campaign.
And as usual he talks a lot of good sense:
“The issue here essentially boils down to your answer to one question: is there any longer any point in insisting on the separation of party political and governmental (i.e. supposedly impartial) communications?
If your answer is that there is still a need for a separation, then Boris is clearly in breach of the rules. The Twitter account in question was established after the 2008 elections, staff time from officials at the GLA was used to maintain it, and – prior to the username change – the account was prominently displayed on the GLA website, a site maintained by the administration that is supposedly above party politics.”
He even offers a solution:
“It would actually not be hard to separate the party political and administrative comms for someone in Boris’s position. A party political, personal Twitter account could be maintained by the politician and his political staff (even if these are taxpayer funded – i.e. SpAds and equivalents – and you could even make the case for there being more of them), and linked to the politician’s political website. A further administrative account (@LondonGov or something like that in this case) could then be used for the governmental comms. If the political account chooses to RT something from the governmental account, so be it, but the administrative account would not RT the political account. When the politician leaves office, his/her followers stay with him/her, while the governmental followers transfer to the next administration. Everyone would know where they stand. Too much to ask?
As for the Boris Johnson case: the account should be returned to the GLA and should not be used by anyone during the election campaign as resources from the impartial administration have clearly been used in its creation, production of content, and increasing its reach, and the two account solution put in place thereafter (of course applying to @ken4london and not Boris!)”
The episode, of course, has displayed an arrogance and a belief that rules are for other people – which it could be argued has been something that the present Mayor has displayed though out his life. Of course, it may not be a personality trait that uniquely applies to Boris Johnson, it may be the case for other Old Etonian Tories ….
It is well known that there has been a major drop in crime in New York. What is more that drop in crime was twice the rate of fall in crime across the United States and has been sustained over a twenty year period.
So what was the secret of success? And could it be translated to the UK and to London in particular?
Professor Franklin Zimring of the School of Law at Berkeley has applied scientific analysis to the figures and has come up with a number of interesting conclusions. The improvement was not so-called “zero tolerance” policing, focussing on stopping the spread of crime into new areas. Instead, the results were delivered by “hot spot” policing – robust, sustained policing of those areas with the highest rate of crime (especially violent crime).
The aim should be harm-minimisation as far as things like drug use are concerned (disrupting public drug markets where associated violent crime tends to happen, for example, rather than trying to eliminate drug use itself).
Crucially, he also finds that police numbers matter – provided those numbers are directed to the areas with the highest crime and, when there, officers police “robustly”.
He is also not convinced that simply locking criminals up cuts crime. As he puts it:
“We used to think that all we could do with high-rate offenders is lock ‘em up or they’re going to offend on the street. But NYC has 28 % fewer people locked up in 2011 than in 1990. And it has 80 % less crime. The [individual] criminals didn’t go anywhere. They’re just doing less crime. So the bedrock of prediction on which incapacitate imprisonment was built, has turned out to be demonstrably false. And the proof of that is in New York City.
The data shows that the criminal activity of people coming back to NYC from the prisons dropped as the crime decline proceeded. In 1990 the odds that a prison released from prison coming to NYC would get reconvicted of a felony over the next three years was 28 %. But over the next 17 years, the odds of being reconvicted of a felony dropped to 10 percent.
The street situation changed and so had the things that their friends were doing. People were now smoking marijuana and drinking wine. Cocaine use was down. Street robbery has gone down 84 %. Burglaries 86 %. And that meant that the people that the released offender used to hang out with as a persistent offender from a high-risk neighborhood, are no longer doing those things. So he’s not doing crimes with them.”
This obviously has implications for the current debates on prison numbers and suggests that Kenneth Clarke’s approach is potentially right, if – and it is a big if – the rest of Zimring’s conclusions are taken on board.
So what else does his work mean for policy here?
It certainly implies that police numbers are important and that the last Labour Government (and the last Mayor in London) were right to boost the number of police. The cuts envisaged by the present Government and those that are being carried out quietly in London by the present Mayor are therefore almost certainly unhelpful. (The lack of certainty derives from the fact that it does, of course, depend on what the police officers remaining are actually doing and whether their activity is in fact robustly tackling crime hot spots.)
It also suggests that policies favouring policing the suburbs at the expense of the areas with higher crime that tend to be in the inner cities are misconceived.
I suspect that the robust and sustained “disruptive” policing of crime hot spots is consistent with the approach that Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe would wish to follow. It will be interesting to see whether this is encouraged by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC – pronounced “Mopsy”) or whether the MOPC will be nervous about the political implications in the run up to the Mayoral elections in May.