The Liberal Democrats have already advertised for potential candidates to stand as candidates for the new posts of Policing and Crime Commissioners that are to be elected in November 2012, even though conventional polling wisdom suggests that none of their candidates are likely to be successful in the forty-one contests that will take place – even using the Supplementary Vote* electoral system.
Apparently, there is a major debate going on in the Conservative Party as to whether to field Tory candidates at all with a strong preference from some quarters for the Conservative Party to “endorse” (and campaign for?) so-called “independent” candidates.
What is disturbing is that I hear that there are some senior Labour figures who have similar ideas.
I have raised this now at a couple of fringe meetings. At all the meetings I have been at there has been unanimous support for my strongly-held view that these will be extremely important elections for very powerful posts that the Party has a duty to contest. I am not against independent candidates emerging, but the danger is that such individuals will be unknown quantities whose effectiveness and fitness for office will never have been tested. Internal political party processes (although by no means perfect) do at least provide a mechanism for such testing.
Interestingly, when I raised it this morning with Vernon Coaker MP, the Shadow Policing Minister, he strongly endorsed my position and said he would argue for it, but then wryly commented that the Party decion-making process on such issues was sometimes rather strange – an implicit confirmation that someone somewhere is actively considering a non-contest option.
* Under the Supplementary Vote system electors cast two votes, one for their first choice candidate and one for their second choice candidate. In the first count all first choice votes are counted. If no candidate has an absolute majority, all but the top two candidates are eliminated and the second choice votes of those whose first choice candidates have been eliminated are then counted and where applicable added to the tally of the top two candidates. The candidate with the greater number of votes is then elected.