This pathetic PCC election should become a ghost that haunts the Tories


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5:58 pm - November 16th 2012

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by Karl Davis

The chaotic and rambling drumbeat of the Tory march has been laid bare for the questioning ears of the world once more, as the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP denied that the incoming Police & Crime Commissioners (PCC) would lack a democratic mandate, telling the BBC

“I never set a turnout threshold for any election, and I’m not going to do it now.”

This refreshingly pure belief in the democratic will of electoral participants flies in the face of the growing band of right wing chicken hawks within Ms May’s party, who have been urging the Prime Minister to demand that votes for industrial action with a turnout of less than 50% be deemed unlawful.

The PCCs are largely unwanted by taxpayers. I cannot see how the new system improves in any way upon the old one. Under the ‘Police Authority’ system, decisions are taken by democratically elected Councillors. They work in partnership with Chief Constables, and have the power to hire and fire.

This is no different to PCCs, save that a PCC earns around £70,000 per annum before pension, and in so far as has been made clear by the woeful publicity campaign by the Home Office, will be working with less operational oversight than the current committee system. The entire process has cost well in excess of £100m.

Compare this with the histrionic comments from Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, bemoaning the members of ASLEF and RMT, who voted democratically for industrial action over a wide range of issues, on a much higher turnout than in the PCC Election. Instead they had to endure having their jobs threatened, integrity questioned, and being abused by professional politicians who have never meaningfully worked in their lives.

Almost every time a union dare show the audacity to stand up to aggressive employers, they find themselves having to wade through a quagmire of judicial treacle, with high paid barristers trying to persuade Judges that the collective voice of workers must be silenced due to a miniscule technical error, grammatical oversight, or voter turnout.

Trade Unions must seize upon the latest display of ideological duplicity by this rudderless government.

We have to turn this PCC election into the ghost that haunts the Tories, and chases them into an embarrassed retreat down the oak panelled halls of their country estates, each and every time they dare to question the democratic rights of organised labour to take collective action.

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Reader comments


The first Police and Crime Commissioner result was from Wiltshire. Although the Conservative won it, the Labour candidate was eight points ahead of the Lib Dem.

I told you so. The West Country, Mid Wales and the Marches, the North of Scotland, the Borders: the old Liberal heartlands are now just there to be taken.

And I love County Durham: the Conservative Party’s schoolboy candidate has become fourth behind UKIP, and would have come fifth if there had been a Lib Dem.

Following the Eastbourne by-election in October 1990, the Conservatives removed a Leader who had won them three General Elections. Can it not now remove a Leader who has never even won it one?

I have updated my figure from a neighbouring thread.

£20.71.

The cost per vote for setting up PCC’s, and running the election.

No winning candidate has more than 9.22% of the electorate behind them. (Northumerland)

Surrey’s PCC had just 4.01% of the electorate behind him

worse – Hampshire’s PCC has the support of just 3.28% of his electorate. But at least he beat Michael Mates.

@OP, Karl Davis: “This refreshingly pure belief in the democratic will of electoral participants flies in the face of the growing band of right wing chicken hawks within Ms May’s party, who have been urging the Prime Minister to demand that votes for industrial action with a turnout of less than 50% be deemed unlawful.”

I tend to agree with you, Karl, but there is a wider argument about “participation” and “choice”. You may even be reinforcing a false comparison.

I am a trade union member by choice. When I have known that I was prepared to participate in industrial action, I have voted in favour of it. When I have been unclear, whilst understanding the arguments, I abstained. I simply didn’t have an opinion about a decision even though it affected me and colleagues.

I am on the electoral register by choice but legally it is mandatory to register. The law is unenforced, and thankfully voting is not mandatory.

If I wish only to vote at parliamentary elections, I effectively have to be on the register for all elections. I could register immediately after an election is called, but it is convenient to register once a year and forget about it. In this scenario, my failure to vote at a local election would commonly be counted as an abstention, but I might consider myself to be a non-participant who just happened to be on the electoral register.


The dreadful side effect of these ill considered PCC elections is that 80%+ of the electorate felt that they were non-participants who just happened to be on the electoral register. 80%+ didn’t think that it mattered to them or would influence their lives. They didn’t knowingly abstain because they disliked the candidates or disliked democracy.

What happened on Thursday was corrosive to local democracy. Elections have to be *seen* to serve a purpose. Police Commissioners may have a useful role but we never had a sensible debate in parliament; the election “contests” were unobserved by most potential voters. I doubt whether many of the winners comprehend what they are expected to do, may do or can’t do.

Well yes, the disparity in electoral rigour is somewhat telling. Banana republicdom awaits.

My worry about this down the line is politicising of the police. The police have always been more pro tory as it is. The police Federation is as nuts as the young tories. This will make it 10 times worse. Which of course is why the tories have created it.

Welcome to the new world of police by tabloid. Any police chief who does not push The Sun, Daily Mail agenda will be out. Because the papers will support candidates that pledge to get rid of them.

Another great reactionary disaster thanks to the moron lib dems. It is quite amazing what damage these spineless, naive morons have unleashed. I wouldn’t let Clegg negotiate the sale of an old car, let alone go into politics. Still we all know now. Vote Lib Dem, get tory.

“…will be working with less operational oversight than the current committee system.”

My understanding from the brief I received as a humble councillor is that the PCC will be accountable to a board much like the old Police Authority. All we have now is political apparatchik as a figurehead.

I’m loving the low turnout for exactly the reasons given in th OP. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. If the whole thing proves to be a horrible mess of politicised policing will that lead to increased public involvement or will the whole fiasco be abandoned?

Where’s Nick “Nice but Thick” Herbert to comment on this? It was his idea.

8. Adam Clifford

What this phenomena illustrates is how the government works.It has a policy idea.With no evidence that it is needful or wanted.Does not engage and communicate[a two-way process] honestly with the electorate.Does not listen to the electorate.Maybe it does not listen to experts.Seeks no consensus.Implements it with no effective foundations.Uses valuable and badly needed finance.That is really what has happened[there are probably more common traits as to how this government is operating].
The creation and implementation of the Health and Social Care Bill/Act illustrate the above and other corrosive elements.
As a result,it’s actions can not be described as competent,making the best use of scarce resources,understanding the needs/lives of the electorate,even understanding the needs of the time.
In the absence of competence and empathy with the electorate in their actions,the government’s motives have to be questioned before the’halo’ of incompetence,probably preferable to ideology or some seedy vested interested gambit,is assumed.
The more this government does,in every department,the more it can be seen how it operates and subsequently how it cant and doesn’t act either competently or with electorate awareness.
It’s their road.Or.
There is no ‘or’.
That’s it.
This democracy allows no effective,consensus- based,constitutional challenge to government action.
The tories[or labour] can drive this country into the ground,to the wall,and nothing can be done about it.
The image I have in my mind about the government is of a very small person sitting astride a raging bronco bull.Their light weight having little or no effect on the bull,removing the possiblity of affecting the raging bull one way or the other.

@6. Sally: “Welcome to the new world of police by tabloid. Any police chief who does not push The Sun, Daily Mail agenda will be out.”

Surely that is all of them?

No Police Commissioner can direct police operations. A Police Commissioner may demand that “something is important” and observe when his/her wisdom is disregarded.

A Police Commissioner can demand that heads roll when their orders (re above) are disregarded. I reckon that they can demand and do no more.

Police Commissioners, and I wish them well, need a lot of help.

@8 Adam

– cracking post. Can we cut and paste this into all future discussion of Govt policy?

In addition to the policies you cite:

Badger Cull, Forest Sell off, Gove Levels, Free Schools, Gove Bible, NHS restructure, weekly bin collection, planning reform, All of Osborne’s tax changes, Library closures, Raiding QE income, Plan A, Aircraft carrier design u-turn, Aircraft carrier deisgn o-turn.

In short this is yet another Tory Policy that has turned out to be a Diabolical Mess !

Cannot wait until 2015.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ Karl

“This refreshingly pure belief in the democratic will of electoral participants flies in the face of the growing band of right wing chicken hawks within Ms May’s party, who have been urging the Prime Minister to demand that votes for industrial action with a turnout of less than 50% be deemed unlawful.”

Ha! Well played, dude.

@ Charlieman

“No Police Commissioner can direct police operations. A Police Commissioner may demand that “something is important” and observe when his/her wisdom is disregarded.”

Are you describing the reality on the ground, or what some soon-to-be-dusty document says? Frankly I read Sally’s post thinking “Woah, she’s got a point for once.”

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 David

Gove Bible?

14. Adam Clifford

@David Hodd
No probs!

Hi.

Thanks all for taking the time to comment on my piece. I agree with the vast majority of comments posted in the discussion. This is just another example of another painfully beige political apparatchik influencing the lives of those forced to struggle with increasing intensity out here in the real world…

I actually hope in a funny way that the PCCs will prove me wrong and actually improve policing, simply because they’re here now, and as I say in the article, this feckless government has spent over £100m on installing them.

Reality, and experience of being a cynical voter however, guidea me toward the forecast of it all turning i to a ‘millenium dome-esque’ white elephant..

Although, perhaps we can combine the two legacies by employing these PCCs as stewards at the O2, once Cameron et al finally catch up with the truths we have been telling them for so long…?

@ 13

Michael Gove sent a bible to every school in the country apparently paid for by donations rather than out of the public purse.

@ 8

Spot on. The worrying lack of the scientific method in policy making is part of the reason that there are so many failures in policy. Whether it is education policy or crime policy a small scale trial can give you an idea which policy works best.

Take burglary for example. One group of 100 convicted first time burglars go to prison, 100 get community service involving face-to-face questioning with victims. After 5 years check the reoffending rates between the two groups. Really easy and gives you an idea what works.

The problem is that these things take time and politicians have to make it look like they are doing something now. As a result they implement their policies because they think they might work.

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Chris

“Michael Gove sent a bible to every school in the country apparently paid for by donations rather than out of the public purse.”

Bleh. How cheesy.

18. Chaise Guevara

…Hang on, does that include Hindu schools and so on?

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 19

Hahahaha! He should have just had a big picture of his face on the front cover.

With “In Gove We Trust” printed below it.

@19. Cherub: “Vanity editions? http://politicalscrapbook.net/2012/05/michael-gove-bible/

Yes, that’s awful. Awesomely awful.

But I was appalled by one of the quotes on that site: “I work in an inner-city primary school and there’s no way that our children are going to be reading and understanding the kind of English this Bible is written in.”

That statement was delivered by a teacher who has forgotten what his/her job is expected to deliver. That version of the Bible is not written in plain English, but Shakespeare and Dickens are not easy reads either. 8 year olds should not be expected to read such difficult works but I like the idea that they are available on the library shelves.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 Charlieman

Well, yeah, but the point remains that it’s pretty weird to send a single posh Bible that most kids won’t be able to understand to a primary school, rather than say 15 cheap Good News Bibles. The latter would be enough to use in a classroom.

The thing is, it’s obviously not intended as an educational resource, because otherwise he’d have done something like the above. Or he’d have sent out Bibles along with other holy books for the purposes of RE (in most schools, the Bible is the holy book that kids are most likely to have access to anyway). This was some weird statement about the importance of Christianity or something.

23. Chaise Guevara

Also kids will probably be tripped up by the presence of random italics that exist only for academic purpose and lead one to emphasise the wrong words.

13. Chaise Guevara

Gove delivered a James VI bible to every school in the country, with his name amongst the title pages. Why you may ask. I don’t think he has done a review of how Children have benefitted. It is policy based on whim as Adam says.

The more I think of this, I think this makes him sound more like Nero than the generally better comparison with Mao Tse Tung.

- ha! teach me to reply before reading subsequent resonses!!

Gove is particularly good at policy whims. What about new schools won’t have curved walls?

27. Chaise Guevara

“What about new schools won’t have curved walls?”

Oh, for god’s sake. It just keeps going, doesn’t it? Did he succeed in his plan to replace history lessons with Jingoism 101?

This was some weird statement about the importance of Christianity or something.

Nope – if it had been a statement about the importance of Christianity then 15 Good News Bibles would have been sent out. This was (I think) a statement about the importance of the KJV to English culture and language.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/18/king-james-bible-language

the generally better comparison with Mao Tse Tung.

Yeah, because the thing about Mao that really stood out was his love of traditional culture.

Tim J @ 28

This was (I think) a statement about the importance of the KJV to English culture and language.

Seriously Tim, Is there nothing that the Tory Party can do that will have you curling up your toes in embarrassment? A single bible sent to every school in some kind gesture? What is all that about? The pupils get to peer at the book as the white gloved head teacher parades the bible from class to class? To what end, exactly? The equivalent of the school guinea pig? Why not send every school in the Country a shot putt as part of the Olympian legacy? Okay sell of all the playing fields, but keep a random piece of equipment in reverence on the premises as some kind of reminder?

You know, our future relies on us grasping science and engineering, but we do not need a microscope in a glass case at the front of a school to remind us all of that. We need science teachers and lab facilities.

We need science teachers and lab facilities.

We’re capable of doing two things at once – particularly as the Bible stunt was done with private money.

It’s a gesture sure. But given the importance of the KJV to English culture (and given that it was the 400 year anniversary last year) I’m not embarrassed by it, no. Shared culture, shared heritage. That sort of thing.

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 Tim J

Yeah, just looked up his own statement and that pretty much tallies. Interesting that Richard Dawkins supported it (because he agrees with the literature thing… and because he thinks getting someone to read the Bible is a great way to put them off Christianity).

When I was at school, Christianity lessons (presented as historical fact, because apparently it’s cool to lie to children) skipped straight from Exodus to the NT. Can’t imagine why.

Jim @ 31

There are lots of things in our ‘shared culture’ (if such a thing exists now), but we do not have a school copy of everything that has been culturally important to us. We are a secular nation (for good or bad). I doubt that too many pupils are aware of the significance of the King James Bible and the school receiving one through the post is not going to change that.

particularly as the Bible stunt was done with private money.

And there is the rub. Things of this nature are never going to be decided what is and what is not ‘culturally significant’, merely what a rich cabal of benefactors decide on our behalf what is and what is not significant.

Gove has allowed a private concern access to the State education system in order for them to push their (and Gove’s) agenda onto a captive audience. Now, as long as you agree with Gove and agenda or at least do not hold fundamental objections to what they are doing all well and good, but is it right that Gove is allowed to use the State education system as his personal plaything?

33. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim

Functionally, is this any different to if the benefactors had set everything up themselves, without government involvement, and just posted a copy to every school? Are schools required to accept these books because of Gove’s backing?

I mean, I think the whole thing is silly, but it is their money.

When I was at school, Christianity lessons (presented as historical fact, because apparently it’s cool to lie to children) skipped straight from Exodus to the NT. Can’t imagine why.

Heh. Quite.

There are lots of things in our ‘shared culture’ (if such a thing exists now), but we do not have a school copy of everything that has been culturally important to us.

If schools don’t have a copy of the collected works of Shakespeare and the KJV then they are downright negligent. Between them, Shakespeare and the writers behind the KJV did more than anybody else to create the English language. If all you see in a celebration of that is narrow party political agenda pushing (by a “rich cabal” of benefactors? Really?) then I’m genuinely rather sorry for you.

It’s precisely the same argument as was had here about poetry – and the evil Gove’s plan to force children to learn poems. It’s culturally enriching, and exactly what schools ought to be doing.

35. Chaise Guevara

@ Tim

Regarding poetry, my issue is with the idea that the focus should be on children memorizing poems. Seems like a waste of time which instead could be used to introduce them to a broader variety of poems.

Poetry is an absolutely fantastic form of writing, but IIRC most people at my school thought of them as vague, wispy things you might find in a greetings card, because that was what they were used to. To be fair, the Lit syllabus had some good stuff on it, like Ted Hughes, but most people didn’t take Lit.

It’s a shame if people are growing up not realising that poetry doesn’t have to be anodyne. Sadly I suspect any syllabus designed by Gove will be light on the T. S. Eliot and heavy on the William bloody Wordsworth.

Tim J @ 34

If schools don’t have a copy of the collected works of Shakespeare and the KJV then they are downright negligent|

Why?

Between them, Shakespeare and the writers behind the KJV did more than anybody else to create the English language

Perhaps they did but there is no reason to suppose that either books you mention should be kept in school library in perpetuity. Desert Islands, perhaps, but why a leather bound copy of the KJV bible? Of course, Shakespeare will be taught in schools as literature, the KJ bible less so (perhaps in a theology class), but we do not need expensive copies (wherever the source) of these (or any other) books held in reverence. Books are there to taken from a shelf to be read, not kept in a cabinet or whatever.

If all you see in a celebration of that is narrow party political agenda pushing

No, not a necessarily party political agenda, but any agenda. Michael Gove is a religious person. He activity follows his religion, which is fair enough, but on this occasion his religious views have been an influence on a matter of policy. Now that is okay up to a point, sending bibles to schools if not leading to the downfall of Western Civilisation, but his egotistic little stunt opens the floodgates for any potential benefactor to push any agenda.

What other books should be given to schools in a symbolic gesture? Dickens, Orton? What about Dawin’s ‘The origin of the species’? What if the humanist society commissioned a bound copy of Darwin and the Sectary of State of the day refused to allow them access to the State system? Then what?

Perhaps the one book I would sanction, given the Tories are seemingly hell bent on closing libraries would be Fahrenheit 451.

Chaise @ 33

but it is their money.

Yes and they are using that money to buy influence to our children’s education. Who is to decide what books are or are not of significant cultural impact to warrant a deluxe copy sent to every State school in the Country? So far, the criteria seems to be have the ear of the Sectary of State and enough money to fund the project.

Now, I ask you, is that anyway to shape the cultural markers of a society? Does merely being rich enough justify you having access to impose, however apparently benignly, your idea of cultural significance onto the State Education system?

Tim @ 34

Gove’s plan to force children to learn poems. It’s culturally enriching,

Is it? Says who? Who gave anyone the right to decide what is and what is not enriching and on what basis?

You may well enjoy poetry and I accept that poems are enjoyable for some people but Gove appears to assume that because he enjoys poems that they must have educational value. He has vet to show this.

CG @ 34

Sadly I suspect any syllabus designed by Gove will be light on the T. S. Eliot and heavy on the William bloody Wordsworth

Gove is from Edinburgh, my fearis that we will have children force fed ‘Rabbie Burns’ for five years. I had to endure this stuff for all of primary school and by god I hated every line of it and the slekit cowering mice it represented.

39. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim

Like I said, it only really seems like a possible scandal if Gove has given them goverment support, and I’m not sure if that’s the case.

I imagine you got inundated with Burns out of local patriotism, which isn’t the best way to build a syllabus.

I agree with you on it being hard to define what is “culturally enriching” – I could argue that Eminem fits that label just as easily as Shakespeare – but my hope with poetry is that it may inspire, kindling a lifetime interest in something students never would have noticed before, and which inspires personal creativity.

CG @ 39

The scandal is that Gove has imposed a vanity project, based on his own personally held views, onto his department’s assets without any justification. The fact that a third party has stumped up the cash is neither here nor there. There is no credible reason to send a copy of this bible to every school in the Country any more than having a copy of ‘Harry Potter’ sent to every school either.

Imagine if a minister decided the playlist of the piped musak for the lifts in the NHS or whatever.

If you want to turn children off from reading poetry, force them to learn it by rote, until they find the whole thing a chore.

If you want to turn children off from reading poetry, force them to learn it by rote, until they find the whole thing a chore.

No. If you want to turn children off from poetry, just ensure they never encounter it at school. That definitely works.

my hope with poetry is that it may inspire, kindling a lifetime interest in something students never would have noticed before, and which inspires personal creativity.

Well, it’s the best definition of a good education isn’t it – lighting a fire, not filling a bucket. Not that anyone reads Plutarch these days.

42. Chaise Guevara

@ Tim

“No. If you want to turn children off from poetry, just ensure they never encounter it at school. That definitely works.”

I think ensuring that they only encounter crap poetry is worse, but yeah. The general impression of poetry at my school was that it was “girly”. Which hardly fits with the gender trends among famous poets.

“Well, it’s the best definition of a good education isn’t it – lighting a fire, not filling a bucket. Not that anyone reads Plutarch these days.”

Don’t know the reference, but agreed.

I’m trying to remember what poetry there was at school, not counting the optional Lit course (school-level Lang is all textual analysis and stuff, so it’s actually closer to university Lit than university Lang anyway). Honestly can’t recall. I do remember that the only time I was impressed by syllabus poetry was on that Lit course.

Tim J @ 41

No. If you want to turn children off from poetry, just ensure they never encounter it at school. That definitely works.

No, that will only ensure they never encounter it, it does not actively ‘turn’ people from away from it. Gangsta rap is not taught in schools, but most kids will be able to recite the lyrics of most of the biggest hits in that style of entertainment.

The problem with Gove is that he wishes that more children enjoyed reading poetry. That is a perfectly acceptable wish, but it is not going to happen if he imposes reading poetry on a class of fourteen-year-old boys, is it? He needs to find a subtle way of introducing poetry into the lives of children.

Forcing kids to learn by rote a dozen poems is going to ensure that they all hate it from day one.

It is funny, because the Tories are often loathed to support widespread coercion to engineer the ‘public good’, yet here we are discussing an idiot’s silly attempt to produce a line of bible reading, poetry quoting clones, using the worst possible learning methods.

42 – That line comes from Plutarch’s “On the hearing of lectures” which goes to show that there is nothing new in the education debate. We’ve all been in lectures with people like this:

On the other hand, however, we certainly must not neglect the mistake that leads to the opposite extreme, which some persons are led to commit by laziness, thus making themselves unpleasant and irksome. For when they are by themselves they are not willing to give themselves any trouble but they give trouble to the speaker by repeatedly asking questions about the same things, like unfledged nestlings always agape toward the mouth of another and desirous of receiving everything ready prepared and predigested. There is another class, who, eager to be thought astute and attentive out of due place, wear out the speakers with loquacity and officiousness, by continually propounding some extraneous and unessential difficulty and asking for demonstrations of matters that need no demonstration, and so, as Sophocles puts it, “Much time it takes to go a little way”

The famous bit is here:

For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth.

http://www.bostonleadershipbuilders.com/plutarch/moralia/on_hearing.htm

45. Chaise Guevara

@ 44 Tim J

The absolute best place to encounter such a person is in a meeting when it’s already 10 minutes past hometime…

45 – “Any other business?”
“Well, actually…”

47. Chaise Guevara

Yeah. “Let’s all sit here for 20 minutes listening to me ask questions that everyone else figured out the answers to immediately.”

47 – it’s sort of reassuring that it was exactly the same in 100AD.


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