When the Tory led Coalition Government first proposed the idea, Labour’s response was cool to say the least, but as the process has developed many Labour members have become converts to the idea as anything which increases local democratic accountability can’t be a bad thing. Without doubt Police Boards were remote and seemed to have little connect with the communities they were meant to represent. There is the argument that the £120 million that the elections and subsequent reforms required would have been better allocated to front line policing, but the situation is real and present, and we want to ensure a Labour Party person is in post after the November election.
Originally Ian Cawsey, the much respected former Labour MP for Brigg and Goole was set to contest this internal Labour Party election, but his many talents attracted the attention of the planet’s biggest animal charity the World Society for the Protection of Animals and he accepted the role of Chief of Staff at the organisation. “This is a once in a lifetime chance to work around the world on matters that are hugely important to me, namely animal welfare and international development”. All Labour people and many others wish Ian every success in his new role.
This leaves the race as a straight run off between ex Deputy Prime Minister Lord John Prescott and former police Divisional Commander in Hull Keith Hunter.
The shame for Labour is that we have two such high quality candidates running in the same area, but the flip side, as was shown last night, is that it raises the level of debate and enthuses the members to come out in droves to listen to the proposals of these two first rate candidates. Over 70 members came to the event, which was promoted by Hull Students Union Labour Club.
The students put a lot of work into staging a hugely successful event and the Chair did a great job in making the debate a real high quality success.
John gave a typically passionate performance and reminded us of how he was the soul and conscience of the Party during the New Labour era making sure that the values of the rank and file were put into action at the highest level around the Cabinet table and indeed around the world at events such as Kyoto, and when John travelled all over the Globe representing the UK. The unquenched enthusiasm and verve that has driven John’s career is still there, and the flame burns bright meaning that if he succeeds in his quest then we can rest assured that the police will be held to account during his tenure.
John promises to be a voice for the people and his trademark pledge card reflected his desire to let the people drive his ideas for policy. In addition he remains rightly proud of our legacy on crime which we achieved in Government by creating the environment, and providing the resources to drive crime down, and down when pre 1997 commentators pointed to the fact that no Government had ever achieved real and lasting reductions in crime. Labour, and John as Deputy Prime Minister proved those naysayers wrong year after year.
I am unashamedly a cheerleader for Keith Hunter, but I know that if selected John can do this job, and I will campaign as hard as I can to ensure John wins in November. But I was concerned that John was vague on actual plans and policy, and when it came down to specifics the lack of detail was apparent. Nevertheless I feel 100% confident that the team John already has, added to the talent available in this area in the rest of the Party will mean that John would be able to deliver a solid programme if required. We have no worries that we could end up with an under prepared candidate when the time comes. John remains a consummate professional and will be an effective PCC.
But last night proved to me, and I hope to others that Keith Hunter has the potential to be a great Police and Crime Commissioner, and one that will set the tone and the template for how the role should be performed nationally. People will look to see how Keith does it here in Humberside and then replicate best practice in their own police area adapting protocols to local needs.
His depth of knowledge of the issues and what needs to be done here in Humberside is first class, as is his record on delivering change and standing up to the status quo to get things done. In addition Keith has really thought through how he is going to make the PCC’s Office a real conduit for the community to have confidence that if problems and concerns arise that there are mechanisms in place to ensure people are heard. Keith’s values are our Socialist values. His mantra that protection of the vulnerable is the absolute core of everything that he stands for, and as a result everything that he does means that if Labour members select Keith Hunter they will be selecting not only the best candidate for Humberside, but the best candidate that there is anywhere in England.
We are lucky to have such an embarrassment of riches here and whichever candidate secures the nomination the Labour Party can be confident of electing a first rate Police and Crime Commissioner.