west*wales*news*review

West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Democracy In Wonderland

Why the rushed switch from multi-member police authorities to individual police and crime commissioners? Supposedly it is more “democratic” to choose a commissioner by direct public vote, but all is not as it seems in the paradoxical world of British politics.

Here in Dyfed Powys there are only two candidates, one Labour and one Conservative. Leaving aside their actual identities, why only two? Well, they have big party organisations behind them. The two largest UK parties are the only ones able to afford to field candidates in all 41 police authority areas, outside London. The costs of standing are so high that the great majority of independents cannot afford to stand, and small political parties lack the money to field many candidates. This is democracy by ability to pay, which is surely worse than the indirect representation on police authorities. The typical police authority has 17 members, nine of them local authority councillors and eight who are independent, at least one of whom must be a magistrate.

Candidates have to fund their own election campaign expenses, which at the most miserly(and least likely to succeed) would probably be several hundred pounds, and which in Dyfed Powys may be up to £72,622, on top of the £5,000 deposit. That’s big spending, many would say foolish spending, for a chance of an annual salary around £65,000 for three-and-a-half years. Candidates’ financial backers are likely to want something in return — policies to benefit them, rather than the wider public.

It’s also difficult to see how one commissioner could do more work than 17 part-timers. Perhaps that is part of the agenda too.

For a fuller story, see  ecopoliticstoday.

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