On November 15th we have the chance to cast our votes for our new Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner. I have been undecided throughout and have tried to understand more about our candidates so that I can make an informed decision.
What is clear to me is that we shouldn’t be having this election. The appointment of PCCs is a slap in the face to hardworking members of the Derbyshire Police Authority who have served us well. Other than cost-saving I can’t see the logic in fixing something that didn’t seem broken. Holding the Constabulary to account seems to be the main message but I wasn’t aware of dissatisfaction with the Police Authority in this regard and I can see ridiculous Entwistle-style resignations if we are reducing this to the relationship between a PCC and a Chief Constable.
I also deeply disagree with the Party political involvement which has muddied the debate significantly. In a general election most of us never get the chance to meet our candidates but we do have a national manifesto to look at. If our local candidate is incompetent or lazy at least we know what the rest are going to be up to. With the PCC elections there is no similar yardstick because the debate is all about what happens in Derbyshire.
If we are to have a PCC though we seem to have four good candidates all with Police experience and either business or public office experience. I say “seem” because most of them seem to have put all of their efforts into wooing voters elsewhere and not necessarily addressing Ashbourne issues. This is the point of a Derbyshire vote – there are many more votes in Derby, Chesterfield, Matlock and Buxton than in our town.
I am an avid Twitterer and so I have used this as a way of tracking the debate. All four candidates are using Twitter too. To me, if you are using social media you have to participate. Alan Charles and Simon Spencer have really only used Twitter to make announcements with very little engagement. Effectively, they are using Social Media for business and this is a difficult but potentially hugely rewarding exercise. In my view it is better not to be on Twitter at all than to be aloof – it potentially comes across as antisocial, snooty and secretive. David Gale and Rod Hutton have easily won the social media debate and have got their views across to thousands of voters by doing so. Of course, Twitter is not going to win elections but we have got to “know” them better through it and I have managed to get some answers from the candidates in this way. Rod and David don’t have the party political votes in the bag that the other two do.
The manifestos are all online too – you can see what each candidate stands for (although Rod Hutton’s site has suffered some technical difficulties). I found the manifestos quite difficult and samey. Two things did stand out for me – claims to be able to fight the cuts don’t seem realistic. We are all now acknowledging the need to tighten our belts and that no areas are exempt – Alan Charles’s stance in this area seems a little hollow. I also felt that the inclusion of Simon Spencers’ pledge to fight child sexual exploitation as a major issue somewhat bandwagon-jumping. I wasn’t aware of a major issue in this area and although it is clearly important it is one of the things we expect all candidates to agree with – like reducing crime.
However, the issues for me are all here. Right now we are losing Police coverage and we have problems with burglaries and antisocial behaviour. Two of the candidates have shown an understanding of the issues in the town – Rod Hutton in particular has been happy and insightful in engaging on this topic and Simon Spencer ought to know Ashbourne well enough. I do think this is important because at district and county Government levels there is a feeling Ashbourne doesn’t need help – we are affluent and low crime by comparison to other parts of the County. I want someone who is going to look after the interests of ALL postcodes.
I have three choices:
- Not vote at all – I would do this very reluctantly as I feel it is my duty
- Vote for the person who has impressed me the most – this criteria could result in a wasted vote
- Vote tactically for a result
I have eliminated two candidates who I don’t think would look after my interests well and I have already moved away from my natural political affiliations. In the coming week I will finally make my mind up. Right now the person I feel most sorry for is Our Chief Constable, Mick Creedon, who must feel in limbo and who is just about to get a lot of work in his in-tray.