Monday, 28 May 2012

Kent Sheriff turnout concerns

The charismatic Jan Berry

With the shortlist for the Conservative nominations now complete it is clear this blogger does not know the minds of the Tory Selection panel; Cllr Mike O’Brien was not even shortlisted to the position which must be a big slap in the face, to not only this blog for calling it totally wrong (mea culpa), but also to the Portfolio holder’s public and press management which had, despite the ridicule, been managed effectively. Mike even had an agent no less if his press output footer is to believed, which I didn’t realise was necessary pre-shortlisting; but such is hubris.

The selection of Craig MacKinlay must be bitter-sweet to the Portfolio Holder; the Medway Tories are known for open-warfare (aka Mayoralty fame) but this is simply cruel, and rather enjoyable to behold for an opposition Councillor.  

Even if Craig is not eventually selected for the candidacy it will be noted by Medway Councillor's and residents that when it came to crunch on selection; Craig piped-the-post over Mike with little or no media output at all. It does not bode well for the replacement of Cllr Rodney for the Rainham brigade...

Craig must be pleased; but it appears this result has peeked little or no interest beyond the Medway commentariat; on looking at the twitter output of the Medway Conservatives over the weekend hardly any had bothered to congratulate or re-tweet the River Councillor, which either shows they don’t support his candidacy or, and more likely, there is a total lack of interest and they were out enjoying the sun.  

This total lack of interest could be the destroyer of this particular wonk idea as the rather desperate article, complete with well placed Union Jack, in today’s Medway Messenger by David Cameron highlighted.

The fear in Tory-circles is that if you cant sell directly elected mayors then how are you going to sell a sheriff?  

The pro-camp had one big argument which has now been blown away; that having high profile and charismatic candidates from all parties would introduce vigour and dynamism into the police governance process. It would allow the public to see a figure-head to the Police locally; someone who could be held to account by voters and who could set an agenda. Indeed; that was the fear this blog expressed that we could end up with someone jumping on rank populism which could see police objectives distorted to political priorities elsewhere in Kent.

Time has proven otherwise

Only Labour has delivered some punchy names, mostly politicians, into the process and is treating it seriously; which is ironic given we opposed the process in the first place as being a total waste of public money. The Tories have failed to manage their own policy if the quality of candidate is to be assessed.

The problem for Cameron is two-fold; firstly he has publicly antagonised and undermined the Police who will certainly use this as a proxy to undermine Conservative candidates, and will perhaps generate a small anti-turnout as a result; but secondly the Tories have failed to select half-decent and charismatic candidates for most forces, and have instead opted for a motley collection of third-raters and Councillor's in their mid-late 40/50s, or the ‘sunset’ brigade as part-time Collins dubbed them. Add into the mix a plethora of bureaucrats and pen-pushers who appear to have zero footprint beyond a few wonks and plutocrats in Whitehall and you end up with a major problem - having any mandate to make change.

It is with a particular hubris therefore that Mark Reckless; my local MP has penned a piece taking credit for the Policy this last weekend despite all the obvious (and they really are obvious) warning lights; if turnout is less then 20% fingers will be wagging in his direction.

Indeed, the use of public taxpayers money for this government programme is the major reason why; we will spend millions on an election at a time of austerity; turnout will be extremely low because there is little charisma; and we may even end up with a grey Conservative candidate with little or no mandate to make change.  

Rest assured all those arguments Tories have been using on cost for the referendum for the Estuary Airport can just as much be used against them on this extravagance; add up the cost of the combined process across all boroughs in Kent and you could see millions wasted on an election, at a time of front-line service cuts, on an idea not one member of the public demanded.

There was a reason why Labour so desperately opposed this idea; it is the reason why Kent Conservatives and Lib Dems so opposed this idea.

The Cameron article today for the KM Group is code (and fear) of a low-turnout; if Labour wins in Kent, and that is a tall order given our defect in 2010, we will have a candidate with charisma and clear policy ideas; but the biggest problem will be energizing the public at all.  

A reckless policy, baseless foundations, shameless cost, frivolous expense with a voteless turnout. 

We will wait to see what November 16th will bring; but egg on the face for the author of this policy may certainly be one

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