How has it come to this?
On Thursday last week a Poll Card dropped through the letterbox. I didn't think much about it until on closer inspection I noted it was for the local Police Commissioner. Since when did the public choose such a vital local professional? We might as well shut our eyes and pin the tail on the proverbial donkey - we would have as much chance blindfolded of picking a suitable candidate.
And what does "suitable" mean? Something different for each locality maybe, but that's something I would prefer those who know the candidates to decide. A commissioner needs gravitas, respect, authority, experience and other such attributes I could not possibly assess. Considering there has been absolutely no publicity whatsoever for this election I certainly don't feel qualified to vote - and disagree with the underlying premise that this should be an elected role.
Can you imagine the scenario - someone with some campaign experience and political knowse but little on the job training gets elected and needs to command the respect and obedience of a force responsible for enforcing local law and order. Someone the rank and file might not have picked, or someone with sufficient private resources to to further their external campaign when they would have had little success winning internal votes within the region's force. Chaos. Or at subdued rebellion ... at the very least resentment. How does that work when a united front is needed to fight crime?
Hang on. That all sounds a little familiar? There is a certain theme here both in Education and Health is there not?
It's hard enough at any time, but giving those so ill informed a greater say in issues like this is the same as central government interference in local issues in my book. Two extremes which are equally inappropriate. I'm all for increased openness and accountability but by those qualified to do so. It's not "Big Society", it's passing the buck - or more precisely, passing the target. I sincerely hope these new commissioners are as good as their manifestos and that their qualifications do indeed exceed dog walking and golf.... because when things go wrong they are going to need the powers of a politician to deflect the criticism which will stream from both local and national sources. And surely, that is NOT in the job description of local Police Commissioner?
It is over-politicisation (if that is even a word) and under valuation in the extreme. But it is more than that - it is a basic avoidance by Central Government to tackle a thorny problem and avoid shouldering the criticism weighing them down since the 2011 riots. Which in my opinion is not "Big" on anything except responsibility avoidance. Using decentralisation in this way wraps everything in a political fog and undermines core values we rely on to make society work.