LETTER SENT TO THERESA MAY HOME SECRETARY
(PART OF THE ELECTORAL REFORM SOCIETY CAMPAIGN)
24th August 2012
November’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections are set to be a disaster. The Electoral Reform Society has predicted a record low turnout of 18.5%. Here in Suffolk in the May local elections we saw low voter turnout between 20% to 25% Quite simply, if the people elected to reconnect the public and the police do not represent local people, what is the point of having them?
As the Labour PCC candidate in Suffolk I & my Labour colleagues have been actively knocking on doors and attending street stalls to raise awareness over the last few months.We have been promoting the use of postal votes and taking our responsiblity for raising awareness in the name of democracy very seriously.
In addition to this I have been getting letters published & using Social media to inform as widely as I am able to. The majority of those I speak to know nothing about it. I believe in the concept of a democratic mandate, particularly in relation to accountability to local people by the police service - but local people need to be informed in order to make informed decisions.
I know a publicity campaign is planned but it will be a generic one & I am anxious that not everyone will be targetted - including those who have the most interest in how they are policedand/or when victims of crime. I am seeing websites being set up that declare themselves as the place where candidiates should place their information. This along with the responsiblities of the Electoral Services Commission, may only end up fragmenting information & ultimately confusing the electorate.
There is still time for change. We need to see:
• Candidates of all parties and independents being given the opportunity to make their case to voters. The Electoral Commission recently announced they would send a mailing to every household to let people know the elections are taking place. It is simply common sense to include local information on candidates so that people know who they can vote for.
• Public Service Broadcasts. We know political broadcasts boost turnout, they should be part of the government’s package of awareness raising.
• May Elections. The Government must pledge never to hold a major election in the winter again. You can improve turnout and reduce costs in one fell swoop.
Whilst all political parties agreed there was a need for police reform, this is not necessarily the right way to go about engaging people to buy into a reform that will fundamentally change the policing & community safety landscape forever. Your government led the call for elected Police Commissioners so I urge you to bring your vision to life to local people by doing these 3 things.