Next Thursday across the North West you have the chance to brave the dark and the rain to vote for Police and Crime Commissioners(PCC) in the five force areas in the region. These are new posts where power is being given to one individual to hold the police to account on behalf of the public. They will decide how the budget is spent and will develop a plan to tackle crime.


Merseyside police could be in for a big shake up if Jane Kennedy becomes PCC there next Friday.


The former Labour MP for Wavertree has ministerial police experience in Northern Ireland, so tackling the bloated bureaucracy of the outgoing Merseyside Police Authority should be a breeze. The authority that once chose Norman Bettison as Chief Constable has 29 committees and a posh headquarters in Pall Mall. All that could be set to change if Jane Kennedy wins.


If Merseyside voters don’t want the Labour candidate, they have five other options. Paula Keaveney is the former Lib Dem group leader on Liverpool Council but apart from her party’s dire poll ratings she is faced with the challenge of another ex Liverpool Lib Dem councillor Kiron Reid. He explains his defection from the party by stating that PCCs should be independent of party. Liverpool born Geoff Gubb is standing in the Conservative interest, Hilary Jones for UKIP and Paul Rimmer for the English Democrats.


In Greater Manchester another ex Labour MP, Tony Lloyd, seems assured of victory. The only question is why the ex Central and Stretford MP would want to give up a safe parliamentary seat and chairmanship of the Parliamentary Labour Party to take on the crime problems of this large urban force area.


For the Lib Dems, Matt Gallagher brings 30 years of frontline policing to his candidature. The problem is that his party has been haemorrhaging councillors across Greater Manchester in the last two years. Michael Winstanley represents the Conservatives, Steven Woolfe UKIP and Roy Warren is an independent candidate.


The outcome of the elections is less clear in the three remaining police force areas. Labour’s candidate in Lancashire Clive Grunshaw will face a spirited challenge from Tory Lancashire County Councillor Tim Ashton who’s pledging to end what he calls a “softly softly” approach to crime. Afzal Anwar stands for the Lib Dems and Rob Drobney for UKIP..


Cheshire may provide the closest contest. A former Assistant Chief Constable for the county,John Dwyer is the Tory candidate. Halton councillor John Stockton opposes him for Labour. Cheshire businesswoman Sarah Flannery is attracting some support for her independent candidature. Ex Macclesfield councillor Ainsley Arnold represents the Lib Dems and Louise Bours UKIP.


In Cumbria Patrick Leonard is standing in his first election for Labour. Barrister Pru Jupe represents the Lib Dems, magistrate Richard Rhodes the Conservatives and Mary Robinson is an independent.


Crucial to the success of these new Commissioners will be their relationship with their Chief Constables. Under the old police authorities there were major battles between the senior police officers and the authority chairs. Remember Margaret Simey and Ken Oxford on Merseyside and Gay Cox and Jim Anderton in Greater Manchester.


Operational matters are to remain with the Chief Constables under the new arrangements, but what is operational and what is a pet project of a newly mandated Police and Crime Commissioner. The potential for conflict is there.





I had the pleasure of hosting a hustings meeting for the parliamentary by election caused by Tony Lloyd’s decision to contest the post of PCC for Greater Manchester.


The Friends Meeting House was full to hear from ten of the eleven candidates standing. Labour’s Lucy Powell is certain to win but most of the candidates put up a good show. I was particularly impressed with the fresh approach to politics of Loz Kaye of the Pirate Party and Catherine Higgins of Respect. While her party leader George Galloway is all about himself, Catherine was all about the people of Hulme and Moss side where she lives.


I did get a bit exasperated with Peter Clifford of the Communist League who gave the same answer about the crisis in capitalism to all questions including one on fluoridation!


The by election is also on Thursday along with the PCC elections.


Demands for people and companies to pay their fair share of tax, and for company chief executives pay and bonuses to be capped is being led by the grass roots not their leaders.

It’s all very well for David Cameron to jump on the bandwagon and pick on comedian Jimmy Carr’s tax avoidance scheme, but the Prime Minister joins most politicians in failing to address this issue for years.

The Labour Party should have taken a lead while it was in office for 13 years but Tony Blair was so focussed on being “business friendly” that there was little pretence that the party was going to be true to its socialist grass roots and narrow the gap between rich and poor through the tax system. Indeed Lord Mandelson said he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.”

It’s unlikely the public was relaxed, even during the economic good times. They certainly aren’t now as the recession bites hard.

It should now be clear to politicians that there are votes in fairness. There is nothing incompatible between fair taxes, bonuses and salaries and a competitive society. There’s a lot of nonsense talked about our top entrepreneurs being poised with their passports ready to flee Britain for some low tax foreign paradise.

There are a few who are prepared to endure boredom in boiling Qatar or humid Hong Kong. Good luck to them. We must have fairness in Britain and politicians of all parties with the guts to outsmart the clever accountants and their tax loopholes.


It seems as if the government is hell bent on ensuring a low turnout in the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners.

These are entirely new posts that the public have no experience of. Voting will take place in November when the weather is likely to be even worse than it is at the moment. Finally there will be no freepost for the parties to communicate with the public.

If you are tempted to run as an independent in say Merseyside, you will need £60,000 to contact every elector.

At the moment we only know the Labour candidates in the North West. I went along to their launch this week and encountered two familiar faces, Tony Lloyd and Jane Kennedy.

Tony was returned unopposed by the Greater Manchester Labour Party and will shortly stand down as MP for Central Manchester.

Jane Kennedy, a former MP, won a bruising contest with another ex Liverpool MP, Peter Kilfoyle, and the chair of the Merseyside Police Authority Cllr Bill Weightman. Bill opined that the Commissioner role should not be a bolt hole for former MPs.

That was a mild comment compared to Jane Kennedy’s criticism of Peter Kilfoyle for suggesting that being born in Liverpool was a key qualification for the job. She described that to me as the “little Liverpool campaign” and was glad Labour members had rejected it.

Mayor Joe was at the photo call having surprisingly intervened in the selection process to back Kennedy. He justified his decision with a rambling analogy related to choosing cakes. I wondered whether he’d have been present if Kilfoyle had won to which his response was “We’ll never know now.”

Anderson is clearly happy to continue mixing it in the political field. Earlier in the campaign he’d told the Leigh MP Andy Burnham not to interfere in a Merseyside election when the Shadow Health Secretary had given his support to Kilfoyle.

Labour made its choice in Lancashire in a more seemly manner. Lancashire County councillor Clive Grunshaw from Fleetwood is a member of the current Lancashire Police Authority. He may be up against Geoff Driver if the current Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council decides to go for the Tory nomination.

In Cheshire Labour has chosen Halton councillor John Stockton. He may face Baroness Helen Newlove for the Tories. Her husband was murdered by three youth in Warrington in 2007.

There are a number of issues to return to about these new posts as we run up to November including their effectiveness, their relationships with the Chief Constables and what it tells us about the attitude of the the Tories (the traditional party of law and order) and the police.