Diary: Will nobody step up and be Cameron's local copper?


The election of Police and Crime Commissioners is "at the heart of the Government's plan to cut crime", we have been told. So the Government will be pleased to see some big names showing an interest in running for the elections, scheduled for 15 November, even if they are not Conservatives.

The biggest is John Prescott. The 73-year-old former Deputy Prime Minister, right, has hinted that he might go for the Police Commissioner's job in Hull. Anyone who is over 18 and has not been sent to prison can compete, so Lord Prescott qualifies, despite a few problems with his driving record and the famous occasion when he punched a man with a mullet, during the 2001 election campaign, after being hit by an egg.

Ayoub Khan, a Liberal Democrat councillor and barrister who has been at the centre of hard-fought battles over election fraud, has put himself forward for the Birmingham job. In South Wales, the former Home Office minister and Welsh First Secretary Alun Michael is after the Labour nomination. The leader of the Welsh Tories, Nick Bourne, has his eyes on the Commissioner's job in Dyfed-Powys.

But in one police force, the forthcoming election has been met by a total lack of interest thus far. This is the Thames Valley Police area, which covers Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

The Oxford Mail quotes Kieron Mallon, a Conservative member of the Thames Valley Police Authority, as saying: "Although there is speculation, no one has put themselves forward in the Thames Valley area either as an independent or from a political party. Everyone is keeping their powder dry."

This could be embarrassing because one of the areas policed by the Thames Valley cops is David Cameron's constituency, Witney.


Phoenix attracts the hottest names

One of the world's greatest living novelists will be in London today to see one of his plays staged in the UK for the first time.

La Chunga, by the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa is being performed by Second Skin Theatre in a basement club called the Phoenix Artist Club.

The club – in the original dressing- and rehearsal rooms of the Phoenix Theatre at 104 Charing Cross Road – may be tiny, but it has long been a magnet for showbiz types such as John Hurt, with even an occasional glimpse of royalty, in the person of Princess Michael of Kent. Its flamboyant founder, Maurice Huggett, died suddenly last month, leaving a will in which he insisted that his funeral music should consist of show tunes and dress should be theatrical.

Ken Wright, who has taken over the club, will be there to welcome Mr Llosa. "It's bizarre the reach it has, this little club in Soho," he said. La Chunga runs until 19 February.


Boris's far-reaching attempts at appeal

Another opinion poll in the London Evening Standard has put Ken Livingstone a nose ahead of Boris Johnson in the mayoral race that is now just over 100 days away.

The headline result of this week's ComRes poll is eerily identical to last week's from YouGov, with Livingstone on 51 per cent to Johnson's 49 per cent.

Yet when Londoners are asked about such details as which candidate is better at planning or London's economy or bringing down crime, they prefer Johnson. Their main complaint about the Tory Mayor, apart from the latest round of fare increases, is that he is not as "in touch" with the average Londoner as his opponent.

In addition to his mayoral duties, Johnson doubles up as a highly paid columnist for The Daily Telegraph. In yesterday's column, he was lyrical about the joys of outdoor adventure. "I have camped everywhere from the drizzle of Salisbury Plain to the Serengeti to the beaches of California," he wrote.

Not a message that resonates in Catford.


Whipping nepotism into place

More trouble for the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament.

Last week, one of their MEPs, Diana Wallis, announced that she is quitting after failing to win election as president of the European Parliament. The little-understood rules of the "list" system of proportional representation used to elect MEPs give her husband, Stewart Arnold, who works in her office, an automatic right to take her place, without a by-election.

This has so appalled fellow Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies that he has resigned from his job as chief whip. "The arrangements being made by the wife and husband smells to me of nepotism," he said yesterday.

"Liberal Democrats have 12 MEPs and as whip I should not be partisan, but I cannot imagine being anything other than prejudiced against Stewart Arnold."

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