Chris Bryant: We're being saddled with a daft American-style policing idea nobody wants

A Political Life


This week, the Government published the rules that will apply to the elections in November of Police and Crime Commissioners for England and Wales. Among other obscure things (who the returning officer is, how the ballot is conducted and so on) they lay out exactly how much someone can spend on their election campaign. The figures are quite amazing. The candidates for West Midlands can spend a whopping £357,435, Greater Manchester £356,204, Sussex £219,983 and Thames Valley £303,303. Even candidates for Dyfed Powys can look to spend up to £72,622. These are phenomenal sums for an individual or party to have to find, on top of other election campaigns. But what is disturbing is that the Government has decided in its infinite wisdom that, unlike other elections, candidates will not even be entitled to a free delivery of a leaflet. Now money is scarce and the public purse has more than enough demands on it, but the real problem is that yet again we may see elections where the wealthy can dip into their own pockets and vastly outspend an ordinary member of the public. Democracy for sale is bad enough, but policing for sale gives me the collywobbles.

There's another point, though. For originally the Government wanted to force a swathe of towns and cities to have elected mayors without so much as a by your leave, and only held referendums when Labour put pressure on them. We all know the result; this May elected mayors were rejected in Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle, and only Bristol accepted the Government's recommendation.

My suspicion is that exactly the same fate would befall a referendum on these Police and Crime Commissioners, which is why the Government is not holding one. Of course Labour will put forward candidates, not least because, at a time when the Government is enforcing cuts of 16,000 police officers, the priorities of the local police service matter enormously to voters. I'm keen, for instance, that Paul Cannon – who spent 30 years in the police, was awarded the Queen's Police Medal and is now a Labour councillor – becomes the Commissioner for the South Wales Police. But I detect no enthusiasm in the wider public for these elections. It's a daft American-style idea and the cost of these elections (and the £65-£100,000 per annum salary each) could be much better spent on additional police.

Where will MPs go as refugees?

The Palace of Westminster shows her splendours to all with a magnificent pinnacled riverfront, splendidly decorated furniture, wallpaper that makes you go dizzy and brass knobs aplenty. But behind the scenes things are rather more workaday. Above the central lobby is a great illuminated dome with beautiful mosaics. But above the dome and behind "no entry" signs lies another world of dust and debris – and deep in the bowels of the palace things are even worse. For the old Victorian ventilation shafts are now packed full of high-voltage electrical cables, telephone lines, and iron central-heating pipes carrying steam – all wrapped up in asbestos. There's no plan of what cable leads where, so sometimes the contractors just cut one through to see who complains at the other end.

The problem is this is all unsustainable – an 1834-style fire waiting to happen – and while the rusting cast-iron roof panels can be steadily replaced under a great scaffolding canopy without disturbing the whole of Parliament, this underground problem needs more radical surgery. Which is why the palace authorities are not only considering an urgent refit but also moving us all out. Even our seemingly interminable summer recesses are not long enough for a task of this magnitude and any stop-start programme would almost certainly cost far more than moving us out for between three and five years. Places being quietly canvassed include Oxford (where Parliament last sat in 1681), Birmingham, or rather more prosaically Church House or the QEII centre across the road from the Commons, both of which would involve us sitting in a hemisphere rather than opposite each other. Now that would be a worthwhile experiment in itself, but I would hate to arrange the placement. Would Nick sit between Ed and Dave or to the right?

I'm still betting on Engelbert

Wednesday night saw the annual British Phonographic Industry gig on a boat at Westminster Pier, featuring not just the intrepid band MP4 (which consists of Ian Cawsey, Kevin Brennan, Pete Wishart and Greg Knight), but the soulful Maverick Sabre (I'm far too old to have heard of him) and Leicester's legend Engelbert Humperdinck, who sent Leicester's still fairly new MP Jonathan Ashworth into rhapsodies and, incidentally, was born in the same week in 1936 as Glenda Jackson. Some of my colleagues rather cruelly worried that Mr H may lose out to the swirling Russian grannies in Baku next Saturday, but I have more faith.

All kinds of confusion

Years ago I drafted a speaking note for the then BBC Chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, who was hosting a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European Broadcasting Union, which runs Eurovision. I wrote for him: "Eurovision has not only given us all those great songs, but two Members of the European Parliament as well: Nana Mouskouri and Rosemary Scallon, known as Dana." (Nana, in case you were wondering, sang for Luxembourg in 1963 and Dana for Ireland in 1970.) As was his wont, Sir Christopher "corrected" my draft, ending instead, "Rosemary Scallon, also known as Dana International". Everyone nodded gently. I was the only person who knew that he had mixed up the fiercely Catholic Irish woman who had won the contest with the prim "All Kinds of Everything" with the brash Israeli transsexual.


React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?