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

A Political Life

Share

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.

twitter@ChrisBryantMP

React Now

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

Data Analyst

£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Assistant Editor: Domestic violence is no petty matter

Siobhan Norton
 

There’s nothing wrong with GM

Steve Connor
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried