When the Conservative Party first imposed the idea of a Police and Crime Commissioners on the coalition, building on a previous idea by the Labour Party, they proudly spoke about the need to encourage people with no previous political experience or party involvement to stand as candidates. As time went on the obligation that Political Parties appear to have, almost death wish like, to push their agenda forward even when public opinion is moving in the opposite direction led to the two main parties putting forward candidates in all 41 Policing areas. Even the Liberal Democrats put forward a few candidates (some of whom claimed to be Independents), despite the fact that their national policy was not to do so.
As election day approached something of a low rumble of discontent provoked the Government to find a way of helping to differentiate those PCCs who were from a Party Political background from their party when it came to their actions. They came up with a half hearted promise that they insisted on calling an ‘Oath of Impartiality’. It was not (according to several solicitors) an oath at all and for those of us who stood as Independent candidates it was not really going to make much difference to the people who had been selected by a party, whose campaign had been part funded by the party and who had benefited from the active support of party activists. Nevertheless the Government recognised that their candidates needed a cloak of respectability if they were to stand any chance of being elected by a public that was clearly uncomfortable with the idea of direct party political control of their local police forced.
It was inevitable that within days of the election that most of the party political PCCs would break their oaths. In a significant number of cases they fell at the hurdle of selecting a deputy PCC. Almost all of the Party Political PCCs have selected someone as a deputy PCC who is from the same political party as they are, mostly people who are from that political class that David Cameron and Ed Balls claimed were unsuited to the PCC role. Now that we are six months from the elections the rest of the edifice is beginning to crumble. Several of the PCCs have by now hit potholes in the ground and so in the case of the Conservative PCCs, Theresa May is arranging to use public money to visit them to reassure them and the public that they are doing OK, even when it is painfully clear (in at least one case) that the wheels have actually come off the car.
I would be delighted to see examples of the Home Secretary promoting the cause of Labour or Independent PCCs with the same impartiality that she is showing in her support of PCCs such as Cumbrian PCC Richard Rhodes, or at least an admission that the oath of impartiality is no more than a very small fig leaf.