The people have whispered (barely)
Last Thursday some 37 million people had the right to vote in the first ever police and crime commissioner elections. Not that you would have known it in the weeks and days preceding the vote. With a derisory turnout barely nudging fifteen per cent, the people have spoken – but with barely a whisper. Congratulations, and commiserations, to Labour’s candidates. With a crushing victory in the classic bellwether seat of Corby, last week was a good week for Labour, albeit with a key caveat. Eyes will now turn to parliamentary business and thethree forthcoming by-elections in Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham.
It was heartening to read Jacqui Smith’s account last week of braving a cold, wet wintry November day in Conservative heartlands to support the Labour candidate. For a former home secretary who lost her seat rather acrimoniously and in full glare of the national media, to take to the campaign trail in the way she did is commendable. Not that the same can be said of Labour’s current shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. It has been pointed out on more than one occasion by disgruntled Labour activists that they simply did not, and do not, appreciate Labour’s persistent dismissal of these elections. The simple fact is that the coalition government conceived the concept, Labour organised opposition at the time, lost, and from there the national party machine should have done its all to support our candidates.
To the House of Commons and it’s an important week for the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, with flagship witnesses coming before the committee expected to include the chancellor, Adair Turner of the Financial Services Authority and the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King. ‘Banking standards’ has become something of an oxymoron in recent years, and MPs will be hoping to draw upon a wealth of experience and, hopefully, painfully honest evidence from the people at the heart of our financial system in order to learn from lessons past and build a strong economy now and for the future.
On Tuesday afternoon the home affairs committee takes timely evidence on the issue of localised child-grooming. The main witness is Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley, head of ACPO’s child sexual exploitation task force, but the committee may also want to hear from officials within Rochdale given the disturbing allegations that the former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith systemically abused young boys in his care.
On Tuesday the Commons convenes in the mid-morning with the prime target the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg. It’s difficult to know just who views the Lib Dem leader less favourably; apoplectic Tory backbenchers will vie with the sardonic Labour benches, intermixed with the depressed rump that remains of the once proud Liberal Democrats. The elections seen last week confirm that the Lib Dems have lost three-fifths of their support since the general election, so Clegg faces an uphill battle to save face and, ultimately, try and salvage his party.
Among the backbenches, Labour’s John McDonnell is scheduled to present a ten minute rule bill to allow MPs to job-share. Someone might want to point out to him that the extent to which MPs already do that was unearthed, with somewhat disastrous consequences, during the expenses scandal in 2009. The Conservatives’ love for the BBC continues apace with Tory MP Alun Cairns’ proposed bill to require the BBC to publish all invoices for more than £500 every quarter, and to be open to scrutiny by the National Audit Office.
Towards the end of the week eyes will inevitably turn to the pending by-elections in Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham. All present considerable challenges to the Labour party. The leader of Lambeth council, Steve Reed, is a formidable candidate but faces the not insurmountable task of turning out the near thirty thousand people who voted Labour in 2010. In Rotherham, the task is far starker. After a shambolic selection, where the winning candidate received a paltry 13 votes, Labour will fight this election in the shadow of a disgraced Labour resignation and the looming shadow of a strong showing from Respect.
One just hopes they both receive far more support from Labour’s high command than our police and crime commissioner candidates ever did.
banking reform, by-elections, child abuse, Corby, Croydon North, John McDonnell, Nick Clegg, PCCs, Rotherham