Labour PCC candidates can reach out
The police and crime commissioner is a hybrid of public service leader and politician. The proclivity to oppose these roles within the Labour party, simply on the grounds that they were born under a Conservative government, is unhealthy and wrong. The devolution agenda was trailblazed by New Labour, and has now eventually been embraced by the Tories. Instead of opposing or threatening to get rid of commissioners, surely a more progressive approach would be to see their advent as an extension of that agenda we began in 1997.
That is why I believe it is important that Labour engages fully in the PCC elections in May, with Labour candidates who are transparent about their politics and are prepared to put forward Labour values when it comes local policing priorities. Voters will be willing to accept and embrace this relatively new public role as having a positive impact on their lives, provided that these things are articulated alongside the way in which crime and policing impacts on all sorts of other areas of everyday life including health, education and the economy. If we are not ambitious for what public services can achieve, the Tories will be the beneficiaries.
However, it is important not to fall into the ‘tribal trap’ when delivering our message. Given the second preference supplementary vote system we use to elect our PCCs, it is absolutely essential that we reach out far beyond our core vote to secure other voting preferences on polling day. While clearly we are standing on a Labour ‘ticket’ to get elected, we cannot forget that we also have to rise above the ‘tribe’ and demonstrate to voters of other political persuasions that we can also represent some of their values and priorities too, if elected. As the Tory ‘One Nation’ approach has been proved by Iain Duncan Smith of all people to be totally hollow, it is Labour that can be the unifier.
This is the reality of the campaign I am running in North Wales on a daily basis, recognising no ‘no-go’ areas for Labour but also crucially demonstrating that a Labour PCC can work both on a cross-party and non-party basis for the benefit of all people in North Wales. Of course, I hope this approach will work to my favour electorally but more importantly it is the right thing to do for North Wales. My message on the doorstep hammers home the point that I will work with both British and Welsh governments (irrespective of the current party colour), the various hues of local government in North Wales, and all relevant partners to make the region safer and more inclusive than it is today.
Labour should be going into the PCC elections aiming for gains. We have a poll lead and a leader who has inspired a new generation of party members. We need to transfer this into votes and additional public servants. Hitting the ground running, I am campaigning hard on Welsh language rights and launched my campaign with Jack Dromey at an agricultural college – with a particular focus on rural crime and often-ignored problems, such as farm machinery theft. I have praised a local Plaid Cymru member of parliament on her stance on cyber-crime and have said publicly that I want to work closely with her if elected in May.
My agenda at this election is simple and straightforward. To get elected, I have to reach out and, in doing so, I will not betray my Labour values. But I will have to be willing to embrace values that are important to others. For that I make no apologies.
David Taylor is candidate for police and crime commissioner for North Wales
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