Morning everybody. It's voting day! No, really!
I usually vote at 7 a.m. partly because democracy is still a bit exciting even in its British form, and partly to ensure that just for a second, there's a 100% majority for Truth and Justice.
Not today. I lazed around and didn't get to the polling station - in the Civic Offices at the heart of The Dark Place - until 9.48 this morning. It didn't bode well when the election officials actually cheered when I walked in and shouted 'An actual voter!'. I know more people will vote at lunchtime and in the evening, but it's not a good sign, and some of my friends were the first to vote at their stations too.
To be honest, I only voted because I feel strongly that you should vote at every opportunity or shut up when everything goes wrong. I utterly oppose the idea of elected police commissioners. I suspect it was dreamed up by some boomer Tory who remembers Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara from the 1960s Batman TV show.
They think these guys will shine a symbol into the sky and Eric Pickles will land on the roof and shoot skateboarders.
This is really why I voted. I know damn well that the only turnout will be from the Daily Mail-reading, Neighbourhood Watching, curtain-twitching reactionaries who vote Tory and mutter darkly about 'coloureds' and property prices. The kind of people elected will pander to the paranoia of the aging white suburbanites who will never be persuaded that crime is falling, that the police can't be trusted without supervision (Hillsborough, the Birmingham Six, various paedophile cover-ups, Jean Charles de Menezes and multiple other things were 'isolated incidents') and that policing shouldn't be an extension of Conservative Party policy. They want youths and dogshit off the streets and that's what they'll get in their areas if the motley crew of ex-coppers and ex-politicians who've stood get through. The non-white kids are in for a hard time if they stray from their slums and upset the commissioner's voters. My appalling MP Paul Uppal explicitly envisions a city swept clean of anyone who isn't a 'shopper': these police commissioners will turn the police service into private security guards looking after businesses and rich Tory voters' areas, because that's what will attract votes.
The argument for election is that the old policing boards were unaccountable and distant. They were appointed from the ranks of councillors elected in police areas. I have no idea who my commissioners were, but I did know that if I threw out my local councillors, the police board would change. I also knew that with a certain distance from the electorate, they couldn't canvass for the Rambo vote or play dog-whistle politics. Justice and policing shouldn't be politicised in this way: it's political enough already. Elected commissioners will become the bursting zits of a foul body politic.
Finally, it enrages me when Tory MPs call union strikes illegitimate if the turnout is less than 50%. By those standards, most MPs shouldn't have seats. Perhaps they'll pipe down when the policing commissioners are elected with less than 10% of the eligible vote.
I voted for Bob Jones, a Labour councillor and longstanding member of the policing board. One reason made me bother: he, like all the Labour candidates, promises to stop moves to privatise police activities. I fear and distrust the police as it is. A for-profit police force will be the stuff of dystopian novels. I've seen Robocop and it's not that far-fetched.
What of the other candidates? The Tory is one of John Cheever's 'quick civil servants of extinction': one of those hard-faced technocrats with no regard for civic virtues and too much for the iniquities which can be committed under the name of 'efficiency'. There's Derek Webley, an 'independent' who calls himself a Bishop, and says he as 'acted as media spokesman for the West Midlands police', so we need say no more about the Evangelical shill for repression. There's a UKIP candidate, so let's hope nothing blows up on nights when there's a full moon. Bill's an interesting guy. He used to be a Conservative until even they objected to him and his wife posting Facebook photos of them with golliwog dolls. Bill runs the Campaign Against Political Correctness, so I think we can assume that under his leadership, black chaps will find themselves falling down police station stairs like in the old days. Predictably, Mike opposes 'red tape', 'anti-social behaviour', 'elf-and-safety', 'chalkboards' and 'abroad' (I may have made this last one up). He hopes Jimmy Savile will burn in hell with a spike up his bottom. He is also the local head of The Freedom Association. That sounds nice, but they spent the 80s campaigning for apartheid and took money from the South African government, so you can just imagine the kind of policing he's keen on and who deserves freedom. He'll probably do quite well.
Cath Hannon (Independent) is an ex-copper, so she's out on the basis of quis custodiet ipsos custodes and anyway the daughter of Irish immigrants should have known better than to have joined the force which fitted up the Birmingham Six. The Lib Dem, Ayoub Khan, is a barrister who seems far too friendly with a force notorious for its treatment of ethnic minorities. And finally, there's Mike Rumble, a frightening-looking ex-officer with business fingers in some unsavoury pies and who can't spell 'independent' (and as an ex-rozzer during the darkest days of the WMP, probably couldn't be independent either).