Gale`s View – 7th November 2012
I am not, personally, in favour of giving to sixteen year olds the right to vote. That is a position that I am more than willing to debate at another time and in another forum but it is not the purpose of this article.
It is a sad fact that very few young people bother to make the journey to the polling station or to apply for a postal ballot paper. For twenty nine years I have tried to encourage first-time voters to use the franchise that has been extended to them and to exercise their right, as eighteen year olds or more, to participate in the democratic process and to take advantage of the opportunity that others have, over the years, fought, and in some cases died for, to secure. Which brings me via the scenic route to the election, next week, that will generate our first Police and Crime Commissioners.
Parliament has decided to replace the appointed County Police Authorities with elected representatives who will have a mandate to deliver the kind of policing that we want”. Their priorities, will of course vary from county to county and from region to region and although some issues – drugs, anti-social behaviour, alcohol abuse and the like – are common to most constabulary areas this is your chance to take a stand and to elect the kind of person that you believe will work with the Chief Constable to deliver and enforce the law and order that you want to see. And if, at the end of their term of office, you feel that they have failed you then you will have the power to throw them out and, as with a Member of Parliament, replace them with someone more to your liking.
Because this is a new election at a time of the year when elections are not normally held, because people do not entirely appreciate the potential strength and importance of the post of Police Commissioner and because very many people believe that such a post should not be contested on a party-political platform, it is predicted that the turnout may be low. Interventions such as that made by the former Commissioner of the Met police, Sir Ian Blair, who has called upon people not to vote next Thursday, are in my view negative and irresponsible. They perhaps explain why Sir Ian fell out with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and found himself being replaced with a different kind of policeman. But the fact that one disaffected ex senior officer does not wish to see the apparently god-given right of the Metropolitan Police to run their own affairs watered down is not a good reason for the rest of us not to use the democratic power that is available to us to make a difference.
Naturally, I would personally like you to support, here in Kent, the official Conservative Party candidate but as I have consistently said to those young people with whom I have been communicating at every General Election since 1983, I would sooner that you voted for a political opponent than that you should not vote at all. I want to see a Police Commissioner elected with a mandate large enough to allow him or her to be able to say I represent the people” and without the support of the public that power will be diminished – which is what I suspect that Sir Ian Blair actually wants. At this election we are all first time voters” and that is why we have a duty to take the trouble to get out and vote.