Tuesday 20 November 2012

Useful results of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections

Despite my well-publicised misgivings about the usefulness of the post, I did cast a vote in last week’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

In fact I cast two, the Government having chosen to interpret our decisive rejection of the Alternative Vote in elections for MPs as not applying to any other elections they might dream up.

I imagine that if the nation ever votes in a referendum against our continued membership of the European Union, that result will be similarly construed in a way that means we remain members of the EU after all.

On the other hand, if a “first past the post” contest had been run last week, we would have been deprived of the joy of seeing Humberside reject John Prescott, which many felt was the only thing that prevented the £100m spent on the poll being a total waste of money.

My own voting did not go smoothly. Turning up at the polling station early in the morning, and receiving the undivided attention of the four council staff on duty, I was told that I could not vote as my name did not appear on the electoral register.

Which was odd, as I knew for a fact that I had renewed my registration online back in August. Subsequent telephone conversations with the local council confirmed that this was indeed the case. But, before I had done so, a canvasser employed to chase up registrations had called at our house and demanded that my wife sign a form and hand it back there and then.

Which she declined to do. Partly because she was busy, partly because no one likes being bullied by officialdom on their own doorstep, but mainly because we were going to look at another house to rent in another part of the county the following day, and it surely made sense to know where we were going to be living on the due date in October before adding our names to an electoral roll.

We quickly decided not to move because the estate agent marketing our possible new home had omitted to mention, among its many attractions, that it was located on a busy main road. But that unsigned form duly made its way back to the council some time later, and it may be useful to others to know that “refused to sign as may be moving” apparently trumps having actually registered online in the meantime.

Having sorted that out, I was at least comforted by the warm personal greeting I received from the staff at the polling station in the evening. Almost as though they had not received any other visitors since I left them ten hours earlier.

And, in truth, the turnout showed that there had been few enough. Though my wife had pitched up during the afternoon, accompanied by a baby and a very excited little boy.

“Where are we going, Mummy?” Charlie had asked as he was buttoned into his coat and strapped into the car.


“Oh great, I love voting!” he announced enthusiastically, which thoroughly puzzled Mrs Hann right up to the moment when she had put her form in the ballot box and announced that it was time to go back home.

Charlie’s face fell and his bottom lip trembled.

“But Mummy, we haven’t even been out on the water,” he complained.

So a three year-old boy learned the important difference between voting and boating, and a 74 year-old with two Jags failed to land a second job to add to his representation of the Labour party in the House of Lords.

Oh, and 41 people around the country gained roles that almost no one particularly wanted them to have, paying up to £100,000 a year, setting the priorities for cutting crime in their areas.

I would have been happy to give my advice to the Chief Constable on this free of charge, but I imagine that nicking the bad people who murder, maim, steal and vandalise would have been deemed overly simplistic.

Northumbria's new Police and Crime Commissioner and scourge of bogus charity bag collectors Vera Baird - sadly not in the uniform for her new job

And I suppose it is good to know that, in Northumbria at least, bogus charity bag collectors are now quaking in their boots.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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