Thursday, August 09, 2012

We are pleased to welcolme Vera Baird to the Blog as Labours Candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria. You can contact Vera direct on 07980224797 or at verabaird@gmail.com

I am proud to be the Labour candidate to be the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, selected as the candidate in a ballot in which over 2500 Labour members polled. My campaign for the November 15th election has already started and I am asking you to join in now, because we must win.
Police and Crime Commissioners will be directly elected to be the voice of the people. They must find out, by consulting all communities, what the public requires from the police and negotiate those needs into a 5 year Policing and Crime Plan, with the Chief Constable. PCCs will control the police budget but also funds for community safety, crime reduction and victim support.
It is a big job with a long reach. There will be a lot of partnership working, in particular with the local authorities in the area and I am very keen to work to ensure that not only am I elected but that we win the Northumberland County Council elections next May so that I have six Labour Councils to work with, instead of the five there are now.  
The Tories think they are still the party of law and order and that they can sneak Conservative Commissioner candidates into Labour areas, by pretending that this election is not political.  
If that is working anywhere, it certainly isn’t working here. Wherever I have gone so far- and I have been campaigning from Berwick to Sunderland for two months  - people see that Tory PCC candidates are as responsible  as Osborne and May for the damage caused by cuts. They will cheerlead for more cuts. Tories do not like public services because they want to tax their well-to-do voters less. They live in affluent areas where there is less crime and where cuts to police do less harm than on our estates.
Osborne has imposed very deep cuts to Northumbria Police, almost twice what the Inspectors of Constabulary said could be managed without weakening the frontline. Tories tend to say that it isn’t how many police there are but what is done with them that counts. I said that to a footballing friend  in Ashington and he replied
 “Tell that to the England manager who’s cut to 9 players while Brazil have 11!”
The worst case scenario is that Osborne will require Northumbria to cut 730 police officers over 4 years.
Yvette Cooper, our Shadow Home Secretary has made clear that Labour would not be imposing such damaging cuts, but would follow the advice of the Inspectors.
I will fight the cuts and make sure that we keep Neighbourhood Policing, tackle anti-social behaviour, reduce drug crime and work to end violence against women – all proven Labour policies, tackling crime and the causes of crime and all of which are under threat from this Tory led coalition.
I pledge too that policing will be carried out by officers and staff working for the public interest, never influenced by private profit. The core of this police service will remain public. No Northumbrian will see G4S uniforms patrolling their streets.
The job of Police and Crime Commissioner is a great challenge which I relish. My 30 years experience as a criminal defence barrister, including  in the miners’ strike, means that I understand the police in the  same way that Trade Unionists get to know management. Then, during my 9 years as an MP, I was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke and learned a huge amount by being immersed daily in policing policy, strategy and management, working closely with very senior officers and Police Authorities from all regions. As Solicitor General, I had national responsibility for the Crown Prosecution Service, who prosecute what the police investigate and I worked closely with police as associates on getting cases to court and in further developing strategy.  That 3-dimensional experience of the police gives me an almost unique understanding of them, so that I can encourage them closer to the public they serve. Police and public need to be one joint community promoting safety and tackling crime together. I am ambitious that Northumbria Police, already a very successful police service, with whom it will be a pleasure to work, becomes the best in the country. Our people deserve that.
The enemy in this election is apathy and lack of knowledge.  Few people know what Police and Crime Commissioners are or that the election is on. It is difficult to get voters out, even on a sunny day in May, for an ordinary election, far harder for an unknown cause, in the depths of winter.
Some people who think they understand, believe that we are voting for a Chief Constable and don’t want to politicise the police. That group, whichever party they usually support, are the people the Tories are hoping to fool. Real risks flow from that dangerous combination and we need to be out and about amongst our people now telling them these truths.
Labour intends to be back in government, in 2015. That likelihood has been greatly improved by the May election results and the PCC election is the next step. After that the third gold medal will be the County Council! Let’s get our track shoes on and get now!