Tony Hogg, the conservative PCC for Devon and Cornwall since November 2012, was elected with just 15 per cent of those eligible to vote. It is thought that thousands of people rejected the idea of PCCs and did not vote on principle.
Many people did (and still do) object to the idea of PCCs on the basis that their introduction led to the dissolution of the former police authority which oversaw policing governance and was replaced with what is widely regarded as the politicisation of the police force and a waste of money, which could be spent on officer recruitment instead.
I was a fairly fierce critic of Tony Hogg throughout most of his tenure as I intensely disliked the idea of a political figurehead scrutinising our police force – especially one who was from the same party as the government.
Although I felt that Mr Hogg was a bit of PR officer for the police for most of his tenure, I started to really respect him in his final year, after he announced he would not stand for a second term, when he very robustly challenged senior members of his own party over some appalling cuts that were planned.
Clearly deeply disillusioned with party politics, Mr Hogg sensationally resigned from the conservative party last week, delivering a stinging attack on the Tory government for refusing to publicise the elections, which will disadvantage independent candidates in particular, who have no option but to self fund.
Mr Hogg refused to back any one candidate but insisted that whoever wins must have “the gravitas” to stand up to the chief constable and oppose political party bosses.
He said: “The party machines are quite substantial and can roll out their votes while independents are struggling to pay their deposits.”
“The job must not fall victim to the party whip or to party political influence – I have made no friends over this in my party.”
I am backing Bob Spencer, who is the Independent candidate. A former acting assistant chief constable, Bob has stacks of experience in how the police force is run.
He is also a thoroughly decent community spirited guy, having served as a magistrate, a flood warden for his village and chairman of boards that protect vulnerable adults and children in Devon and Torbay.
If I thought a campaign across a parliamentary constituency as an independent was tough, Bob’s campaign which spans two counties and the Isles of Scilly is monumental. To even get the message across that the elections are taking place is a tall order, given that central government are keeping mousily quiet in the hope that the status quo will prevail and the conservative candidates will be elected by default.
Having helped Bob get his campaign off the ground earlier this year, I can say with absolute certainty that he has integrity in spades.
Bob believes that not only should the new PCC be free of party allegiances, but it is also vital that they should also be knowledgeable about policing.
He said Mr Hogg had spent tens of thousands on advisers, but that would not be necessary if he was to take on the role.
Speaking to the local media last week, Bob said: “I am fearful and apprehensive at what central government is saying in relation to the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on May 5. I don’t get alarmed easily.
“They say the post will be the voice of the people – it doesn’t feel like that. They say they do not want political control of the police. It doesn’t feel like that.”
Whether we like it or not the role of the PCC is here to stay – at least under this government. And it is absolutely vital that we have an independent one, with the right experience and a massive helping of integrity.
Please vote today (Thursday) and vote for Bob Spencer.