Monday, 22 September 2014

There Should Be No Doubt About Recall

If the past three weeks in politics have taught us anything, it surely should be that recall of our elected representatives is a vital part of the democratic process.

Being an elected representative of the people is a privilege and I'm not sorry if that sounds corny, because it is true. For someone to be elected to parliament - or any other public office - and to forget who it was that put them in that prestigious, (and not to mention well paid) position is a betrayal of the trust instilled in them by voters. In South Yorkshire, the defiant stance taken by the Police and Crime Commissioner, in the aftermath of the Jay Report, demonstrated perfectly why recall should be a fundamental part of any electoral process.

I'm not talking about one person having an axe to grind and bringing all manner of vexatious complaints forward, I'm talking about when someone completely loses the confidence of the majority of the electorate, as the South Yorkshire PCC clearly did.

Yes, before you ask, I was the deputy PCC in South Yorkshire.  I was under no illusion about the feeling of the public.  One only had to look at social media and at comments on local newspaper websites to get a general flavour of public opinion - not from one or two online trolls, but from hundreds of ordinary members of the public. I overheard conversations about it in supermarkets, outside school, in the park, while watching my children play football and at Slimming World. It was without a doubt, the foremost local news story on everyone's mind. (I am not going to go into my resignation, being asked if the panel could consider me for the interim PCC role or their subsequent decision to select someone removed from politics for the temporary post, that's for another blogpost, this is about recall!)

Recall is all about making those who represent us accountable to the electorate, more than just once every four or five years.  This means that MPs would not be able to cling on in the event of a major public confidence or misconduct issue, they'd have to be seen to be acting properly and doing a good job throughout their term in office. Thankfully, the vast majority of MPs do just that, but we are all aware that during recent years, there have been some who enjoyed the status of the role, whilst working more on their own career prospects and personal fortunes, rather than their casework. 

I know some fantastic constituency MPs, whose first priority is their constituency and constituents; I don't expect they would have anything to be concerned about with a proper recall process.  It would increase the credibility of our parliament and parliamentarians and would reinforce the fact that elected politicians work for the people. 

Recall should be about giving more power to the electorate, which is why the government's current proposals are woefully inadequate. They do not give the necessary power of recall to the people, they keep it within the establishment. Again, in light of a scandal, under the Government's proposals we will see politicians policing themselves and that is something that is just not palatable to the public.  

As Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary says, "We don’t want a system of recall that is solely in the hands of MPs as this will struggle to have the public’s confidence." I am delighted that this view is shared by a cross party group of MPs who are working to get the Recall Bill to a point that will demonstrate a commitment by our elected politicians to repair the damage that has been done by those who relished elected office for all the wrong reasons.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

My DPCC Resignation Statement in Full

As you will have seen, I have tendered my resignation as South Yorkshire Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.  Below is the statement I released this afternoon to explain why:

After careful consideration of my position as Labour Deputy PCC, following Shaun Wright's announcement that he has resigned from the Labour Party, it has become clear to me that I am unable to continue in the role and have therefore tendered my resignation.

It is vital for people to have confidence in the office of Police and Crime Commissioner and with this in mind, I believe it would have been the right thing for Shaun Wright to resign. This has become even more apparent given the overwhelming opinion of the public - as they are the people to whom the Commissioner is ultimately accountable. 

I am incredibly sad that this issue has become centred on one person and we seem to have lost focus on the most important factor in all this; the 1400 victims who were failed. I am more concerned about them and what is happening to them now. Have they finally received the support and help they need to try and rebuild their lives? These are the questions that demand answers.

Political point scoring will not help the victims and I hope the progress that has been made by South Yorkshire Police, in bringing those who perpetrate these dreadful crimes to justice, will continue and more children will be spared suffering this abuse.