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David Jamieson intended to retire, but ended up as PCC: how did that happen?

David Jamieson intended to retire, but ended up as PCC: how did that happen?

🕔27.Aug 2014

Most of the commentary surrounding the by-election to choose a new Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands has understandably been based on the stunning lack of public interest in the contest.

Just one in 10 voters bothered to take part, which was even worse than the 12 per cent recorded in 2012 when Bob Jones became the region’s first PCC. The cost of the by-election to find a successor to Jones, who died in July, was about £3.7 million, which gave Labour politicians an easy “waste of money target” to attack and fresh ammunition to demand an end, or at the very least substantial changes, to the commissioner experiment.

So far, so predictable. A pathetic turnout, and virtually zero interest in voting for a police chief. Nothing new there, and nothing odd either about the easy victory of Labour’s David Jamieson, who is the new PCC.

Jamieson managed to win just over 50 per cent of the vote, which meant there was no need to take second preference votes into account. Jones did not win on the first count, solely because he was up against independent candidates who did rather well.

As it happens, three of the main parties increased their share of the vote based on the 2012 contest, whilst the Lib Dems saw a marginal reduction.

Labour support increased by 8.8 per cent, the Tory vote was up by 8.3 per cent, while Ukip enjoyed a 16 per cent increase in its share of the vote. Liberal Democrat candidate Ayoub Khan, whose sole contribution to the PCC debate seems to have been a decision to boycott the BBC over its coverage of the Gaza issue, saw his party’s share of the vote fall by half a per cent.

It’s time now to ask what happens next?

On the broad policy front, Jamieson has set out to be Bob mark-two.

He has embraced the intent to put ‘450 bobbies on the streets’ and will continue to push forward with Jones’s commitment to community and neighbourhood policing. There is also the predictable pledge that no ‘direct police operations’ will be privatised.

Apart from this, what sort of PCC will David Jamieson be, and how did he get where he is today?

At 67 and with a long political career behind him, which includes a spell as an MP, junior transport minister and a cabinet member at Solihull Council, even by his own admission Mr Jamieson was looking forward to taking life a little easier.

He had been out of public office since May, when he lost his Solihull council seat, and told his local newspaper, the Solihull Observer, about his intention to bow out.

He said:”I will now enjoy retirement. I have already retired once but this time I mean it. Before I stood in this election I said that this would be the last time I stand.”

Clearly, something happened in the few days after Bob Jones’s sudden death at the beginning of July. Did Mr Jamieson suddenly get it into his head that he would like to cast off his carpet slippers, run for the £100,000-a-year PCC job, and take responsibility for the West Midlands Police Force’s £540 million annual budget with all of the hard work and long hours that will involve?

Or, perhaps more likely, did somebody in the Labour hierarchy tap up Mr Jamieson and invite him to throw his hat into the ring on the basis that he would be a competent PCC and a safe pair of hands and most likely would only have to do the job for a couple of years anyway?

Jack Dromey, the MP for Erdington, is shadow police minister and was much in attendance while Mr Jamieson conducted his brief campaign for votes. Did Dromey play any role in suggesting to the Labour high command that Jamieson would be a good choice?

We shall probably never know the exact circumstances. But what we do know is that Yvonne Mosquito, the deputy PCC and a Labour councillor in Birmingham, did want the job. She was interviewed by a party selection committee along with Mr Jamieson and turned down.

Not as much fuss as you might expect has been made about this by grassroots Labour members in the West Midlands. Perhaps no one thought Ms Mosquito would get the nod anyway. It’s a fact, though, that Labour rejected the chance to elect the country’s first black PCC, and a woman to boot.

Jamieson, astutely, made it clear that he would ask Ms Mosquito to carry on as deputy PCC if he won the election, which she has agreed to do having spent the brief period after Mr Jones’s death as acting PCC.

So the first unknown factor in the life of the new West Midlands PCC is his relationship with his deputy. Bob Jones was most careful to involve Ms Mosquito in every important decision he made, a fact that she made reference to in a speech to the Police and Crime Panel following Jones’s death. Mr Jamieson, I suspect, will have to tread carefully here for some time to come.

The second uncertainty about the new regime must be Jamieson’s attitude to the three Assistant PCC’s appointed by Jones, who all sit on the Strategic Policing and Crime Board alongside four non-executive members. The Assistant PCCs – Faye Abbott, Mohammad Nazir and Judy Foster – are all Labour councillors who are paid £22,500 a year for their troubles.

Will they keep their jobs? Will the Strategic Policing and Crime Board even remain in place?

Finally, and of the utmost importance, there is the matter of Jamieson’s relationship with the West Midlands chief constable Chris Sims.

Jones and Sims got on reasonably well, and they had worked together for a long time under the former Police Authority. There were some tensions though, generally over the correct definition of ‘operational duties’ which fall under the control of the chief constable, and everything else which is under the remit of the PCC.

The most powerful weapon at the disposal of the PCC, after setting the budget and policing priorities, is the ability to take disciplinary action against, or even to sack, the chief constable. No one is suggesting even remotely that such an outcome will happen in the West Midlands, but PCCs in other parts of the country have clashed with their chief constables with disastrous results.

In the aftermath of the 2012 PCC elections, Avon & Somerset chief constable Colin Port and Gwent’s Carmel Napier both stepped down, while the chief constable of Lincolnshire, Neil Rhodes, was suspended by his PCC.

Chief constables are not generally known for taking kindly to being told what to do by politicians, or indeed anyone else. The new dynamic imposed by PCCs, with a measure of direct political control over the police, opens up plenty of options for friction.

The emerging Jamieson-Sims relationship, therefore, is something to be observed carefully over the next few months. I expect both sides to take a cautious approach, at first.

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