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Home Office urged to delay West Midlands PCC election until September

Home Office urged to delay West Midlands PCC election until September

🕔02.Jul 2014

An attempt is underway to delay the contest to find a replacement for Bob Jones, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner who died on July 1.

Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore said he had spoken to the Home Office and recommended the rule that a PCC by-election must be held within 35 days of a vacancy occurring should be relaxed in this case.

Sir Albert said it would be unseemly to have the election triggered before Mr Jones’s funeral since political parties would have to start the process of selecting candidates and campaigning almost immediately.

He also fears voter participation may be even lower than the 12 per cent turnout when Mr Jones was elected in November 2012 if the by-election is held in the summer holiday peak period at the beginning of August.

Sir Albert said he believed the Home Office was “sympathetic” to his proposal.

However, a delay could cause problems for the West Midlands deputy PCC Yvonne Mosquito who has taken over temporarily following Mr Jones’s death because her powers under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility act are limited.

Speculation has already begun about who might replace Mr Jones.

It is unclear, even if the by-election is delayed until the middle of September, whether the main political parties will have time to run formal selection procedures. They may simply decide to canvass opinion locally and then impose candidates.

Labour will expect to win again, but the margin of victory could be narrower than 2012 based on results across the West Midlands at this year’s local council elections.

Ms Mosquito, a Labour Birmingham city councillor, is an early favourite for the £100,000-a-year job.She put herself forward for the job in 2012 but was not selected as Labour’s candidate. However, Mr Jones made it clear before the PCC election that he would appoint Ms Mosquito as his deputy if he became Commissioner.

If she does succeed Mr Jones Ms Mosquito would be expected to resign as a councillor, triggering a by-election in Nechells. Although this is normally a rock-solid Labour seat, the party may worry about winning in an inner city ward in a political climate heightened by Trojan Horse allegations of hardline Muslim infiltration in schools.

Former Kings Norton councillor Steve Bedser, who lost his seat in the May elections, is also being talked about as a possible PCC candidate. Bedser is known to be ambitious, having attempted but failed to be selected as one of his party’s candidates for the European Parliament.

But Labour may be cautious about replacing a white, male, PCC with another white male. Ms Mosquito’s obvious advantage is her African-Caribbean heritage.

The Conservatives could select Matt Bennett again, who was the candidate in 2012.

Bennett, a former Birmingham city councillor, has been chosen to stand in Edgbaston at the 2015 council elections and might welcome the publicity arising from a PCC campaign.

Barrister Ayoub Khan, who contested the 2012 West Midlands PCC election for the Liberal Democrats, appears to have all but disappeared from the local political scene.

It’s likely that UKIP will field a candidate. In 2012, the party put up Bill Etheridge who won 7.4 per cent of the vote and came fourth. Given UKIP’s success in this year’s European and local council elections, it’s possible that support for the party at this year’s PCC election could be significantly higher.

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