Undermining Democracy? PCC Elections

It never ceases to amaze me just how out of touch with real people this Government is and furthermore how Theresa May and her Home Office acolytes continue to ride rough shod over sound advice from established and credible organisations. The latest turn of events is not about privatising our Police but relates to ignoring advice from the Electoral Commission about how to conduct the Police and Crime Commissioner elections due to be held 15th November 2012. The Home Office have decided to completely disenfranchise large numbers of the electorate and further damage confidence in democracy in this country. They have decided that the electorate do not need to know about the individual candidates standing for election as Police Commissioners they only need to know the election is taking place and how to vote. An information booklet will be sent to every household and the Home Office will mount a multi media campaign about the elections. However, contrary to the advice given by the Electoral Commission to the Government, none of this will contain information about the individual candidates standing for election in each area. The Home Office believes that the electorate can all use the internet to find out about the candidates by visiting the web pages they have each created. They are happy for candidates to spend up to £100,000 on an election campaign but they are not funding any information to go to every household as has been the practice in government elections. They have however launched an advertising campaign to persuade us to vote TV advert

Only candidates with a robust party political machine or significant funding from other sponsors behind them stand any chance of putting their case to every household in the area. What has happened to British democracy when we find ourselves in a situation where the votes can only be won by those with the greatest resources and people can buy public office? When did we suddenly become little America?   This only serves to further convince me that the Police Commissioner should be free from party politics and sponsorship by wealthy individuals and private concerns. I am probably as concerned about some of the independent candidates throwing their hats into the ring. I have repeatedly asked, as have other people in Lincolnshire, one of the candidates – Mervyn Barrett OBE – how he is managing to fund his campaign which includes checking into the best hotel in town and leaflets for every household. Allegedly  he has the support of major donors but he is very coy when it comes  to identifying those donors. Such secrecy does not give me any real faith or trust in this candidate I  have come to the conclusion that I will use my vote for a truly independent candidate 15th November. David Bowles has an excellent track record of standing up to party politicians and fighting for what is right for Lincolnshire.  He is self funding and relying on support ‘in kind’ from friends, family and former colleagues. Take a look at his website Vote David Bowles

Brand Anarchy – managing corporate reputation

by Steve Earl and Stephen Waddington,

Published by Bloomsbury ISBN 978-1-4081-5722-0

What a joy to read a book written by two well established and authoritative practitioners of the dark arts of Public Relations – even if they did start life as Journalists! They take a well informed look at the rise and diversification of media platforms on which brands can be built and sacrificed. The book recognises how the role of the Public Relations Practitioner endeavouring to manage reputations is changing and becoming ever more complex. I was delighted to see within the first few words the acknowledgment that control has never been the honest working premise but the ability to connect with the customers, audience, publics – call them what you will – is the authentic route to success. Continue reading

Losing my religion

There’s a bit of a spat brewing around the subject of religion when Friday 10th February 2012 Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that Bideford council had no statutory powers to hold prayers during formal council meetings.  This is a practice at over half of the UK’s council meetings and has finally been opposed by former Bideford Councillor, Clive Bone, supported by the National Secular Society.

I am a non-believer, I have no faith and I have no desire to participate in prayers of any persuasion. According to the 2011 census I am in a minority of just under 30% because the census asks ‘What religion is your religion?’ rather than ‘Do you see yourself as belonging to any particular religion’ and ‘If so, which?’ as recommended by the British Humanist Association. The argument being the current question makes presumption of belief leaving little or no scope for people like me. Actually I had no problem declaring myself a non-believer.

I sense we are at a turning point that will take some years to resolve but the debate is now live. The Queen is still our Head of State and Head of the Church of England so in England we most definitely are not a secular society in statute. However, we do recognise the rights of others to have a different faith or religion. We are very sensitive to non-Christian faiths in our multi-cultural society but so far we have not been especially cognisant of the sensitivities of those of us without faith. Maybe that’s the fault of folks like me. As a non-believer I still mark Christmas (friends and family will know ‘celebrate’ is a bit of an exaggeration) and do enjoy the odd Easter Egg. I guess there are many like me who go along with the Christian holidays and festivities without really believing, but it’s easier to follow the herd to the shops.

Now let’s get back to the point where we started. Should prayers (and they tend to be Christian prayers) be the first item on the agenda of a council meeting? My view is an absolute ‘No’. What I do think would be useful would be to dedicate time at the start of meetings for Councillors (and extend it to both Houses of Parliament) to assemble to reflect on the Seven Principles of Public Life to get themselves in the right frame of mind for decision making – repeating them out loud to make sure they actively consider them over the course of the debates and possibly recap before the vote. There is no issue about whether or not the individuals are religious but it does make sure they know the basis on which they are there.