The role of Police and Crime Commissioner is a strange beast that does not appear to properly become part of the country’s public life.
The first election, in the autumn of 2012, saw a woeful turnout – both locally and nationally only about 15 per cent of people voted, possibly because there was not a local or general election on that date as well.
But the flipside of this detachment from the ‘political’ elections was that independent candidates did quite well, including Simon Hayes, who held the role in Hampshire until last week.
This time round, with the PCC vote piggy-backing on the council polling day, candidates attached to political parties did much better – and so Mr Hayes, despite seemingly having done little wrong during his tenure, found himself a distant third in the ballot, more than 90,000 votes behind the winner, Conservative Michael Lane.
It is hard to exactly evaluate Mr Hayes’ time in office, as we have nothing to compare it to. Certainly there is no news to report on the future of Portsmouth’s main police stations, nor where (or indeed whether) the mooted police investigation centre will be built.
But there have been several initiatives that may well reap dividends in the future – many different youth schemes that aimed to stop young people from becoming criminals in the first place, for example.
Mr Hayes had a clear vision on how policing interacted with prevention – in a way, the meeting of the law and social work. And, as an independent, while he was not overly aggressive, he was not afraid to pick fights with the Home Secretary, local council leaders, or anyone else.
We now wish Mr Lane well, and hope that he proves an effective monitor of the constabulary, and an efficient manager. We do, however, hold general misgivings over a political figure in the hotseat, though these are nothing to do with Mr Lane himself. We hope he shows himself to be his own man, whether that means speaking out against town halls or Whitehall. Because the police lose authority when – in any respect – they are seen to be politicised.