Douglas Carswell

24 DEC 2008

Who's been lobbying against localism?

Last week, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that long-awaited plans to make local police more locally accountable were to be scrapped.  The move represented a success for those powerful vested interests fiercely opposed to more democratically accountable policing.

The Association of Chief Police Officers seems to have disliked the idea that Chief Police Officers might be made more directly accountable.  Obviously.  The Association of Police Authorities – equally predictably – dislike the move because turkeys tend not to vote for Christmas. 

More surprisingly was the opposition from the Local Government Association.  According to the blurb on their website, the LGA “calls on central government to push decision-making to the lowest possible level”.  So why did they so actively oppose the first real opportunity to devolve power for a generation?  Indeed.  You ask them.   

There’s nothing wrong with any such bodies representing the views of their members – however much one might disagree.  Indeed, the LGA and Association of Police Authorities were pretty up front in the evidence they gave to the Home Affairs select committee. 

I do, however, note that shortly after I introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on directly elected Justice Commissioners / Sheriffs, I got a call from a charming voice claiming to be from lobbyists, Connect Public Affairs.  Connect is very open about the fact that their list of past and current clients includes both the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities.  Nothing wrong with that.   

They also list something called the Campaign for Local Policing.  Is that “local” as in run from the Home Office?  Whatever.  There's nothing wrong with running such a campaign, either.   

For me the question is has public money - directly or indirectly - changed hands in order to employ lobbyists to run a campaign designed to quash moves to make police more democratically accountable?  Perhaps the lobbying is done for free?  I merely ask, rather than infer.  Yet, I do think that if the services of professional lobbyists have been engaged, by organisations whose funds ultimately come out of the public purse, inorder to influence public policy matters - like how we are policed - we should at least be told.  

Nick Hurd, Conservative spokesman on these things, has suggested that there be some sort of restrictions on public funds being used to lobby government.  I’m beginning to see why.

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