Police and Crime Commissioner elections – A Reflection
Newly elected Police Commissioners elected by the ‘moral majority’ (of those that can be bothered to vote) may pose a threat to alternative music scenes
In a moment for democracy that was to Magna Carta what Pippa Middleton is to Charles Dickens, people in England and Wales who live outside London last week voted to elect the controllers of their local Police Force.
While it seems churlish to bemoan a more direct link between the people and the public services that they pay for and depend upon, some would argue that the redemptive powers of democracy should first be applied to other, higher profile, parts of the state.
Like the head of it, for example, or the swathes of unelected lawmakers sitting in the House of Lords.
Perhaps it was this constitutional contradiction that deterred 85% of the electorate from voting last Thursday. The common consensus, though, is that people massively couldn’t give a fuck about any election, and that the belief that ordinary people can use the democratic process to change society is slowly dying.
The apathy is exacerbated by the fact that Policing isn’t that big a deal because crime rates have been plummeting for years.
This isn’t because we’ve become a more equal society with higher levels of trust and compassion. Most academic analysis suggests it’s down to things like vehicle immobilisers, tracking devices, CCTV and the like. If poor people take our shit, we hunt ‘em down and lock ‘em up – Yay.
Whatever, the result is that the only people who bothered to vote are the old age pensioners who retain a touching faith that it makes the tiniest bit of difference. But they are right. If these daft elections had been held 20 years ago in places like Thames Valley or Hampshire or West Mercia, the rave scene and the related protest movements would probably have been the defining issue.
It’s easy to envisage some sort of Daily Express-driven drugs scare propelling a local headcase into a Police Commissioners’ position to persecute harmless recreational drug users and unlicensed party organisers today. The ‘zero tolerance’ candidate has already been elected in Surrey – he doesn’t sound like a very progressive guy.
The Criminal Justice Act smashed rave culture and the threat of a generation who weren’t completely enraptured by the thought of swallowing everything that McDonalds, Nike and Coca Cola could shit down their throats. These Police Commissioners are a subtler means to the same ends.
The Conservative Party knows that public attitudes towards law and order are solidly right-wing, particularly among the demographics most likely to vote, so it makes sense for them to link policy directly to majority opinion, in order to ensure a perpetually right-wing approach to Policing. This poses a genuine threat to minority interests like young people, fringe music scenes, drugs users and protest groups, and people need to be aware of that and organise against it.
The link between alternative politics and alternative culture has weakened over the past twenty years. Police Commissioners may come to demonstrate why it is still important that music scenes and sub-cultures maintain and encourage an assertive political identity.
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