by Julian Ruck
Warwickshire police commissioner Ron Ball is not quite a marauding Genghis Khan of police accountability, is he? More the sweet talking muse of old Bill romantic verse, it seems. His line, you must admit, of “let’s wait and see” certainly tends to disappoint when the evidence is clear and unequivocal in respect of the Andrew Mitchell debacle: the police lied….again.
But all is not lost. These bold outriders for public accountability, though somewhat mired in mystery where the general public are concerned, do enjoy a modest degree of virtue as I recently discovered when interviewing the Dyfed Powys police and crime commissioner Christopher Salmon.
The thrust of my interview concerned the devolving of police powers to Carwyn’s Team Druid in Cardiff Bay.
Before going any further, I must remind readers that the first minister was “roasted” by Welsh Labour MP’s back in March over this very issue, as originally reported by the Western Mail and then taken up by BBC Wales.
Talk of the tea room in Westminster, apparently. Indeed one senior politician compared Rhodri Morgan (Carwyn’s mentor in public sector studies) with Ramsay Macdonald and another loyalist Valley’s MP told Carwyn directly that it was a pity that he didn’t pay more attention to health and education in Wales instead of devolving police powers, with criminal justice to follow.
Yet another Westminster Welsh politico complained, “He didn’t consult anybody. He didn’t discuss his proposals with his own cabinet or even Labour AMs’.”
Observe the remarkable naivety of Welsh Labour MP’s here, as if they have ever known what goes on in Cardiff Bay, that’s devolution for you? Nothing but “institutional chaos”, at least John Major got this right.
All you hear from Welsh MP’s these days is, “Can’t deal with that, it’s the responsibility of the Welsh government.” Makes you wonder why they are in Parliament at all, doesn’t it?
Although in the interests of balance one must quote Welsh Labour MP Wayne David who said about this lively political domestic, “We are not in favour of a separate justice system in Wales. That is Labour party policy.”
Well Mr David, haven’t you learnt by now that the first minister doesn’t give a fig for Labour Party ‘policy’? These days in Wales, it’s all about Carwynist etatism full stop. Can you imagine what would happen if a spanking new Welsh legal system and regiment of Carwyn’s Peelers were let loose? It would be speak Welsh on pain of death, a Taffia judiciary recruited from the bowels of Cardiff university nationalist extremism and bugger the hallowed principles of ancient jurisprudence. Glendower’s Dentures would be snapping all over again!
So where does Commissioner Salmon stand on all this? Firstly, it must be stated that he didn’t try and charm but he certainly knew what he was about and where he wanted to go. A Ron Ball, he was not.
His views on devolved policing were unequivocal and forthright. As he quite rightly pointed out, day to day policing powers have already been devolved to locally and democratically elected Commissioners who can be held to account, what else needs to be devolved?
That’s the critical point. What will be gained with another layer of devolution and political jockeying?
I didn’t detect any ‘in the pocket’ deference to the police or champagne kow-towing. He was there to keep an eye on them and that’s exactly what he was going to do. I had a feeling that he would fight the good fight for the citizen and go where needs must regardless of any chief constable golfing handicap.
To conclude, I obtained the following responses from the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru-
Mike Jackson, Senior Media Officer: “Welsh Conservatives do not believe that the case to transfer policing powers to the Welsh Assembly has been made.”
Plaid Cymru spokesperson: “Westminster isn’t working for Wales, and the sooner we get more decisions that affect our citizens made in Wales the better. This includes powers over policing. Plaid Cymru would abolish the role of Police and Crime Commissioners.
With regards to the present failures of the current Labour Welsh government, we believe that they are tired, and lack ambition, energy and fresh thinking to make that difference. Wales deserves better than this.”
I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Plaid in the first paragraph but its honesty demands merit. As for the second paragraph? For once, I couldn’t agree more with Plaid!
Julian Ruck is an author, columnist and Freedom of Information campaigner. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media