Thursday, 15 November 2012

Police and Crime Commissioner elections, pirate radio, and Dad's Army

Before me, as I write, is my Poll Card, authorising me to toddle across the park to the Village Hall and vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner for the Sussex Police area.

Ever since 1970, when I became 18, I have made a point of voting in every election going.

I could not actually vote in the 1970 General Election, as I became 18 too late, and missed the chance by only a few days. This was the one in which Ted Heath carried the lance for the Conservatives, and unseated Harold Wilson from his lumbering horse in a decisive victory long-awaited by the country. Most of us had had quite enough of Harold's pipe, and his weasel voice, and his wife's poetry, and tales of their holiday home on the Isles of Scilly, and the Labour Party's kissy-kissy relationship with the Unions (then the real power in the land), and George Brown's ludicrous escapades, and Lord Beeching's trashing of the railways, and the forced introduction of Comprehensive Education, and the Labour Party's failure to deliver the White Heat of Technology as promised.

Not to mention the devaluation of the pound, and the tremendously unpopular abandonment of shillings and pence for a soulless decimal coinage. Decimalisation arrived in February 1971, on the Conservatives' watch, but the Labour government had committed the country to it years before, the first decimal coins appearing in 1968, equavalent to the old florin, shilling and ten-bob note. At least the pound was kept: but it was never the same animal as the old pound, and something important - an aspect of historical continuity - was lost forever. In fact it seemed that the country's distinctive way of life was being undermined and dismantled, and that by 1984 the country might indeed be called Airstrip One, and Harold might be Big Brother, and you could end up in Room 101 if you whispered anything that was not allowed. It was a doubleplus ungood situation.

But Ted and his Team triumphed, helped not a little with an election radio jingle based on the opening song in a certain already-iconic TV series, the one about the Home Guard in World War II. It went something like this:

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Wilson
If you think we're on the run?
We are the Boys who will stop your little game,
We are the Boys who will make you think again...

And so forth. It was playful but catchy, and for me still memorable, but as unfair as the Conservatives' much later, and far less playful, poster campaign against Labour in the 1990s that showed Tony Blair's grinning face with red demon eyes and the caption, New Labour, new danger.

As I could only watch from the wings in 1970, I was determined in the future to exercise my democratic rights whenever I had the chance. And I did: local council elections, general elections, referenda on this and that. I was punctillious about it. After all, it was the only opportunity to change or influence the People In Charge, and it didn't come often. It was criminal to waste the privilege. Voting was also a way to register disapproval for all the broken promises and failures of each successive government.

Getting back to today, who might I vote for? There are five local candidates, four of them representing parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal, UKIP) and one Independent. So apparently a decentish choice. But because most of the candidates are party-backed, the suspicion must be that they will adhere to the national party line if they get elected. If they intend to do anything very different, they will run into trouble. This might easily mean that some local viewpoints on policing won't ever get taken into account.

What are these Commissioners supposed to do, anyway? They are not Investigating Judges. They are not Ombudsmen. Will they really have the power to force the police in my area to adopt any priorities that local people want? Will they really be able to demand from central government the proper funding for some local police initiative? Or will they simply be tacit observers at the police and council meetings they are invited to? The impression I have is that they will be toothless and easily-ignored, and will make no difference whatever.

So I can't be bothered. And this will be the first local election I won't have voted in.

Postscript: Curious to find out more about the 1970 Dad's Army election jingle that was such a gift to the Conservatives, I've discovered that it originated from a pirate radio ship! Of course: Labour didn't want to legalise commercial radio, and especially not stations broadcasting pop music...all against socialist principles...whereas the trendy Conservative party was all for such enterprising and freebooting things. So the jingle was born, less than a week before the election, and was heard all over the place. The second line in fact officially went If you think free radio's down. But I'm sure that there were several versions current. LM    

2 comments:

  1. Hard not to be skeptical when we are given the freedom to vote but have little to vote for! No matter who you vote for to represent your wishes follows their party line or worse in cases like abortion and euthanasia vote against the well known wishes of the general public.

    This current vote you are having down south is so typical, vote for something "nobody" knows anything about! Do not fear , you are not alone, we will get to vote on independence soon but 'NOBODY" is going to ever tell us exactly what it would entail!!

    The 70's was a TV free decade for me after having been born in front of one in the early 50's so I missed that catchy ditty.

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  2. I didn't vote either Lucy. Apart from knowing next to nothing about the candidates other than what they wrote about themselves, I also felt that they would be following their political persuasions should they be elected. It would be difficult for them to do otherwise I suppose. As far as I can tell the basic role is to juggle the purse strings by determining where the money gets spent to the best effect. One person making the decisions cannot be right in my estimation. To be quite frank though, I simply couldn't be bothered voting!

    Shirley Anne x

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