Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Private matters and public life

Regular readers will know that I am no fan of Kent's PPC (sorry, let's start that again shall we) Police and Crime Commissioner, Ann Barnes. 

I am opposed to her for a whole host of reasons:
  • The duplicitous language in the period leading to her announcement as a candidate - condemning the legislation and the creation of PCCs even after she had secretly registered her own campaign website.
  • Her Lib Dem backed campaign, run by one of Kent's leading Lib Dem activists, whilst proclaiming her disdain for party politics.
  • The sanctimonious nature of her campaign leaflets and speeches, attacking "well funded political parties" whilst spending almost £100,000 on her own campaign.
  • The appalling appointment of her two Campaign Managers as her "advisers" each on publicly funded salaries of £6,000 per month, whilst complaining about lack of resources and seeking to increase taxes by 3x the rate of inflation.
  • Her gross ineptitude, displayed in glorious technicolour on our TV screens last week. Everything from the Onion to Ann Force 1. Cringe-worthy, patronising, fatuous tokenism which brings not only her own position and authority into disrepute, but also affect the morale and standing of Kent Police. 

There are plenty of real and valid reasons to oppose Mrs Barnes and what she stands for. 

Like the 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' Camper Van, the Asda Walkabouts and her inability to explain what she actually does, her decision (and I stress her decision, there is no statutory requirement for this post and I know many senior people advised her not to do it) to appoint a Youth Police Commissioner must rank among the worst examples of her approach. 

After the disaster surrounding her first attempt to appoint a Youth Police Commissioner (well documented here and elsewhere) most people would have taken the opportunity to revisit the idea and beat a diplomatic retreat. But no - not Mrs Barnes.  People say when you fall off a horse or a bicycle the best thing to do is get straight back on and ride again. Mrs Barnes takes a different approach. Having stuck her fingers into the fire and got them burnt, she then sticks them in again just to see if the embers are still as hot as last time.  She deserves to get burnt fingers. 

The latest catastrophe, reported all over the press and social media, is her replacement Youth Commissioner has also been suspended. Allegedly she is having an affair with a (ahem) former Tory Councillor who is 30 years older and married. I will declare an interest, I know him well - for the 2008 election I was his agent. 

But this is where I take a more liberal view than many commentators. 

If a 20 year old woman is having an affair with a 50 year old married man, that really is none of our business. She's not underage. There's no evidence or suggestion of coercion.  It actually does not effect her ability to do her job. The only people involved are those having the affair and their families; and it's a private matter which they need to sort out between themselves. Of course, if he provided her with a reference and failed to disclose his friendship/relationship that's another matter. 

There are dozens of real and valid reasons why Ann Barnes should resign - and I hope she does. if not, the Kent Police and Crime Panel should pass a vote of no confidence when they meet tomorrow.  But she should go because of her incompetence and ineptitude of which this is just another sad example. 

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