It has been around two-and-a-half weeks since I decided to attempt to directly engage with democracy by writing to the five candidates standing in the Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections:
- Ainsley Arnold (Liberal Democrat)
- Louise Bours (UK Independence Party)
- John Dwyer (Conservative)
- Sarah Flannery (independent candidate)
- John Stockton (Labour)
In order to ask them about whether, as Cheshire PCC, they would:
- Protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists by ensuring that negligent drivers who kill or maim vulnerable road users are properly pursued and investigated by the Police
- Tackle so-called minor motoring offences, such as speeding, red-light jumping, pavement driving and smartphone use whilst driving which diminish safety (both real and perceived) for vulnerable road users.
- Deal with the blight of illegal and anti-social parking, which is particularly prevalent in Chester where there is currently close to zero enforcement against motorists who obstruct pavements and park in restricted areas.
Despite the widespread apathy towards these elections, only one of the candidates I wrote to replied at all. To my surprise, the candidate who replied was John Dwyer, the Conservative Party candidate:
“I realise that your focus is on cyclists and pedestrians but I feel there is a wider picture relating to all road users.
The vast majority of motorists are decent hard working law abiding people like you and me. However, there is a small number who, quite frankly, don’t give a thought to others on the road. These are people who don’t tax and insure their cars, who drink and drive, who take drugs and drive and who regularly break speed limits, particularly in residential areas. There is also a minority [sic] who park carelessly causing obstruction in the way you have described in your letter.
Where these issues are presenting themselves I would want the police and other enforcement agencies, such as local authorities, to take steps to prevent the committing of the offences in the first place and to take appropriate enforcement steps where the preventative measures have failed to work. The Crown Prosecution Service has told me that if the Police and Crime Commissioner indicates to them that this is a particular issue in a certain area then they will judge enforcement to be ‘in the public interest’ and not dismiss prosecution as an option.
It is my intention to ensure that we have robust processes in place to provide me with the appropriate information to support the positive action I know you are seeking.”
I have not heard from any other the other candidates, other than Sarah Flannery‘s representative on Twitter, who led me to believe she may have intended to reply but has not done so at the time of writing. I can only surmise that the other candidates saw my letter was to do with pedestrian and cyclist issues and decided that it was not worth their time.
I was also interested to see that Rod King of Twenty’s Plenty had engaged with Louise Bours, the UKIP candidate to see if she was supportive of the campaign. The response given is quite telling. Unprompted, whilst professing some support for 20 mph, she chooses to defend the criminal behaviour of motorists who choose to ignore speed limits on dual carriageways.
Honestly, my attempt to engage with the democratic process, and the corresponding lack of interest from four of the five candidates has left me feeling rather disaffected with the whole thing. However, I urge you all to go out and vote tomorrow, even if you just spoil your ballot paper.