Today I challenged Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg on the recent Police and Crime Commissioners elections in which 85% of people did not vote and cost £100 million pounds - £25 million of which could have been avoided by holding the elections in May.
Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I note the absence of the elections for police and crime commissioners from the Deputy Prime Minister’s list of his Government’s constitutional reforms. Those elections ended up costing £25 million more because he did not want them to be held on the same day as the May council elections next year. Will he admit that, in order to try to give the Lib Dems a better chance next May, he has wasted an extra £25 million of public money?
The Deputy Prime Minister: I know the right hon. and learned Lady is feeling sore that so many Labour has-been politicians did not get elected. [Interruption.] I know it was not a good day for Deputy Prime Ministers, past or present, and I admit that. Honestly, she knows as well as I do that there was a mayoral contest and Westminster by-elections as well as local by-elections all on the same day. Is she now going to start blaming the November weather for the poor showing of her party at the police and crime commissioner elections? That is beneath her.
Ms Harman: I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman is drawing attention to last Thursday’s results because on the showing of his party in the Corby by-election, it will need more than a change of date to save his party’s fortunes. Will he not admit that no one wanted these police and crime commissioner elections, whatever the weather, that they were a complete shambles and that the money should have been spent on front-line policing instead?
The Deputy Prime Minister: If the right hon. and learned Lady dislikes the PCC elections so much, why did her party put up candidates across the country? [Interruption.] I hear “She had to” from a sedentary position, but no one forced her to put up as candidates the recycled Labour ex-Ministers who then failed to get elected. No one obliged her to do that. I really think the Labour party has to get out of this habit of criticising things that are quite close to its own proposals. As I understand it, the Labour party’s position is for directly elected members of the police authority—not a million miles away from the police and crime commissioners. As it happens, that was not my or my party’s policy, but it was a contest that we all entered in good faith. I am only sorry that it did not turn out as the right hon. and learned Lady had rather hoped.