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Picking up the pieces of commissioner’s calamity

Off the Record

Behind the scenes at County Hall with political editor Paul Francis, Regional Press Awards UK’s weekly newspaper journalist of the year

• Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes has probably done more to disprove the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity but things could have been a lot worse. Before appearing before members of the Kent and Medway Crime Panel to talk about the disastrous Channel 4 documentary Meet The Commissioner, there was talk she would face a vote of no confidence. In fact, one member had notified the committee clerk setting out such an
intention. But it seems a few arms were twisted the morning the meeting took place, with pressure being brought to bear on the malcontents to withdraw any no confidence motion. The reason? Apparently because of the damage it might do to “the working relationship” between the commissioner and the panel.

• Among the various steps the panel has told the commissioner to act on is to reconsider whether it is appropriate for the police press office to be under her wing. Some fear the commissioner’s decision risks compromising the independence of the force’s press team and it might be used to promote the work of the commissioner rather than provide the media with operational information. Will she relinquish control?

• Spotted in Ann Barnes’ office last week was a whiteboard with a list of songs favoured by the commissioner’s team. Among them was What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. But sadly Off The Record failed to spot any for The Spice Girls whose slogan Girl Power was used by the commissioner on a meet-and-greet event in a supermarket that featured in the documentary.

• Meanwhile, there has not been much solidarity among fellow crime commissioners for Ann Barnes’ difficulties. West Midlands commissioner Bob Jones posted a lengthy statement on his website about the Channel 4 documentary, including this:

“One of the many flaws of the PCC model is that it attracts self-confident assertive individuals and has less checks and balances to prevent eccentricity coming to the fore than any other governance model.”

• UKIP leader Nigel Farage has yet to formally declare where he intends to stand at the general election, although most of the money appears to be on the Kent seat of Thanet South. But some are not waiting for an announcement. UKIP opponents have started a petition urging him to “stand down” – which is just a little premature.

• The Conservatives have yet to pick a candidate to take on Mr Farage but it is fair to say they want a Eurosceptic. The party’swebsite states that would-be candidates

“must be able to convince this association and our electorate that not only has he/she fully taken the voters concerns on board but it is vital the Conservative government delivers a referendum on our continued membership of the EU as soon as possible”.

Herne Bay Gazette, June 12th 2014

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