Conservatism and PCCs

Below is the text of my speech to the Welsh Conservative Party Conference. I explain firstly why we have Police and Crime Commissioners and, secondly, why I am a Conservative Commissioner.

Please forgive the dodgy grammar. That is a product of speech, as opposed to prose, writing. I found a copy of David Cameron’s notes as I was waiting behind the stage. I feel a little better that his were much the same.

Delivered on 27 April 2013, at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea:

 

Not long after my election, I found myself in the kitchen of an elderly lady.

She had been driven out of her home by abusive neighbours. She wanted to tell me how it happened. She wanted to be heard.

She had reported the abuse to the police. In fact, she had reported so much that they stopped listening.

Each incident was minor. A piece of graffiti; damage to a car; threatening behaviour. On their own they didn’t amount to much. It was hard to prove who the culprit was.

So, the situation spiralled. Eventually she was forced to sell at considerable emotional and financial cost.

The police couldn’t understand her vulnerability. Their targets only looked at crimes. None of these incidents on their own were enough to justify action. Living alone, an elderly woman, with her family far away, she had no one to turn to.

Police and Crime Commissioners were elected give people like this a voice. We are here to bring police and public closer together. To be a voice for victims of crime.

Our police our woven into the fabric of our history. They put on uniforms and put themselves into harms way on our behalf. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

In Dyfed Powys – and I’m allowed a little bias here – we have the finest of the finest. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the hunt for April Jones.

A single act of unfathomable darkness has produced a hundred acts of unimaginable kindness. We have seen the best of our police and the best of our communities. We have learnt that we all have a part to play in keeping our homes and families safe. That goes to the heart of our tradition of policing.

People asked during the election why I’m standing as a Conservative. They didn’t want politics mixed with the police. Would I give up my party allegiance if I got elected?

My answer? No.

No one wants to politicise the police, least of all I. I’ve served in uniform, in the Army. I served my Queen. I certainly didn’t serve Tony Blair.

But the reason I’m a Conservative is because of what I believe; not because I’ve signed up to the rules of some club.

I believe that personal responsibility matters. Boundaries matter. Right and wrong matters. When people make choices, they must understand the consequences of those choices.

Crime is a choice. It is the wrong choice. It must have consequences. We do no one any favours – not ourselves, not victims, and certainly not perpetrators – if we shilly-shally around apologising for or excusing crime.

We must understand it, certainly. We must address its causes. We must help people make the right choice – to stay the right side of the line; do the right thing.

That’s where Conservatives have profound and eternal insights that can help.

We understand that boundaries give people confidence, respect is important and that responsibility does not constrain people. It empowers them.

We understand the importance of incentives in changing people’s behaviour. We trust them to take their own decisions. That is why we believe in markets.

The same is true of crime. We must reward those who make the right choice. We must help those who have committed crime and are trying to go straight. We must help people see the consequences of their actions early. And if they don’t, and they persist, they should be punished.

Those are principles I believe in. They are conservative principles, party membership or no.

They are what I am bringing to my role – a role, incidentally, that the Labour Party opposed but was quite willing to jump into. They believed it was rightfully theirs across Wales. Well, they learnt their lesson there then!

I will work by my principles. I have set priorities that put prevention first; that emphasise quality of service and delivering justice. I am scaling back rises in the police precept.

I am driving savings throughout the police. I’ve cut the cost of governing the police by 15% in four months. I have cut senior officers perks and the Chief Constable’s salary, which he has supported.

We will do more. We will work more closely with local authorities to make public access easier; and the Welsh Government to protect the most vulnerable.

I have made clear that high standards are not an option – they go to the heart of public service.

Standards are a function of leadership. They are not the product of a bureaucracy.

What we have, a few months on from those soggy autumn days is when Commissioners were elected, is a Conservative voice in government in Wales.

A voice that can support our colleagues in the Assembly, fighting back against that marauding beast which is the Welsh Labour Government; a beast that gnaws on the limbs of Welsh enterprise and tramples over the aspirations of local effort.

A beast that is incapable of passing a council, an airport – or a police service – without feeling the need to gorge itself.

We have a Conservative voice that is about giving power to people; not to institutions. About trusting professionals; not targets.

A voice for people who want to challenge tired old assumptions, not assume tired old habits.

It is a positive voice. A voice for the future.

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