Published on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 22:45 Written by Sonia Gable
That Kevin Carroll, one of the leaders of the English Defence League, is standing for election as a police and crime commissioner has caused some excitement, at least for some, in these otherwise uninteresting polls.
Carroll will stand as the British Freedom Party candidate in Bedfordshire, which includes his home town and the EDL’s base of Luton. He can’t stand for the EDL because it is not a registered political party.
Police and crime commissioners will replace police authorities everywhere in England and Wales except London. Police authorities consist of elected local councillors and appointed independent members from the local community generally with some relevant expertise. Police and crime commissioners will set the budget for their local force and decide what its priorities and strategy should be. They will also have the power to hire and fire chief constables and be in charge of support services for victims.
Placing those powers in the hands of a single individual, who in most cases will be elected on a party political basis, is supposed to be more democratic and increase accountability. Yes, I don’t get it either.
Of course this talk about democracy and accountability is a pretence. The police will never be answerable to ordinary people like you and me. There is a good case for not voting in these elections: to show the government we are not fooled.
But what about Kevin Carroll? He has raised the £5,000 deposit he needs to stand and is now looking for another £2,500 to spend on leaflets. So far he has £765.01 of this. Even if he gets the whole £2,500 that will only cover printing not distribution – there is no free leaflet delivery in these elections. So the BFP is now appealing for people to come to Bedfordshire to deliver leaflets and “man tabletops”. I predict they won’t get many takers. Most of the BFP’s 449 members (as at 31 December 2011) don’t live in or near Bedfordshire. As for the EDL’s inane and thuggish supporters, they find it hard enough to extricate themselves from the pub for a march and potentially exciting street fight. Delivering leaflets or another pint? What do you think?
Candidates in Bedfordshire are allowed to spend up to £83,681 on their campaign. The amount is based on the number of voters and Bedfordshire is one of the smallest police areas. Even so, it’s well beyond what independents and smaller parties can raise, meaning the election in Bedfordshire, like everywhere else, will be dominated by Labour and the Tories.
So is it worth actively campaigning against Carroll? Unite Against Fascism has not announced any campaign so far, but it’s early days – nominations close only on 19 October – and UAF is busy opposing the current spate of EDL marches around the country. Hope Not Hate has made preventing “a disaster” in Bedfordshire the top priority in its autumn campaign. Therein lies a difficulty. Non-party campaigners for or against a candidate in the Bedfordshire election are allowed to spend up to £2,347, which gives little scope for reaching many of the 620,000 people of Bedfordshire. Strangely HNH has appealed for £5,000 for its “campaign to keep the EDL thugs out of Bedfordshire”. Supporters might ask what the excess £2,653 will be spent on.
Carroll has no chance of getting elected, with or without a campaign against him. Antifascists are surely better occupied in defending our streets and towns against the real threat of the EDL’s presence than in participating in this dubious election.
There is even a risk that antifascist publicity about Carroll will encourage potential far-right supporters to vote for him, who might otherwise not have known about the election or that he was standing, seeing as his election material is likely to reach few voters.
Of course, not campaigning against someone like Carroll goes against the grain for many antifascists, who naturally want to oppose racists and fascists wherever they rear their ugly heads. But as Sun Tzu said, we should choose our battles wisely.