‘Val would have been pleased that democracy carried on in her ward’

But what was our Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, doing being photographed alongside Tory candidate Paul Carter, EDDC Tory Leader Philip Skinner and Simon Jupp MP?

Didn’t she take an oath to conduct herself “without fear or favour”?

Has she nothing better to do?

All for a paltry 113 votes! – Owl

Paul Arnott www.midweekherald.co.uk

Readers may recall my writing about the passing of the vice chair of East Devon District Council, Val Ranger over the summer after a brave fight against an awful diagnosis. Even now I find it hard to process the loss of a truly loved friend and colleague, and I know many other councillors feel the same.

Val would have been pleased, I feel sure, that democracy carried on last week in her ward of Newton Poppleford and Harpford when a by election was held to find a new councillor to serve the remainder of her term till next May. The winner was an Independent, as Val was, Chris Burhop, well-respected chair of the parish council, by a huge margin.

I also feel Val would have welcomed the campaign of another local candidate, Caleb Early representing the Labour Party. Caleb is not yet twenty, but plainly sincere and passionate, just the kind of person who Val would have nurtured and encouraged. I hope he enjoyed the experience and congratulate him on taking second place. The desire to serve in a younger person gives great hope for local democracy.

Coming third was Paul Carter for the Conservatives and again anyone prepared to put their head above the parapet is to be applauded. The campaign which was run for him by the East Devon Conservatives, however, caused widespread concern in one particular respect.

That worry is over the role of the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez. The oath promised when P&CCs take office is to conduct themselves “without fear or favour”. To many, while these positions are usually elected on political lines, the winner must thereafter check in their party affiliations and partisan campaigning at the door.

Of course, if Ms Hernandez wishes to attend Conservative party rubber chicken evenings, she has every right to do so. But I am very uneasy that someone on £85,000 per year whose sole public focus should be on the fight against crime feels she can spend her time campaigning in by elections.

To be frank – and again, I am not on Twitter but people send me these images – when I saw the Tories open their campaign in Newton Poppleford with a four-shot picture of Mr Carter, EDDC Tory Leader Philip Skinner, Simon Jupp MP, and the “without favour” Police and Crime Commissioner I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.

For they were openly touting this election, caused only by a tragic premature death of my friend, as the launch of their campaign for next year’s district elections. This was ill advised in two respects. First, it calls into question the judgement and independence of our Police and Crime Commissioner. And second, simply, how deluded were they?

Because while shipping in campaigners from out of Devon to knock on doors, didn’t they have the simple intelligence on the ground to realise that they were always going to be beaten by a country mile and that the missiles from their big cannons would just dribble out of the barrels and explode around their own feet?

Elsewhere in the jungle, Conservative-led Devon County Council is in huge financial trouble, as was reported last week, just as Tory Kent and Hampshire Councils are this week. In this respect however, I feel very different about the Tories.

John Hart, the longstanding Leader of Devon CC, is a decent, serous, old-school, one-nation politician, being sold down the river by his government. The crisis has been almost entirely caused by that government failing to properly fund both child and adult social care and pushing the problem down to the county councils. I wish him well in his campaign to be heard at Westminster.

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