A messy situation for Lib Dems over Devon and Cornwall police commissioner contest

by Stephen Tall on August 5, 2012

It looks like the police commissioner contest in Devon and Cornwall could be about to get a bit messy for the Lib Dems, with the news that the Lib Dem leader of North Devon Council Brian Greenslade plans to run as an independent — even though the party plans to choose an official Lib Dem candidate.

Here’s how This is Cornwall reported it earlier this week:

Lib-Dem turns independent in battle for top police post

Councillor Brian Greenslade, once Devon County Council leader, will be an independent candidate at November’s election for a US-style police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall. Mr Greenslade, a former chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority, which will be abolished to make way for the commissioner, has fiercely opposed the new system, warning of policing being politicised. But he says he will stand for the £85,000-a-year post because “we are where we are”, and believes he can “make a difference”. … The Liberal Democrats, who have been uneasy with the Tory-driven policy, which proponents say will increase accountability, may yet stand a candidate in party colours after members in the region – who originally followed guidance from central office and opted not to get involved – decided they wanted to put someone forward.

The BBC picked up the story on Friday:

Brian Greenslade risks Lib Dem suspension with commissioner bid

The leader of North Devon Council risks being suspended from the Liberal Democrats if he stands as an independent in the election for a Police and Crime Commissioner. … Andrew Bridgwater, vice chair of the Lib Dems in Devon and Cornwall, said: “If Mr Greenslade stands against an official candidate he risks suspension and disciplinary action.” … Torbay’s Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders thinks it will be impossible for the elected commissioner to avoid making political decisions. He said: “Every decision that this very powerful person will take will be a political decision. The first question that has to be asked of any police commissioner is are they going to be happy with the budget that’s available and if they are not, are they going to try to take on the government for more resources”. Mr Sanders also thinks that Mr Greenslade will struggle to get votes outside of North Devon. “His difficulty is going to be the Liberal Democrats in Torbay and Plymouth and in Cornwall who make up more than half the electorate, [who] will be delivering leaflets for a liberal democrat [sic] candidate,” he said.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.