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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Why I Won't Vote on Police Commissioners

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Since the age of 18, I have voted in almost every election, local or national. Where I have not voted, it has been - shamefully - due to neglect or lack of time on my part. However, today for the first time I made a conscious decision not to vote.

This is because I object to the ideology that lies behind today's elections for police and crime commissioners. Commissioners have been badged as representing a new brand of localism, bringing New York style policing to the leafy surburbs of middle England. However, it is hard to believe that this is really aimed at improving standards by making police more accountable to local people. Rather than being about the devolution of power from government, this represents the devolution of responsibility. Make no mistake about it, the biggest single influence on policing on a day to day basis - the policing which affects me - is funding. And this will be determined not by my local commissioner, but by government. 

However, in the world of police commissioning if you are now angry about an increase in crime, you cannot now blame the government. You must instead blame yourself for having voted for one commissioner, and then patiently wait five years to vote in the new one. If you are angry about budget cuts leading to less front line police, the government will ask you to blame your local commissioner for having failed to trim bureaucracy. 

Strategic issues which might make a genuine difference will still be determined by government. We have recently witnessed effective democratic federalism in the United States, where various states voted for the legalisation of cannabis. However, there is no way police commissioners here would have the ability to control drug classification and decide that in their particular patch, police officers will not waste time chasing those with a joint so as to focus on more pressing concerns. 

Police commissioners will draw the ire of the press, and the fire of politicians, and in the process those who really matter - in government - will continue to advance whatever cost-cutting or popularising agenda they want. I will not vote for this decoy democracy.  
Posted by Alistair at 9:15 pm

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