Ex-Met chief's anti-vote stance 'irresponsible'
Calls for a boycott of the upcoming election for Devon and Cornwall's police commissioner by Britain's former most senior policeman have been branded "wrong and deeply irresponsible".
Policing Minister Damian Green has taken ex-Met police chief Sir Ian Blair to task over his comments urging voters to stay away from the polls next month.
The minister insisted the elected office would give the public a say for the first time on important decisions about crime and policing in their area.
Addressing fears of a record low turnout, Mr Green argued that every Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) would have more legitimacy than the "existing unaccountable, invisible police authorities" which they will replace.
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His statement came after Sir Ian encouraged people not to vote on November 15 in a bid to stop the controversial flagship policy.
The former Met chief said he had always been "someone who says vote".
But he added: "I've never said this before but I actually hope people don't vote because that is the only way we are going to stop this."
Sir Ian argued the design of the posts was ill-conceived.
He said: "If they were going to break policing up, do it in a completely different way – small cities and small towns – perfect. But that is not what you have got.
"How can one person represent the conservative shires of Oxfordshire and Slough? What is this?
"Remember the police authorities are being swept away. They are being replaced by a police and crime panel who can't even talk to the chief constable.
"This is just a very strange issue to come forward with at such a difficult time for the country."
The Government has faced criticism for holding the elections in winter, not making enough efforts to publicise the elections and failing to offer candidates a free mail shot to send their leaflets to voters.
Urging people to take part in the forthcoming election, Mr Green said: "Lord Blair was wrong and deeply irresponsible to say the public should not take part in a democratic election."
He added: "What is certainly not for debate is that whatever happens, and however many thousands of people turn out to vote in each force area, every single PCC will have more legitimacy to make important decisions – decisions about what the police do – than the existing unaccountable, invisible police authorities."