WHEN police commissioners were first suggested by the Conservatives, Labour politicians were quick to dismiss the idea. The role risked politicising policing.
It would be costly and ineffective. It was just another Americanisation of law and order in a country with one of the best, most politically independent police forces in the world.
But when the die was cast and it became clear that come what may, there would one day be 41 police commissioners dotted around England and Wales, Labour got on board.
Labour’s Jane Kennedy last week became the public face of crime-fighting on Merseyside, albeit on the back of a woefully low but not entirely unexpected turn out of just under 13%.
It was the moment 87% of people in the region had not been waiting for.
So, for Commissioner Kennedy, as she will now be known, was the decision to throw her hat – or helmet – in the ring a case of “it’s a non-job, but someone’s got to do it?”
The ex-Wavertree MP says there was some political reluctance, but that based on her experience as a Home Office minister responsible for policing in Northern Ireland, she would be the best candidate for Merseyside.
“I believe Labour chose me because of my experience in Northern Ireland, where after the Good Friday Agreement we were reducing budgets for policing and moving policing on.”
But she was – and still is – well aware that she would have to break down a barricade of apathy and mistrust about the role itself.
Commissioner Kennedy said: “I don’t think people really understood what it was all about and that they remain suspicious of the whole policy.
“A lot of people from all walks of life on Merseyside did not agree, and I think they’re still sceptical.
“Now, the fact that 87% of people did not bother to vote is a message for me and for (Home Secretary) Theresa May.
“It tells me that people were not necessarily disinterested, but that a lot of them are wary about the role and don’t want party politicians playing games with policing.”
The issue of party politics certainly reared its head during the Labour selection process, which was characteristically acrimonious (in some quarters, at least) behind closed doors.
When Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson suggested in a leaked email in May – before the candidate was chosen – that he “would be voting for Jane Kennedy because I want a police commissioner that I can work with – someone who believes they are accountable to the Labour Party and its members”, her rival Peter Kilfoyle’s camp suggested it would make the other boroughs fearful of a “Liverpool takeover”.