by political editor Paul Francis
The Iraq war veteran tipped as one of the Conservative
candidates for the role of Kent's first elected police commissioner
has withdrawn from the contest.
Colonel Tim Collins is understood to have told party
managers he is unable to attend a crunch selection meeting due
to be held next weekend when Kent Conservatives are due to whittle
down a six-strong shortlist to three.
Although Mr Collins, renowned for his stirring eve of battle
address to troops in the Iraq war, was understood to have been on
that initial shortlist, he notified the party that he would be out
of the country.
The news might be a blow to the party as Mr Collins, 51, was
regarded by Consevative Central Office as the type of candidate who
would galvanise interest in one of its flagship reforms for
Julian Brazier MP, who is organizing the hustings for the
Conservatives, said: "The selection process is quite involved and
could not make all the dates of the various meetings, which stretch
four or five weeks. I am sorry to lose a good candidate but we
have a strong list."
Colonel Collins's interest in the £85,000-a-year post first
came to light when he was presented to the Conservative Party
conference by home secretary Theresa May last October.
In a speech, he told party activists:"I believe they
[commissioners] will change people's lives and transform policing.
Why? When the bureaucrats are in charge, the police stop doing what
the public wants them to do.
"There is more social work done than policing and that has to
change. That is why we need the public in charge and that is why we
need elected police commissioners. We need to introduce rat
catchers who are going to change things and are accountable to the
public. Policemen need to be energetic and accountable and above
all they need to be motivated."
But he came under fire when in a later interview he said that he
could do the job on a part-time basis.
He said: "It would be a part-time role for me. I don't see
there's full time work in it. Now others might see that differently
- those that are desperate for work - but the reality is that we've
got a very effective chief constable who has got a great team
around him. They can do the policing."
He also advocated regular publication of the photographs of
Kent's "most wanted" criminals, taking a leaf out of the practice
used by the FBI in America.
A Conservative insider said: "He did attract some criticism
within the Conservatives for some of the things he was saying. Six
people were shortlisted plus one reserve; he told us that he
couldn't make the meeting and would be out of the country so we
brought in the reserve."
for commissioners are due to take place on November 12. They will
replace police authorities, which in Kent has 17 members.
The government believes commissioners will be more accountable
as elected representatives and will generate wider interest in
Other Conservative candidates are the senior Gravesham
county councillor Bryan Sweetland, Medway councillor Mike O'Brien
and former Gravesham MP Jacques Arnold.