By Charlie Stockton
Godfrey Daniel is a large man. He says so himself. When he walks into the room, scarlet fedora perched jauntily atop his head, he effortlessly commands attention.
Daniel is Labour’s candidate in Thursday’s election for Sussex Police Commissioner. He carried around a large banner saying so.
In a last minute bid for votes Daniel has agreed to come in and speak to students at City College. Barrack Obama visiting six swing states simultaneously it is not. But then this isn’t the Presidential Election. In fact it’s barely an election at all.
If the introduction of police commissioners has passed you by don’t worry, you’re not alone. Predictions suggest that only 15% of the electorate will cast their vote on Thursday.
This isn’t something that worries Daniel. He doesn’t care if he only gets one vote come the count, provided his rivals don’t get any. “A mandate is a mandate.” He announces in his Welsh brogue.
He would prefer it if more people voted though, and briefly raises the idea of making voting compulsory to ensure turnouts don’t fall to laughable levels. How many people who choose not to vote will regret it later on, especially if they end up with a commissioner they can’t abide, Daniels wonders, telling the room “People have died for our right to vote.”
When it comes to the question of who you should vote for Daniel is of course certain he’s the right man for the job. He has extensive experience in both local government, he’s been a Sussex County Councillor since 1997, and criminal justice, having served as a voluntary magistrate 23 years.
“Or you could vote for the Tory. And he’ll spend three years trying to find the bathrooms.”
Daniel may be deeply embroiled in party politics, he’s deputy leader of the Sussex branch of the Labour Party after all, but he is far from your average politician. Or at least he gives a very good impression of not being.
He makes no attempt to justify the reported £75m cost of the commissioner elections nationwide, in fact he freely admits that if it was up to him he’d maintain the status quo and give the money to the police themselves.
“Coppers for coppers.” He says happily. If you want bobbies on the beat then you have to pay for them.
But the election is going ahead and the money has already been spent. Even though the parties themselves, not to mention the media, seem completely apathetic. Daniel has received almost no support from Labour, they put up his £5000 deposit, but will get it back if he get more than 5% of the vote. Yet he hasn’t received the free post candidates expect in other elections and everything he, and candidates from other parties, have achieved has been down to “begging, scraping and volunteers.”
Daniel admits he would have preferred more backing from the powers that be but also understands the need for Labour to use their resources in the most effective ways, meaning General Election campaigns .
When it is suggested that the parties, his own in particular, are using the post of commissioner as a half way house between full on politics and retirement (several Labour candidates are former cabinet ministers, including former Deputy Leader John Prescott) Daniel becomes irritated for the first time, describing Prescott as “a bloody clever man.”
With any other politician, at least any I know of, this would have been the moment when the mask slipped and when the audience gasped. But with Daniel such outbursts seem par for the course. He may have the standard responses memorised and be unable to resist the occasional jibe toward the Lib Dems but in an era of identikit politicians and voter apathy Daniel did seem a breath of fresh air.