Next year's other election - for police commissioners

Mention 2012 as an election year and the chances are you probably think of Barack Obama, Boris Johnson and your local council.

But we are now less than a year from an electoral first - I'll resist using the word "historic" - in Wales and England.

The first police and crime commissioners, who will replace police authorities, will be elected on November 15 next year.

Yesterday, the Conservatives launched a new webpage giving would-be PCCs the chance to put their name forward.

Plaid Cymru, which opposed the creation of PCCs, discussed its position at the weekend and may back non-party candidates in the four Welsh police force areas rather than field its own.

It depends, I'm told, on "whether non-party candidates come forward who can reflect a broad coalition against politicisation of the police and in favour of devolving policing to the Assembly".

No mention of tackling crime in that job description, but Plaid's parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd, said: "Plaid Cymru have consistently opposed the introduction of elected police commissioners because we are against the politicisation of the police force.

"We also think that the £50m being spent on police commissioner elections would be better used on frontline policing during a period when budgets are being cut and belts tightened.

"However, with these elections taking place next year we shall be working with like-minded individuals who wish to see policing devolved to the National Assembly so that we can see policing decisions made in Wales, for the benefit of the people of Wales."

Labour also opposed the creation of PCCs and discussed whether or not to contest the elections. But a spokesman said: "Welsh Labour intends to contest these elections and will be inviting applications from prospective candidates shortly."

Will those prospective candidates include familiar names or will the new role persuade fresh faces to put themselves forward?

It could be the sort of job that appeals to a former Police Minister, magistrate, ex-Cabinet Minister and member of the Commons home affairs committee.

Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael says he never doubted Labour's intention to fight the elections as "leadership and oversight of the police is so important".

If he does throw his hat in the ring in South Wales (remember where you read it first!), it could add a parliamentary by-election to next year's list of polls.