Conservatives may not fight police elections

The Conservatives are seriously considering not standing candidates for the elections for the new elected police commissioners which are due to take place next May - providing the legislation gets through parliament.

The policy has been actively pursued by David Cameron and the Conservatives, against strong scepticism from many Liberal Democrats, yet it seems the Tories may play only an indirect role in the process.

Rather than stand candidates under the Conservative banner, the party is actively considering instead whether to put its support behind other contenders, such as prominent and distinguished local individuals who decide to stand for the posts, perhaps as independents.

The Liberal Democrats don't seem to have made much progress on choosing candidates so far, or even to have decided whether they will actually field candidates.

A Lib Dem spokeswoman has just told me: "Given that the details around elected police commissioners are still being decided, we're still considering options at the moment."

Labour, too, are waiting for the Police Bill to go through Parliament before deciding whether to fight the elections.

One problem for each of the parties is that the elections will be very costly, with each constituency - or police authority - covering a county, or collection of counties.

But in much of England there won't be existing local elections taking place next May, so the new polls could be especially costly for the parties. At one point the government was thinking of postponing the elections for a year until May 2013, so as to coincide with elections in the shire counties, but this idea has now been dropped.

Meanwhile, as I announced several months ago, the BNP IS planning to fight the elections. So, too, I imagine, will Ukip.

The danger is that if none of the three main parties take part in the contests, they could produce very controversial outcomes.

Traditionally party selection processes do introduce an element of quality control into public elections, though that quality control is not without its faults.