The Home Secretary accepts that fewer than 12 per cent of the West Midlands is likely to vote in the forthcoming police and crime commissioner by-election but said it didn’t mean it was unpopular.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Post, Theresa May said the £3.7 million by-election on August 21 may garner less interest than the first police and crime commissioner (PCC) vote, which saw a turnout of 12 per cent.
But she said the winner would still have a stronger mandate than the old police authorities, which were scrapped by this government, as the public have the chance to have their say.
Mrs May is supporting Conservative candidate Les Jones for the £100,000-a-year job in the by-election triggered by the death of Bob Jones.
When asked whether a turnout of less than 12 per cent would deliver a true mandate, Mrs May said she believed PCCs were becoming more popular with the public.
She said: “In by-elections volumes tend to be lower.
“I think we have seen over the last couple of years since the elections that people have recognised the role and the impact police and crime commissioners have had.
“There are plenty of police and crime commissioners that have gained people’s trust and over time had a greater recognition for playing a part in reflecting the needs of local people.”
She added: “These roles are elected, so people actually go out and vote for them – nobody went out and voted for police authorities.”
All eyes will be on voter turnout for the by-election after the turnout for the first vote in 2012 worked out at a cost of about £15 for every person who voted.
Shadow police minister and Erdington MP Jack Dromey calculated this was the equivalent cost of 158 bobbies on the beat and pointed out the Government had questioned the validity of trade union strike ballots with lower than 50 per cent participation.
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Councillor Les Jones has been selected as the Conservative Party’s candidate to stand against Labour candidate David Jamieson, Ayoub Khan for the Liberal Democrats and Keith Rowe for UKIP.
Mrs May said: “I think he is a good candidate and would make a great police and crime commissioner.
“He has a business background as well as council experience in Dudley, and was also a member of the West Midlands Police Authority.
“I think he has the experience and commitment and policies for this role.”
Elsewhere, Mrs May said pupils caught in the Trojan Horse scandal were being left unprepared for modern Britain.
She said the actions of a few individuals were harming the future of youngsters from the city.
However, she refused to be drawn on whether there should be police action after it was revealed an investigation had been launched on the back of new evidence about attempts by hardline Muslims to gain control of some city schools.
“I think everyone must look at how it was that this situation came about, where there was a group of people that were acting to try to create an environment which ran counter to British values,” she said.
“School is about preparing children for life in the modern world and what we have seen clearly is that a small number of individuals were creating an environment which runs counter to the values of modern Britain. They were not preparing children for life in today’s world.”
Five schools have been placed into special measures on the back of the Trojan Horse allegations, which have also led to the resignation of a large number of governors and seen two teachers suspended.
Park View Academy in Alum Rock, Oldknow Academy in Small Heath and Golden Hillock in Sparkhill are among those identified.
Now West Midlands Police are investigating if any crimes have taken place.
Mrs May said: “The police have operational independence so it is up to them to decide what to investigate or not – it is not a job for politicians.”
Meanwhile, Mrs May has encountered opposition from two West Midland MPs over emergency laws allowing the state to access phone, text and email records.
David Winnick and Tom Watson were among those to challenge the Government’s “emergency” surveillance law, with calls for a judicial review.
The pair argued that ‘very few’ MPs had seen the draft legislation that will force phone and internet companies to log records of customer calls, texts and internet use.
However, Mrs May said support for the laws, which last until 2016, proved the move was necessary after a European legal ruling hampered police activity. The Conservatives, Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders all backed it.
She said: “The reason I brought the bill forward and the reason it got cross-party support, including the Labour opposition, is that it was hindering the necessary law enforcement from keeping us safe.
“These are key tools which are needed by the police day in and day out.”
She added: “The reason for such overwhelming support was that people recognised this was important.
“Continuing this challenge in the face of that you have to ask why everyone else recognises the importance of these tools in catching paedophiles and terrorists.”