A war of words has broken out among candidates for the role of Humberside Police’s first elected commissioner after Lord Prescott threw his hat into the ring.
The former Hull East MP said he was the right man for the job – and would act as the “people’s voice” after a 19-month struggle with the Metropolitan Police over phone hacking.
But former Humberside Police chief superintendent Keith Hunter and Hull’s Lord Mayor Colin Inglis, who will both be competing against the ex-deputy Prime Minister for the Labour nomination, claimed the veteran politician had “absolutely no experience” of police work.
Lord Prescott, the fifth former Labour minister to declare an intention to stand in the first elections for 41 police and crime commissioners across England and Wales, said he made his mind up after a 19-month battle to hold the Metropolitan Police to account for its unwillingness to investigate phone hacking by the News of the World.
He said the public should have more of a say in determining the force’s priorities and responsibilities: “My experience in the last five years with the Metropolitan Police has led me to believe that greater transparency and accountability is necessary.
“There are changes under way in all forces and it means there will be a new set of priorities and I would like to be the people’s voice in it.”
The politician, who was among Labour MPs to vote against the flagship Tory policy of directly-elected commissioners, dismissed suggestions that there would be a conflict of interest with his role in the House of Lords, saying: “Both are working for the people.”
Mr Hunter, who retired after 30 years with Humberside Police, said: “Lord Prescott polarises opinion; there will be a number strongly in support and there will be a lot of people very anti him standing.
“I’m up for the challenge. My selling point is I am something different. I am not a recycled politician.”
The 49-year-old, who submitted his application to stand for the role yesterday, went on: “I think you need some more qualifications to be a police commissioner than having your phone hacked.
“Whoever gets the job will get complex issues on day one – I can hit the ground running. Lord Prescott has no experience whatsoever in policing and criminal justice.”
Lord Prescott, who will be 74 in May, responded: “He has been a bobby on the beat; I have been in Cobra (the Government’s emergency planning committee) in counter-terrorism activities as Deputy Prime Minister, at probably far greater depth than him.
“Let the people decide – I don’t want to argue with him.”
Coun Inglis, former Hull Council leader and chairman of Humberside Police Authority, said he believed the contest was a “wide open” race, saying Lord Prescott “has never had that much impact in local politics and absolutely no experience of how the police work – the one with the most experience of police governance is me.”
Although Lord Prescott has a huge following on Twitter, he is not universally admired in his home city, judging by the high number of adverse comments on internet forums yesterday.
Earlier this week the Metropolitan Police force admitted it had unlawfully failed to warn phone hacking victims, including Lord Prescott, at the time of its original investigation into the scandal.
The Peer represented Hull East as the Labour Member of Parliament for 40 years, stepping down in 2010. That July he entered the House of Lords as a life peer with the title “Baron Prescott, of Kingston upon Hull in the County of East Yorkshire”.