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Statement on the withdrawal of independent PCC candidate Dan Hardy

I am sad to note that the independent candidate Dan Hardy has withdrawn from the delayed Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner elections taking place next May.

I understand this was a difficult decision for Mr Hardy and there were many reasons behind it, but the financial impact of trying to fight an ongoing political campaign was a major consideration.

While I have every sympathy with Mr Hardy, and wish him every success in the future – as I do with the remaining candidates – I am disappointed to see an independent withdraw from the race.

Having served two terms of office as one of the country’s few independent commissioners before making the decision not to stand in a third election, I have an insight into this problem. My office also raised this issue in the recent Home Office consultation into the role of PCCs.

The process of standing as a candidate, particularly the £5,000 deposit required – far higher than the £500 deposit required to stand as an MP – is oppressive for the vast majority of people, with the overall cost of getting elected running into tens of thousands of pounds even in a small force area like Dorset.

This means that party political candidates, who can tap into campaign funds, have a significant advantage.

I believe passionately that PCCs play an essential role in policing, holding forces to account and scrutinising their work. We should be making sure that the best possible people are able to come forward, but by setting the bar of entry so high, I worry that we are limiting the pool and potentially excluding talented individuals who just happen not to belong to political parties.

I also worry that Mr Hardy’s situation will not be unique. Independent candidates are generally only able to fight elections with the backing of a sponsor, and they may often have to put jobs and other financial commitments on hold while campaigns take place.

With this year’s PCC election having understandably been delayed as a result of Covid-19, candidates will effectively have to put their life on hold for a full year. If very few people are in a position to stand as independents, even fewer will be able to extend their period of candidacy for 12 months.

I fear we will hear similar announcements around the country about independent candidates withdrawing, leaving the role open solely to those who represent the main political parties, and I believe this is unfortunate as policing needs powerful independent voices.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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