Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate John Pye

Monday, July 23rd, 2012. 1:12am

Alan John Pye

John Pye

The “Conservative Candidate” for Police and Crime Commissioner in Cambridgeshire, John Pye, is not a member of the Conservative Party. This fact emerged in public after his selection as “Conservative Candidate” was revealed on Friday the 20th of July 2012 and I noted Mr Pye’s entry on the Police Authority register of members’ interests, dated April 2012 did not state he was a member of the party, which it would have had to if he was.

Cambridge Conservative Agent Tim Haire, who was one of those who compiled the shortlist for the Conservative candidates in Cambridgeshire, confirmed:

He is not a party member and as I understand it will not be joining.

Party membership is declining. In Cambridge only thirty or so Conservative Party members, out of a population of around a hundred thousand, turned out for the open caucus selection event which chose the city’s last Conservative general election candidate. To survive, find good quality candidates, and maintain any relevance it is not surprising parties have to look outside their own, often tiny, groups of activists. However this outward looking stance wasn’t what was seen in Cambridgeshire, there was no sign of a public, open, process. It came as a surprise to me that evidently the process was to some extent “open”, albeit not in a public fashion, to those who are not party members.

The lack of awareness of what was going on, outside a core Conservative party clique, is shown as on the 22nd of July, John Elworthy, the editor of three local papers in the Cambridgeshire police force area, tweeted to ask Conservative Cllr Steve Tierney:

“Did you know your party was prepared to support an independent? And why didn’t press or public know? “

Conservative Cllr Victor Lucas, speaking in Ely on the 18th of July 2012 mentioned Conservative Central Office was encouraging the selection of non-party members but as the Cambridgeshire selection results were about to be announced by then, I thought he was talking about elsewhere in the country.

I have discussed Mr Pye’s selection with a number of people over the weekend, and even among those with pretty good knowledge of local politics and the commissioner elections, representative responses have been:

Who’s John Pye?


Now that’s just ***** confusing

I asked Conservative Cllr Steve Tierney, who had a role in his party’s candidate vetting, how Mr Pye was nominated, and if there was an open process, he replied:

He got selected by central, then by vetting committee and then by members. Pretty straightforward really.

Cllr Tierney also revealed that decisions on how the selection was run were taken “above county level”.


As well as not selecting a Conservative as “their” candidate, it appears Cambridgeshire Conservatives have also selected someone who is ineligible to stand.

Section 65(4) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 lists Police Authority members as among those disqualified from election or holding office as police and crime commissioner.

It may be that Mr Pye, and the Conservative Party, think there is a loophole which can be found, via which he can resign as a member of the authority prior to formally becoming the candidate; however even if such a loophole is found to exist his actions would in my view be against the spirit of the law pushed through as one of the Conservative’s flagship policies. The clear aim of the legislation in my view is to provide a clean break from police authorities, that is not something Mr Pye offers.

Cambridgeshire Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Selection Ballot Paper

Cambridgeshire Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Selection Ballot Paper


Mr Pye has been a member of the Police Authority since 2009; I have observed many meetings of the authority and its committees. I have never observed Mr Pye make a substantive, never mind particularly noteworthy, contribution.

A search of my website, on which I have reported many meetings, reveals just two hits for Mr Pye. One relates to the Police Authority’s Twitter feed, where having heard a report on the number of followers the authority had Mr Pye stated the number of followers wasn’t that important as messages could be “bounced on to others”. (Source)

The second is the most recent police authority meeting, where Mr Pye asked two questions, one requesting information on the potential for a precept rise by a commissioner to be made public and the other asking if the police understood why people’s perceptions of the police were declining.

At that meeting John Pye voted, along with all but one of the authority members present, to continue to work up a business plan for the wholesale privatisation of the police’s “back office” / “operational support” functions to G4S. Mr Pye will stand for election as commissioner with this record behind him.

Not Personally Contactable

As a member of the Police Authority Mr Pye has not provided the public with a personal email address on which he can be contacted. Instead the link to “Email John Pye” on his member’s page goes to the generic Police Authority contact address; he hides behind the secretariat.

As far as I can find Mr Pye has not tweeted and blogged or made any effort to communicate with the public as he has been carrying out his role on the police authority.

As a member of the public using the public speaking slot at a number of authority meetings I have felt Mr Pye, and other members (notable exceptions being Mr Wilkins and Mr Lee) have dismissed and actively ignored the public contributions.

Opportunity to Assess on Past Performance

Mr Pye has had the opportunity to demonstrate, in practice, how he will behave in office. We don’t have to assess him on what he says he will do, we can look at what he has done as a member of the Police Authority where he has already been responsible for setting police strategy, hiring and firing the chief constable, and holding the police to account for a number of years.

If the Conservatives want commissioners to be high profile individuals, their choice of Mr Pye is surprising, as he has, in is role as a Police Authority member been a quiet, almost silent, background figure.

Pye’s Platform

Mr Pye sent a two page statement to Conservative members eligible to vote in the ballot held to select their candidate. I have been sent a copy by a party member and have made it available on my website. Mr Pye did not clearly state he was not a Conservative party member. He wrote:

I am Conservative through to my bones

Note the capital “C” in “Conservative” which suggests to me he is referring to the political party.

The statement does go on, he adds: “but I’m also non-political. My conviction is that the PCC must be, and be seen to be, non-political and impartial. And that is the position I will take.” It’s far from impossible a Conservative member could make such a statement, with an intended meaning along the lines that they will represent all their constituents if elected. It’s hard to parse, and comment on, Mr Pye’s statement as he has confused “political” with “party political”.

Mr Pye adds:

We will all agree that it is vital to make a success of this flagship Conservative policy

If not read carefully, with an analytical mind, the impression given by that statement could easily be that the “We” refers to the Conservative party.

Mr Pye’s promise to be non political falls down by page two of his statement where he promises to “seek the party’s advice about choosing a part time deputy and the setting up a small advisory panel to help me in office to test ideas and understand what the public want”. No offering is made to involve other parties, or the vast majority of residents of the force area who are not members of any party.

Beyond the appointment of a deputy and advisory panel the only other think even vaguely like a policy is a statement that he suggests he would want to continue “working effectively with community safety partnerships”.

A very worrying statement made by Mr Pye is:

Unlike other Forces we do not have the spectre of front line cuts

to hear this from a current Police Authority member is worrying. Presumably he doesn’t see fewer police dogs and handlers as a front line cut or the 80% drop in the use of a police helicopter in Cambridge as a front line cut. Even if Pye is referring to police officer numbers, which have been maintained in Cambridgeshire to-date, its not true to say there isn’t a “spectre” of cuts. The Chief Constable has made clear that there is uncertainty over future budgets and a key decision for the incoming commissioner and chief constable will be if to go-ahead with planned recruitment in spring 2013, and if so, how to pay for it.

Mr Pye states

…there are only 86 working days between taking office and the end of the financial year. There is a lot to be done in that time including the technical and statutory business of becoming what is called a Corporations [sic] Sole

This is nonsense; a commissioner will on election be the type of legal entity known as a “corporation sole“, there is no “business” whatsoever involved, no one to register with, no forms to fill in! More importantly Mr Pye appears to be taking the Police Authority’s current line that the commissioner will not really take control until April 2013, this is simply not the case. I would like to see a commissioner take the reigns from day one, and begin, for example cutting down the spending on the million pound a year secretariat, that is the Police Authority, the expensive staff of which Pye his fellow members appear determined to see stay in post for months after the commissioner elections, or perhaps longer.

Mr Pye has a website at: One page of the site states that he is the candidate who:

Will make a success of their first term to put the Party in the best electoral position next time round

This makes a mockery of his attempts to suggest he is not a partisan politician.

While Pye’s website, like his statement to Conservatives, is light on policy and focuses on a description of the Police and Crime Commissioner role, there are a few policies:

Improved public confidence in policing
Improvement will come from openness and by developing effective ways of engagement to identify and respond to the public’s key priorities and concerns. I would appoint a part time deputy and a small representative advisory group to help me test ideas and help me understand what the public want.

While I agree with the first sentence, I disagree strongly with his proposed approach of surrounding himself with a small group of appointees, who we know from his promises to the Conservative party, will be appointed upon the advice of that party. I would rather see democracy in-depth, and have local councillors empowered to set their local police priorities and hold their local police to account. That, representative local democracy, should in my view be the foundation of public engagement. Encouragement should be given to councillors and the public to raise strategic and policy concerns at the local level so they can be considered and passed on. Elected representatives, particularly members of County and District council scrutiny committees, and the Police and Crime Panel, should be those the commissioner primarily turns to act as the public representatives. These are representatives chosen by the people, not cronies appointed by the commissioner on advice of “his” party.

A healthy police volunteer network. I would foster a vibrant police volunteer network.

That hardly sounds like a developed policy; but it if it for example means making the most of Special Constables I would support it wholeheartedly. My view is that schemes like Speedwatch (volunteers with speed guns) have had very mixed success, and I am quite concerned about the effort spent on some volunteers, such as Neighbourhood Watch, and Cambridge’s Lil Speed (who runs a private local policing meeting), and think the effort would be better directed to open public engagement, not least to avoid duplication.

more emphasis on tackling antisocial behaviour.

I don’t think the use of the term “antisocial behaviour” is at all useful, because it is used to mean such a wide range of things, from the non-criminal, and perfectly legal, “gathering” through to serious violent crime and drug taking, and in some cases the term is even used for speeding drivers. I think it would be best if we stopped using the phrase and talked instead about the actual crimes, or behaviours, which are causing a problem. Personally I don’t want to see more emphasis on tackling things which are only considered anti-social behaviour and not otherwise criminal; I want to see crimes particularly those which cause injury and serious disruption to people’s lives, dealt with and preferably prevented.

Why should Cambridgeshire continue to be the 2nd lowest funded Force per head of population?

I’d like to see a commissioner who would be proud of running a force which was one of the most economically efficient in the country. I’m not a Conservative party member, but I am economically a conservative, and want to see taxpayers money (including my own hard earned taxes) spent as efficiently as possible. A commissioner will have to do a lot of work to ensure Cambridgeshire gets a good deal nationally, for example to ensure it gets the services it requires from the national bodies, particularly the new National Crime Agency, but I don’t think lobbying for additional funding, ought be the starting point. If all commissioners took this view, and all wanted their per head funding to be increased to the average, that would push the cost of policing nationally up, and increasing public spending isn’t something I’d expect a Conservative endorsed candidate to be proposing.

Technically aware voters might wish to note Mr Pye uses a “” email address.


John Pye’s first name is actually Alan. He is called “JP”, although he isn’t a JP.

His register of interests at the Police Authority indicates Mr Pye lives at 44 Hamerton Rd, Alconbury Weston, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 4JD.

What Next?

As the party machine hasn’t selected a Conservative candidate perhaps local Conservatives who have shown an interest in standing for commissioner, will stand anyway? Cllr Matthew Lee from Peterborough for example is still making more noise on the Police Authority than he did before expressing an interest in the role.

We could see “Conservative endorsed independent” Mr Pye vs “Independent conservative” Mr Lee. If that doesn’t give the average voter a headache the ballot paper where putting an “X” next to your preferred candidate doesn’t guarantee your vote will be counted might push them over the edge.

32 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate John Pye

  1. bob smith

    Richard – a most informative blog.

    My only area of disagreement is your suggestion that tweeting and blogging is a way of communicating with the public. Both are time consuming methods that generally fail to communicate unless picked up by journalists. I don’t find it surprising that members of committees such as a police authority do not regularly communicate, as all communications should come through the chair. You seem to be promoting a vivion where members of any public body should be issuing statements on a regular basis, not a vision I or many share. Some peolple just like to get on with the job free from the need to play politics all the time..

    In saying that, the role of a Police Commissioner is a very public and political role and I cannot see how Pye is at all suitable, particularly as no-one outside Conservative Central Office knows who he is.

  2. Andy Pellew

    Bob I think Richards point was that John Pye wasn’t particularly active *in* the meetings let along outside.

    I have always found Tweeting in meetings an excellent way of generating a series of notes for when I write up a Blog post afterwards.

    (excellent article by the way)

  3. bob smith

    Andy, I know what Richard’s point was, and it’s really for Richard to explain if I haven’t understood, unless of course you are his press officer.

    Political blogs and tweets are the domain of the chattering classes and should not be, imho, a main method of communication. Nor, at the risk of repeating myself, do I think members of public bodies, where there a collective responsibility, have a responsibility to communicate other than through the official channels, although many do.

    I think we can all agree though that John Pye is not very active and seems a very strange candidate for the Tories to choose.

  4. cobweb

    But this is the 21st c where Twitter is very much the way information is passed round and not to do so as someone who could be in the spotlight is an odd decision. It’s not just the preserve of the chattering classes – just about every company there is is on it because it’s a good public relations tool (see how O2 used it to their advantage and to win over grumpy/mutinous customers recently.)

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    A number of responses have been made via Twitter.

    Prominent Cambourne Conservative and South Cambridgeshire District Councillor Clayton Hudson has stated

    Personally I am in favour of [an] independent conservative coming forward to challenge Mr Pye come November.

    Leading Cambridge Conservative Activist Andrew Bower has responded saying:

    He should have been required to join by the point of being adopted as a candidate but CCHQ incompetence reigns…

    Apparently also on the subject of the selection Cambridge Conservative Agent Tim Haire said

    Giving serious consideration to ‘What is the F@#?king point?’

    Mr Haire, who was on the committee which shortlisted the candidates, has indicated that not even he knew where the long list his shortlisting committee worked from had come from.

  6. Andrew Bower

    Selective quoting there, Richard. I have clearly stated my support and indeed preference for Pye. I think his career as a whole shows he is up to the task. Regarding membership, he did not make up the rules: I would prefer him to join the party in the normal fashion but he still represents the party at the level of P&CC.

  7. George

    Richard, what a shame you don’t understand the rules on who can stand for election. So long as Pye isn’t on the Authority on the due date that’s all that matters.

    As for Conservative party members choosing someone other than a councillor, well all I can say is good on ‘em. Time we got more people with real life experiences playing a role in public administration.

    Seems like your just trying to create a story where none exists.

  8. Timothy Haire

    Richard FYI the tweet you quote in the comments was more about my life in general. Tough old week. On the subject of Pye he was my first choice both for short listing and when we voted for the selection. I consider him an impresive candidate and from what I hear about his time at BAS he’s just the man you want when budgets are tight.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    George, I’m aware there’s probably a loophole, but as I made clear in my article my view is that exploiting any such loophole would be against the spirit of the legislation.

    As for any “due date” I’m not sure anyone knows what any such date is; a number of people have questioned if the candidates will be capable of ensuring they’ve made themselves eligible to stand in time.

    I completely agree it would be good to see a lot more candidates for all sorts of elected positions from outside the cadre of councillors and party activists; again as I said in my article, I think if parties are to survive and remain relevant in the face of declining memberships they are going to have to become more outward looking.

  10. Cllr Steve Tierney

    How parties choose to select their candidates is entirely up to them. Personally, I rather like Open Primaries, but I’m in the minority.

    John Pye impressed enough to make it through the initial shortlisting, then the vetting committee shortlist and then beat the other two candidates in a vote by all party members.

    Many people rather like the fact that he’s not a party member because many take the view that the PCC role should not be openly “party political” – though of course politics comes into everything at some level. I don’t personally hold that opinion, but it’s a perfectly valid opinion which I suspect many people in the general populace will share.

    John Pye is clearly a distinguished person with an interesting and relevant background. I think he’ll make a fine PCC if elected.

  11. Richard Taylor Article author

    Newspaper Editor John Elworthy has reported :

    Tory councillor who I have only occasionally spoken to just called to express ‘total disgust’ at Tories choosing independent for police gig

    My councillor chum was equally angry that Tory machine appears to have told press but not members about Mr Pye selection. Dark times ahead?

  12. Richard Taylor Article author

    The traditional media are often a long time behind twitter and personal websites in reporting the news, but I’m surprised that there’s been nothing on the BBC, the Cambridge News, or other papers about the Conservative selection, days after the result.

    Perhaps this is because there has been no official announcement from the Conservative party (though Mr Pye has updated his Linkedin page to say he’s the Conservative candidate).

    Notably Cllr Nick Clarke, the County Council leader, and regular blogger and tweeter, has not made any reference to Mr Pye’s selection.

    Perhaps the party are having second thoughts following the result of their internal ballot? It may be the results of the ballot have to be ratified by an internal committee, there could be a problem at that stage?

  13. Timothy Haire

    Richard, we are not having second thoughts about our candidate. John Pye is the Conservative candidate end of. No internal ratification required. He will be on the ballot.

  14. Andrew Bower

    Richard, it is just about noteworthy that Pye isn’t a ‘member’, and I think he should have been required to ‘join’, but it is nowhere near is as exciting as you seem to think it is. Party membership being considered in the simple narrow form that it is currently known is a relatively new phenomenon compared with the old decentralised model of associations and elected members. Are you familiar with the old expression “standing in the Liberal interest?” The fact is that Pye is the prospective Conservative candidate and is responsible for Conservative policy in the areas for which the Police and Crime Commissioner will be responsible: you are wrong to describe him as independent. Personally, I’m glad we’ve selected someone with such a robust background.

  15. Rex_Imperator

    The due date which seems to be a cause for concern is 19 October. As long as Mr Pye steps down from the PA by then, the requirements are satisfied. That is the electoral law and the requirement of the Police and Social Responsibility Act. The Conservatives advertised widely for independents to apply. I am aware of two independents on the conservative short list in Bedfordshire – one of whom was selected and here we have Mr Pye. Lincolnshire still not declared, but includes one on the shortlist. I am not a party member (neither conservative nor anything else) but have been approached by two parties to apply as an independent, but running the police is not what I want to do. Whether a selected independent should be required to join is surely a matter for those making the appointment whom, I assume, would have known Mr Pye’s position before appointing.
    I have no idea at all how well or badly, or with what style, Mr Pye will do the job. I hope he, and all PCCs will determine matters personally rather than with slavish adherence to the party line. we will get a more efficient police force that way.

  16. Richard Taylor Article author

    Andew, Rex,

    One of the key points my article is making is that while Mr Pye is not a Conservative party member, he is partisan. I drew attention to his promises to seek to ensure a Conservative wins the second Police and Crime Commissioner election, and his promise to seek the Conservative party’s advice.

  17. Richard Taylor Article author

    This gets odder.

    South Cambridgeshire Conservatives have released the results of the ballot.

    John Pye – 1,360 votes
    Sir Graham Bright – 1,508 votes
    Shona Johnstone – 1,608 votes

    Their press release / statement says:

    the candidate with the lowest number of votes being the winner.

    This is baffling. Perhaps someone has misunderstood how to run a single transferable vote ballot?

    It may be that someone has added up all the numbers placed next to each candidate’s name. That’s not an electoral system I’ve come across before. It’s not one which makes much sense either, as raking your second preference candidate “2″ would be worse for them than not writing anything next to their name.

    What will the Conservatives do now? Admit a mistake and make Cllr Johnstone their candidate? Re-run the selection process? Delete the release from the South Cambridgeshire website and hope no one notices? Perhaps they have an explanation?

    I will invite Conservatives on Twitter to comment.

    John Pye – 1,360 votes<br />
Sir Graham Bright – 1,508 votes<br />
Shona Johnstone – 1,608 votes

  18. Edward

    It isn’t a mistake, it’s a system known as the Borda count. Your objection that it’s best not to express a second preference was presumably dealt with by requiring electors to express a full set of preferences for their vote to count – certainly the total number of votes is divisble by 6, which is consistent with this hypothesis.

    The usual rationale for using this system is that it allows middle-way candidates who are not the first choice of many people to have a chance of being elected if they dominate amongst second preferences.

  19. Richard Taylor Article author

    Phil Rodgers on Twitter has said

    I believe they use a modified Borda count system in which voters rank all candidates & lowest total rank wins.

    Interestingly, if such a system was used it would put the turnout in the election as being about 1/3 of the total votes cast, or in the region of 1500.

    Cllr Steve Tiereny, who would have received a ballot paper, has tweeted to say:

    We were asked to rank them in order of preference. So if “no of votes” means “total of preference nos”….

    If a “modified Borda” was in operation, this shows that at least one voter wasn’t aware of it.

  20. Richard Taylor Article author

    I see.

    Perhaps the system was chosen as it gives the impression candidates were selected with the support of thousands, rather than just a couple of hundred, of party members.

  21. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Wikipedia article on the Borda method states: the candidate with the most points is the winner. So all is still far from clear.

  22. Edward

    I believe this system was also used in Hertfordshire, and perhaps elsewhere. This makes me wonder if the command to use it came from on high. Given the events of last year, that would certainly be… interesting.

  23. Timothy Haire

    Richard the instructions with the ballot paper where clear rank the candidates in the order of preference from 1 (most prefered) to 3 (least prefered). A vote was only valid if every candidate was ranked. These prerference were then summed for each candidate. The candidate with the lowest score was the winner.

    As to why this recherche I am told it has something to do with the party constitution and was decided at a level well above me.

    Regardless, of my feelings on the voting system, John was elected fair and square. As an aside I believe he would have been elected if it had been first past the post.

  24. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Telegraph, Cambridge News and Cambridgeshire Times are carrying a statement from Mr Pye:

    I was encouraged to put my name forward as a potential Conservative candidate because of my commitment, skills and understanding of local policing. My values are Conservative but I am not a politician.

    I believe firmly that the governance of policing must be impartial and non-political. I also do not consider that I could convince the public of my impartial stance if I was a member of a political party – and that has been borne out in many of my conversations with local people.

    At national level the Party agreed to my potential candidature without the need to become a Party member. I thought that was enlightened.

    I was the winner in a ballot of local Party members. Unfortunately, some within the local Conservative Party were uncomfortable with the basis on which I am prepared to stand.

    I therefore feel that it would not be fair to them or the public to continue as the Conservative candidate. I wish the new candidate well in their campaign and my hope is that they will also commit to impartial, non-political policing.

    I will not be making any further comments or media statements.

    Neither Mr Pye’s website or his to-date contentless Twitter Feed have carried the statement which Mr Pye does not appear to have made available directly to the public.

    Senior Local Conservative, Cllr Nightingale, was interviewed on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the 31st of August 2012. He said he thought that when Mr Pye said he would become the “Conservative Candidate” he thought that implied he would join the party, and that when it emerged he would not join he could no longer support him.

    Cllr Nightingale agreed with his interviewer that the Conservatives had “bungled” their selection process and “had been made to look pretty silly”.

    Liberal Democrat County Councillor, Sarah Whitebread has tweeted to say

    If John Pye could find the money to run as an independent I think he’d have a pretty good shot. #CambsPCC

    It had recently emerged that Conservatives elsewhere were considering appeals relating to candidate selection, it could be Mr Pye has stepped down rather than face such a process, which could have looked into if his statements regarding his relationship with the Conservative Party were misleading.

  25. Timothy Haire

    There is no question that the result was going to be ‘appealed’ John did what he thought was in the best interests of the party. He was a great candidate, would have been and excellent P and CC and a thourghly honourable man. Sad to see him go.

  26. Richard Taylor Article author

    Mr Pye has now come out in support of “independent” candidate Ansar Ali; Cllr Tierney has commented on Mr Ali’s apparantly socialist past – his latest entry on the register of interests for Cambridgeshire Police Authority (before he resigned to exploit a loophole in the law preventing Police Authority members standing for the post of commissioner) shows him to not be in employment but to be a member of Unison.

    Cllr Johnstone who lost out to Mr Pye in the ballot of Conservative members has tweeted:

    The cynic in me wonders whether @ansar4cambspcc has done a deal with John Pye and offered him the position of deputy…….

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