House Notes with Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood
POLITICIANS need humbling occasionally. I'm not talking about jungle TV again, but the surprise election of former senior Cheltenham police officer Martin Surl as Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner last week.
Martin was one of more than a dozen independents who defeated party political candidates across the UK, despite a system unhelpful to independents.
Voters sent a clear message that they don't want to politicise the police.
The lamentable turnout – only 16 per cent here and less nationwide – underlined doubts about the whole idea of electing police commissioners.
Martin's first task is to appoint yet another Chief Constable after temporary head Mick Matthews resigned only six months after Tony Melville, who lasted less than two years himself. At least Martin can show stability, recruit someone who will support the established Gloucestershire trend towards intelligent community-based policing and give the police the resources they urgently need to do the job.
Headline crime may be falling, but I seem to be hearing about more anti-social behaviour in Cheltenham lately. Congratulations Martin and good luck.
Highlights of the week:
Thursday: If you've never stroked a leather dodo, you have until tomorrow to visit the wonderful Gardens Gallery in Montpellier Gardens. The Open West is an important annual exhibition of the best in British contemporary art but the loss of the university's Pittville Studios left it temporarily homeless. Gloucester Cathedral has offered temporary sanctuary but next year the stunning new Cheltenham Art Gallery will welcome it home. For now, sample this year's winners in Montpellier.
Friday: Dropped in on Towergate Insurance, whose Cheltenham call centre was taking donations for Children in Need.
There was a pizza-powered party atmosphere, Pudsey bear was there and Towergate volunteers had come from as far afield as Maidstone and Leeds just to take part – which says a lot about the company as well as the cause. Well done all.
Saturday: Strolled casually into St Mark's Methodist Church in Gloucester Road to help them celebrate their transformed hall and back rooms.
Unfortunately I'd missed that it was a formal church service of rededication, complete with the mayor in his regalia and everyone in their Sunday best.
I wanted a miracle to switch my jeans for a smart suit, but I was told with a smile that God wouldn't mind. I knew what a friendly and welcoming community worships here but I appreciate it a little more now. And the new facilities are fabulous!