In the Media

78 year-old former MP chosen to fight for police chief role

PUBLISHED July 6, 2012

Michael Mates retired at the general election after 36 years in Parliament, saying it was "the right moment for me to slow down".

He is best remembered for leading the Tory rebellion against the poll tax and for resigning as a minister over his links to Asil Nadir, who is now on trial at the Old Bailey for an alleged £150million theft from his business empire.

Mr Mates famously gave a watch to the fugitive tycoon bearing the inscription "Don't let the buggers get you down".

As he stepped down in 2010, Mr Mates declared: "When you reach the stage where the leader of the party is younger than most of your children, it is time to retire."

But now he has been chosen by party members in Hampshire, his former constituency, as the local Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner.

He said he was "delighted and honoured" to have won the nomination and added: "I will be working flat out from now on to be in contact with as many of the electorate as I possibly can with the aim of winning a good majority."

Mr Mates was chosen this week ahead of Donna Jones, a 35 year-old member of Portsmouth City Council who also serves as a magistrate.

At the election in November, Mr Mates will be fighting for the £80,000 a year post against Jacqui Rayment, a senior Labour councillor and member of the local police authority.

If he won, he would be 82 by the end of his four-year term in office.

Electing police chiefs is one of the Conservatives' flagship criminal justice proposals. Ministers believe they will make police more accountable to residents, as they will have the power to hire and fire chief constables as well as developing plans to tackle local problems.

But the plan has so far failed to capture the public's imagination, and is opposed by many police officers as well as some politicians, prompting fears that low voter turnout may deny the commissioners legitimacy and could even see extremist candidates elected.

It suffered another blow this week when Simon Weston, the Falklands war hero, pulled out of the race in South Wales, complaining it had become "too political" for an independent candidate.