Alun Michael

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The Right Honourable
Alun Michael
JP
AlunMichael.JPG
Police and Crime Commissioner
for South Wales
Incumbent
Assumed office
15 November 2012
Preceded by Office Created
First Secretary for Wales
In office
12 May 1999 – 9 February 2000
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Rhodri Morgan
Leader of Welsh Labour
In office
12 May 1999 – 9 February 2000
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Rhodri Morgan
Secretary of State for Wales
In office
27 October 1998 – 27 July 1999
Preceded by Ron Davies
Succeeded by Paul Murphy
Minister of State for Home Affairs
In office
2 May 1997 – 27 October 1998
Preceded by David Maclean
Succeeded by Paul Boateng
Member of the Welsh Assembly
for Mid and West Wales
In office
12 May 1999 – 1 May 2000[1]
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Delyth Evans
Member of Parliament
for Cardiff South and Penarth
In office
11 June 1987 – 22 October 2012
Preceded by James Callaghan
Succeeded by Stephen Doughty
Majority 4,710 (10.6%)
Personal details
Born (1943-08-22) 22 August 1943 (age 70)
Bryngwran, Anglesey, Wales, United Kingdom
Political party Labour Co-operative
Spouse(s) Mary Sophia Crawley [2]
Children 5
Alma mater Keele University
Religion Anglican[3]
Website Official website

Alun Edward Michael (born 22 August 1943) is a British Labour and Co-operative politician who is the current Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales.[4] He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Cardiff South and Penarth from 1987 to 2012, while also serving as the First Secretary for Wales and Leader of Welsh Labour from 1999 to 2000.[5][6]

Background and family life[edit]

Michael was born at Bryngwran, Anglesey, the son of Leslie and Betty Michael. He attended Colwyn Bay Grammar School and studied at Keele University for four years from 1962 to 1966 obtaining a BA degree in Philosophy and English.

Career[edit]

Professional[edit]

He was a reporter for the South Wales Echo, a Cardiff-based evening newspaper, where he was a contemporary of Michael Buerk (later to become a distinguished BBC correspondent) and of Sue Lawley (later to become presenter of the BBC magazine programme Nationwide).[7] In his autobiography Michael Buerk wrote "Alun Michael with his ginger toothbrush-moustache and battered corduroy jacket, was a rather Pooterish character for the Sixties. He did not stay in journalism, which was no surprise, but went into politics, which certainly was".[8] Michael in fact left journalism in 1971 and spent 16 years until 1987 as a "youth and community worker" before entering Parliament. In 1972 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace, chairing the Cardiff Juvenile Bench. He was also a Cardiff City councillor from 1973 to 1989.

Political[edit]

He became an MP at the 1987 general election, inheriting a safe Labour seat from former Prime Minister James Callaghan. Michael retained this seat in 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 although with declining majorities at each election from 1992 on.

In the 2010 General Election campaign Michael told at public meeting in his constituency that he did not have "outside paid interests" and said he regarded himself not as a professional politician but as a "professional youth worker who has been using his experience of youth work in the community to change things for the past 23 years".[9] He also claimed that being an MP was "not just a job but a calling".[9] He is chair of the Christian Socialist Movement.

Home Affairs[edit]

Michael was a Shadow Home Affairs Minister while in opposition, prior to becoming Minister of State in the Home Office (he likes to describe himself as having been "Deputy Home Secretary")[10] following Labour's landslide victory in the 1997 general election. His rhetoric when coming to office differed from the eventual delivery. As Home Office minister, he pledged there would be 'no hiding place for paedophiles' as there would 'be cases where the public will have to be told directly that a paedophile is in their area. Several frightening cases in recent months have hammered it home that we must act.'.[11] This policy was not realised, and following the case of eight-year-old Sarah Payne and calls for his original policy to be introduced, Michael agreed with the approach being taken by then Dyfed Powys Chief Constable Terence Grange, who said such a plan would drive paedophiles underground. He said "(Grange) warned of the dangers of having open access leading to paedophiles disappearing and therefore posing an even greater risk".[12] Michael defended his decision not to introduce "Sarah's Law" saying, "These are extremely difficult issues and people are understandably very upset, but there is a danger of serious mistakes being made and this has been shown on a number occasions.".[13]

Michael was however responsible for steering the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 through the House of Commons. Amongst other things, this Act introduced ASBOs or Anti-social Behaviour Orders and statutory crime reduction partnerships. He was also responsible for the Government policy on the voluntary and community sector, and introduced the "compact" process to achieve partnership between Government and that sector. Michael later became a member of the Justice Select Committee from November 2007 to May 2010. While on the committee he took part in enquiries into restorative justice, devolution ten years on, the role of the prison officer, and the work of the Crown Prosecution Service.[14]

Wales career[edit]

In May 1997 Ron Davies was appointed by Tony Blair to the cabinet position of Secretary of State for Wales and then, in September 1998, narrowly defeated Rhodri Morgan in an internal contest for the Labour leadership in Wales. The first election for the National Assembly of Wales was due to be held in May 1999. Should Labour form a government, the Welsh Labour leader would then become what was to be called "First Secretary" – potentially giving Ron Davies a role in both the UK and Welsh legislatures.

However, on 27 October 1998, Ron Davies abruptly resigned as Secretary of State for Wales after what he called a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common. Tony Blair overlooked Rhodri Morgan (then MP for Cardiff West) and controversially appointed Alun Michael as the new Secretary of State for Wales.

Two days later, on 29 October 1998, Ron Davies also resigned the Labour Leadership in Wales, thus relinquishing his ambition to become First Secretary and initiating another leadership contest. Blair again overlooked Morgan and opted to back Alun Michael as putative First Secretary. According to Neath MP Peter Hain "Rhodri was the party’s favourite and feelings ran very high" but nevertheless, in a volte-face, Hain agreed to run the campaign for Michael who he described as "the establishment candidate". Although Morgan had the overwhelming support of individual Labour Party members, Alun Michael, backed by Blair and by the trade unions, duly won.[15][16] This episode led to Michael being described as a "famously tetchy Millbank-backed candidate".[17] The affair was described by Peter Kellner as "another fix" in order "to ensure Alun Michael became Labour's leader in Wales" which Kellner said "offended so many voters that it lost some of its safest seats, including Rhondda, to Plaid Cymru".[18] Tony Blair's favourable treatment of Michael was later described by Kellner as a "determination to foist Alun Michael on the people of Wales", which "produced a spectacular collapse of support".[18]

The first Assembly election resulted in the Welsh Labour Party less than half of the available seats. In the first plenary on 12 May 1999 Michael was elected First Secretary. Rather than form a coalition, Michael took the unconventional route of forming a minority government, believing that this offered the potential for a more collaborative and democratic approach to the work of the Assembly.[citation needed]

However, this was to lead to the very outcome Tony Blair had wanted to prevent, the election of Rhodri Morgan as leader of the Welsh Assembly. On 9 February 2000, after barely eight months in office,[19] Michael resigned in an attempt to avoid a vote of "no confidence" over the availability of Objective 1 funding from the European Union: an issue over which the First Secretary had no control, but which provided a focus for all three other parties to unite in an attempt to destabilise the minority government which he led. In his resignation Michael also expressed a desire to avoid a debacle resulting from his inevitable re-appointment (and potential repeated removal, ad infinitum) arising from an inconsistency in the Assembly's brand-new rules.

Michael sat on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee from November 2007 to May 2010 and resigned as an MP on 22 October 2012.

Environment career[edit]

In 2001, he was appointed Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality, a post within DEFRA. He was the minister most closely connected with a ban on hunting with dogs, for which he attracted much criticism from hunt supporters. Michael was criticized for citing the research of Sir Patrick Bateson as "incontrovertible proof" of the need for a total ban. Sir Patrick said, "Only somebody who was scientifically illiterate could argue that evidence from a new area of research was 'incontrovertible'" but Michael claimed that Bateson had misunderstood the way his work had been cited.[20][21]

Hunting Act[edit]

In 2004, he presided over the enactment of the Hunting Act which banned hare coursing, beagling, fox hunting, mink and stag hunting in the UK from February 2005. At the time this law was being debated, and immediately after it was passed, Michael maintained his visits to rural areas despite threats and protest, but withdrew from the event to launch the "Right to Roam" stating that access to the countryside was too important to be interrupted by pro-hunt protestors whose plans could put the public at risk. Michael maintained that hunting was a "peripheral issue" citing social and economic issues in rural areas as "the day job". In 2004, he formally approved the order designating the New Forest as a National Park.

Trade and Business[edit]

In 2005 Michael was moved to a ministerial post in the Department of Trade and Industry as Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, where he served only a year before he was ousted in the Cabinet reshuffle in May 2006.

Votes for 14-year-olds[edit]

In his newspaper column in the Penarth Times of 10 May 2010 Alun Michael proposed giving the vote to 14-year-olds as a way of improving turn-out at UK elections. He said "My first suggestion is to reduce the voting age to 14 - an age which I find young people far better informed and sensibly engaged than was the case in the past - so that everybody takes place in the voting process once before leaving full-time education. They will then know how to vote when they come to engage with political issues later in life".[22] This was going much further than official Labour Party policy. Labour's 2010 Manifesto only promised a free vote in Parliament on reducing the voting age to 16.[23]

Controversy[edit]

Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill - Third Reading[edit]

In 2005 the Freedom of Information Act came into force allowing members of the public to request disclosure of information from public bodies. On 18 May 2007 Alun Michael was among the majority of MPs who voted in favour of exempting MPs from having to disclose information under the act.[24]

Parliamentary Expenses Claims[edit]

Alun Michael was one of the MPs who was investigated by the Daily Telegraph in its probe into MPs Expenses Claims in 2009. The Daily Telegraph reported that "Alun Michael claims £4,800 for food in one year, and £2,600 for repairs to his roof at his constituency home in Penarth. Claims for £1,250 cost of repairing a wall and building a 13ft chain link fence.".[25] Subsequently it was reported he was among 390 MPs required by Sir Thomas Legg to repay taxpayers' money which allegedly they had wrongly-claimed. An audit of claims dating back to 2004 revealed that Michael should repay £18,889.56 for mortgage interest on additional loans "not shown to have been for an eligible purpose". He had also been paid £280 more than he was entitled to claim for council tax in the year 2004/05 - claiming expenses for 12 installments when, in fact,he had only had to pay 10 to the local authority. Michael blamed a "clerical error" for the inflated claim. He said "The council tax payment came at a time when I was under a lot of stress politically".[26] Michael repaid £19,169.56 although later in a 2010 Election Hustings meeting in Splott he said press reports of his having been forced to pay back £20,000 were "untrue" and asserted he had "voluntarily" paid back the money.[27]

Investigated by IPSA[edit]

In 2011 Alun Michael was investigated by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority over his website http://alunmichael.com/. IPSA found he had contravened the rules of the MPs' Expenses Scheme which prohibit MPs from claiming parliamentary expenses for websites which include party logos. Michael had claimed - and been paid - £346.71 which he was not entitled to. He was given 20 days to amend his website but was not required to pay back the money he had been paid.[28]

Police and Crime Commissioner: 2012-present[edit]

On 18 June 2012, Michael was chosen as the Labour Party candidate for the inaugural England and Wales Police and Crime Commissioner elections, 2012 for South Wales.[6]

On 13 July 2012 the Western Mail reported that Michael had been "interfering inappropriately" in the selection process for his replacement in Cardiff South and Penarth, to ensure his preferred candidate (Stephen Doughty) was included on the shortlist. Michael responded that he did speak to Ed Miliband, to the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol and members of the National Executive Committee, with the purpose to stop a candidate from outside being imposed on the local party.[29]

Having stood down as an MP, Alun Michael was declared the winner of the first-ever election for Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales on 16 November 2012 (the election having taken place the previous day). The PCC elections used the supplementary vote system. In the first round Michael failed to gain an outright majority against two independents and a Conservative candidate. In the second-round however Michael garnered 72,751 votes beating the runner-up, Independent candidate and former lawyer Michael Barker,[4] by 11,967 votes.[30]

In a Parliamentary written answer on 11 Dec 2012 Damien Green, Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice reported that Alun Michael's salary as PCC for South Wales is £85,000 per annum.[31]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Dragon on Our Doorstep: New Politics for a New Millennium in Wales by Alun Michael (University of Wales,Aberystwyth, 2000) ISBN 0-9537829-0-5
  • Labour in Action: Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime - a Collection of Essays edited by Alun Michael (Fabian Society, 1997) ISBN 0-7163-3033-4
  • Building the Future Together (Labour Party, 1997)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alun Michael resigns from Welsh assembly, Independent, 16 March 2000
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2][dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Alun Michael is new south Wales police and crime commissioner". BBC Wales. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Press Releases - Three Hundreds of Chiltern". Rnn.cabinetoffice.gov.uk. 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  6. ^ a b David Cornock (2012-06-18). "Welsh Labour names police commissioner candidates". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  7. ^ "The Reporter's Tale" by Tom Davies Publisher:Berwyn Mountain Press ISBN 9780955353949
  8. ^ "A Road Taken" by Michael Buerk (Hutchinson 2004)
  9. ^ a b Verbatim audio recording of election hustings at Tabernacle Church, Penarth on 22/4/2010
  10. ^ "About Alun Michael MP". Alunmichael.com. 1943-08-22. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  11. ^ "Nightmare on Any Street". The Guardian. 10 June 1997. 
  12. ^ "Naming and Shaming is No Answer say MPs". Western Mail. 17 December 2001. 
  13. ^ "She ripped our family apart and changed my lovely little boyforever". The Wales on Sunday. 21 March 2010. 
  14. ^ "Justice Select Committee". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  15. ^ Shipton, Martin. "Peter Hain on why he backed Alun Michael over Rhodri Morgan for National Assembly’s first Labour leader". WalesOnline. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  16. ^ "Outside In" (autobiography of Peter Hain), Biteback (23 January 2012), ISBN 978-1-84954-118-3
  17. ^ Waugh, Paul (21 February 2000). "Labour's Mayoral Candidate: Millbank has got its man, but the games aren't over yet". London: The Independent. 
  18. ^ a b "Peter Kellner: The Welsh". The Evening Standard. 20 July 2000. 
  19. ^ "Welsh Government | Timeline". Wales.gov.uk. 5 October 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  20. ^ Hansard Debates, UK Parliament Publications, March 2003
  21. ^ Hansard Debates, UK Parliament Publications, March 2003
  22. ^ "BBC News - Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael wants voting age reduced to 14". Bbc.co.uk. 2012-05-13. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  23. ^ http://www2.labour.org.uk/uploads/TheLabourPartyManifesto-2010.pdf
  24. ^ "Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill — Third Reading — 18 May 2007 at 13:46 — The Public Whip". Publicwhip.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  25. ^ "MPs' expenses: Full list of MPs investigated by the". Telegraph. 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  26. ^ http://www.penarthtimes.co.uk/news/latestnews/4999354.MP_blames__clerical_error__for_expenses_claim/
  27. ^ http://audioboo.fm/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=Alun+Michael
  28. ^ http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk/Documents/Publications/Alun%20Michael%20-%20Website%20publication.pdf
  29. ^ Shipton, Martin (2012-07-21). "Alun Michael at the centre of selection row over next Cardiff South MP". WalesOnline. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  30. ^ "BBC News - Alun Michael is new south Wales police and crime commissioner". Bbc.co.uk. 2012-11-16. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  31. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 11 Dec 2012 (pt 0001)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Callaghan
Member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth
19872012
Succeeded by
Stephen Doughty
Political offices
Preceded by
Ron Davies
Secretary of State for Wales
1998–1999
Succeeded by
Paul Murphy
New office First Minister of Wales
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Rhodri Morgan
Party political offices
New office Leader of Welsh Labour
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Rhodri Morgan
National Assembly for Wales
New constituency Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Delyth Evans