UNDER-fire police and crime commissioner Steve Turner, who is facing a historic sexual assault allegation, has refused to stand down saying it would result in “political carnage”. Writing in The Northern Echo, Bridget Phillipson, Sunderland South MP and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, says the people of Teesside deserve better and Mr Turner should 'do the right thing'.

THE fresh allegations now swirling around Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner are extremely serious, and it is right that a different police force is now investigating them under the oversight of police watchdog the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

Serious as the allegations are, just as big an issue for our region and for our country is about how the Conservative Party and senior Conservative politicians deal with them. What’s needed now is for Mr Turner to be suspended from the Conservatives while these matters are properly looked into. That’s not to prejudge conclusions but to give confidence, and to remind everyone that public life has high standards and that political activity must be founded on trust.

But the silence from Conservative figures on Teesside about Steve Turner has been deafening. No comment, for weeks now, on what is going on with one of the most senior elected Conservative politicians in our region.

Mr Turner has already admitted “an event” which was a “stupid mistake” at a supermarket where he previously worked. The issue with the allegations he now faces is not simply whether they are true or not – that is for the police to investigate, and for the courts to decide.

It is also about whether someone facing such serious allegations should remain a Conservative representative while that investigation is carried out and that decision is made. Meanwhile, Mayor Ben Houchen, MPs Jacob Young, Matt Vickers, & Jill Mortimer, and Cabinet Minister Simon Clarke MP, have gone to ground.

The message the silent Teesside Tories are sending is that they are happy with an individual accused of these serious crimes being a spokesperson for their party on law and order. The message that sends about how seriously they take criminal allegations is chilling. A

cross our region, families are hearing loud and clear that the Tories just don’t take crime seriously. Already people know that after eleven years of Conservative rule, there are not enough police either out on our streets or in solving crimes. Now it’s clear the Tories don’t actually take crime seriously – with a serving Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner admitting one incident and under investigation for two more.

High standards in public life really matter. Our democracy depends on people having trust in politicians and trust in political parties. In a system like ours, where voters are usually choosing between candidates backed by parties and led by national figures, voters place a lot of trust in parties to ensure that the candidates they see are fit for the office they seek.

Of course, every party has its bad apples – the difference between parties is how we deal with them. I’m proud to serve under Labour leader Keir Starmer MP, who in his previous job as Director of Public Prosecutions did not flinch from prosecuting MPs for serious crimes.

The people of Teesside deserve better. Every further day of Conservative silence erodes public trust in our police and our democracy. It is past time for all of them to do the right thing.

  • Bridget Phillipson MP is Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton & Sunderland South and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

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