THE leader of Southend’s Liberal Democrats has called on the party’s 20,000 supporters in the borough to back independent candidate Mick Thwaites as the new police and crime commissioner.

The party, which chose not to field a Lib Dem candidate in the election on November 15, is backing Mr Thwaites, a former Essex Police chief superintendent, for the new role.

Graham Longley, leader of Southend’s Lib Dems, said: “Mr Thwaites has worked in the police across the county and, from that point of view, he has a much greater awareness of the needs in the Essex area.

“I will be urging my members and supporters to support him.”

Mr Longley, a retired teacher who ran unsuccessfully against Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge at the last general election, said Lib Dems were against a partisan police commissioner and backed independent candidates.

However, the party is fielding some candidates across the country, including seats in Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire. Lib Dems in Colchester are backing another independent candidate, parish councillor Linda Belgrove.

Mr Longley got to know Mr Thwaites, who lives in Shoebury, when they both worked in Thurrock. He also worked with the former police chief as a member of Essex Police Authority in the 1990s.

Mr Thwaites nominated Mr Longley as a Lib Dem candidate when he stood in Rochford and Southend East at the last election.

Mr Longley received more than 8,000 votes – a fifth of those cast – in Rochford and Southend East. The party received 12,800 votes – more than a quarter – in Southend West.

Mr Longley added: “I know him, I know his record and capabilities.”

The other candidates for the £70,000-a-year role, which includes setting the force’s budget and policing priorities, are Conservative Nick Alston, Labour’s Val Morris-Cook, English Democrat Robin Tilbrook and Andrew Smith for UKIP.