It turns out there are two people who don’t consider themselves politicians running for election and political office in Swindon & Wiltshire this year.

In the election for Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire Police, there is an independent candidate former police officer Mike Rees.

But the Conservative incumbent Philip Wilkinson is also, he insists, no politician.

He is not a councillor, and has never been one, and  this is his first elected office.

And befitting his military and academic background, Mr Wilkinson is much keener on the ‘doing’ if being the person in political control of the police force, than the necessary electoral slog of getting, and keeping, the job.

A few months shy of the third anniversary of his election - the normal four-year term was cut short by both Covid-19 in 2020 and the somewhat forced resignation of Councillor Jonathon Seed who was initially elected in May 2021 - Mr Wilkinson is out campaigning again.

His message is: “The job’s only halfway done.

“When I took the job the Wiltshire police was the worst performing in the country. There was no strategic leadership, and the top of the organisation was very badly disconnected from the officers on the front line.

“Her Majesty’s inspectorate came in and forensically examined the force and made the same observations and criticisms I had made.”

But now Mr Wilkinson says he has succeeded in at least turning the force around: “We’ve got a new Chief Constable (Catherine Roper), we’ve got a new Deputy Chief Constable (Craig Dibdin), a new senior officer team.

“When I took over our response time to 101 was 28 minutes, which was appalling – it’s now down to eight minutes.

“I’ve supported the Chief Constable’s focus on burglary, with 97 per cent being investigated. Arrests have trebled and in the last three months we made 44 arrests.

“We were the lowest force in the country for successful outcomes for rape and serious sexual assault investigations at two per cent. We now have successful outcomes for 13 per cent of investigations, which puts us in the top half of the country – it’s still nowhere good enough, though.

“We are now the highest performing force for disruptions of County Lines gangs – arrests, breaking up networks, per head of population. And Operation Scorpion, which I set up with all the forces in the South West means we’re all in the top 10 forces for disruptions per capita.”

Although he admits he doesn’t thrill to the campaigning necessary, Mr Wilkinson says: “I am getting a lot of personal support on the doorstep, and there have even been Labour voters who say they want me to stay on and continue with the improvements I’ve made.”

But all voters want to know what will they benefit from in the future, and a high priority for Mr Wilkinson is rural crime.

He says: “I’ve had to challenge police nationally – they tend to classify rural crime as wildlife crime, and that’s nonsense.

“What we are facing organised criminal gangs who raid farms - they steal equipment and kit; they steel vehicles and they end up in Eastern Europe and Russia and Ukraine.

“These gangs will burn down a barn if they are confronted. They are serious organised criminal.

“But we know who they are. Along with other South West forces and neighbouring forces I’ve set up Operation Ragwort. It’s an intelligence-led operation.

“When I took over as PCC the rural crime team had two officers, and there are now eight. They had no 4x4 vehicles, no night-vision goggles, no drones.

“Now we are taking it much more seriously. It’s a real issue in rural areas.”

The PCC election will be held on Thursday, May 2. Other candidates are Stanka Adamcova for Labour, independent Mike Rees and Liberal Democrat Alan Hagger.