First police commissioners chosen amid turnout concerns


David Cameron says voting numbers were "always going to be low"

Several former police officers have beaten party candidates in the first-ever elections for crime commissioners in England and Wales.

So far, Labour and the Conservatives have roughly split most contests, but independents won 11 of the 41 posts.

Voter turnout was historically low, leading the Electoral Commission to describe it as "a concern for everyone who cares about democracy".

With all ballots counted, turnout was about 14.9%, BBC research showed.

Prime Minister David Cameron said low turnout in a first-time election was expected.

"It takes time to explain a new post," the prime minister said, and he predicted voting numbers would be "much higher next time round".

The Conservatives have won 16, Labour 13 and independents 11, with one other successful candidate.

One of the most high-profile defeats was in Humberside where Labour former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott lost to Tory rival Matthew Grove.

Police and crime commissioners will have powers to hire and fire chief constables and set police strategy and budgets.

Lord Prescott Lord Prescott lost to his Conservative rival in Humberside

The government says PCCs will give local people more control over policing, but opponents have warned the changes will politicise the police - and low turnout shows people don't want them.

In other election developments on Friday:

The record low for a national poll in peacetime is the 23% turnout for the 1999 European elections.

Turnout in the PCC election was 12.9% in Merseyside, 13.3% in Thames Valley, and 13.5% in Greater Manchester. These figures include spoilt ballot papers.

Electoral Commission chairwoman Jenny Watson said: "These were new elections taking place at an unfamiliar time of year, which is why we have made clear at every stage that it would be important to engage effectively with voters.

"The government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with. But what is important now is that the right lessons are learnt: we will talk to voters, candidates and returning officers to understand what worked and what didn't.

"The commission is going to undertake a thorough review, and we will present our findings to Parliament in early 2013."

Elections expert Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said it could be the worst turnout ever.

He added the elections "raised questions" about whether the whole exercise was worth it.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said a general apathy towards politics was to blame for the low turnout.

He said: "We are at a mid-term point in this government, there's a lot of difficult news around at the moment."

But Downing Street sources partly blamed the media, saying because the elections had not been held in London they had generated insufficient national news coverage.

"The national media have not covered themselves in glory," a No 10 source said.

Start Quote

The real flaw was something more fundamental - the voters were never persuaded they needed an elected police and crime commissioner”

End Quote

Home Secretary Theresa May said first elections were always difficult. "The police and crime commissioners are visible, they'll be accessible, they've been elected and crucially they will be accountable to people through the ballot box."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said many people had been cross about a lack of information, including what the job entailed and who the candidates were.

"It's not acceptable to be so careless with democracy, so careless with policing, but also so careless with money for the tax payer too."

Labour's Chuka Umunna called the elections "a total shambles", suggesting the £100m cost would have paid for 3,000 police officers.

Turnout reached 27.48% in the PCC election in Bristol, where voters were also going to the polls to choose the city's first directly-elected mayor, but across the Avon and Somerset police area as a whole it dropped to 19.58%.

Darren Hughes of the Electoral Reform Society said the PCC elections had started as a flagship government policy, but had descended into a "farce".

He said having an election in November was "crazy", but resourcing of the election needed to be addressed as well, so that candidates are able to cover areas larger than a usual constituency.

Residents of Wiltshire tell the BBC's Jon Kay why they did, and didn't, vote

One of successful independents in England, Ann Barnes, a former Kent Police Authority chairwoman, said the "real winners are the people of Kent who did not want their police force to be politicised".

In Dorset, successful candidate Mr Underhill said his "number one" priority was to hire a chief constable "with my vision".

"There's a lot to do in the first 100 days."

The first PCC for Lancashire, Labour's Clive Grunshaw, said it was a "new era for policing", while the North Yorkshire PCC, Conservative Julia Mulligan, said she intended to work hard "without political prejudice."

In Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld said after his election success: "I am a Conservative but I haven't had a gilded life. You grow up quickly commanding a platoon in the jungles of Borneo."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    History is made by the people who turn up (to vote in this case). If you can't be bothered to look on the web, read a local paper, listen to local radio, follow a twitter feed etc. in order to find out what candidates are saying about a highly political issue like control of local policing. - you get what you deserve...

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    It should not be another politicised appointment! It should be an appointment of someone who worked in and up as a professional in the service. We are all tired of politicians interfering in ....policing, health, education....Allow professionals to do the work they are qualified to do and in which they have experience and knowledge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Whatever the rights or wrongs of elected PCCs, not voting allows the extremists in. However much you don't like the idea of an elected PCC, do you really want a National Front, EDL or Respect PCC?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I completely agree with Umunna on this.We had a turnout of 4.1% in the Thames Valley, by 4pm yesterday, and even the staff at the polling booths were feeling miserable. A huge anger amongst Oxford citizens at being asked to vote on something they have minimum information for; what a waste of time and money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Complete joke - you wouldn't know who to vote for except by which party they belonged to which is exactly what we don't want a politisised police force.

    First election since I've been able to vote in which I haven't voted .
    Poll should be void if less than 20%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I thought the police were supposed to be impartial yet the candidates are clearly politically motivated.

    As far as I'm aware, we didn't receive a single piece of literature around here. Even if we had, without actually KNOWING the people, a 100-word précis is meaningless.

    I didn't vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Im very confident that the victor of this election will make a huge difference that we will all notice straight away. Criminals must be terrified. Definitely 100%.......we need Batman!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The idea that the low turn out undermines the whole PCC policy even further may be true, and those elected have no mandate. However the fact that only 18.16% voted in the Manchester Central by-election compared to 13.5% for Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner suggests they aren't the only ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    for the first time in my life I didn't vote. The candidates round here were a joke, no policing experience and all politican; none of which deserve my vote.
    But one of them will have jumped on the gravy train at the expense of millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Why did these elections need to be conducted on the basis of party affiliations? If ever any position screamed for an independent base it was this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    How can we vote when we have zero information about who the candidates are, and what their key objectives are?
    This was an half thought idea, that was put into action before fully thought through.
    What a total farce!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Im in East Anglia and Neither did I get a voting slip but absolutley no information on who the candidates where, so I couldnt vote

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Any turnout less than 20% is simply not a mandate. Turnout of 15% means we have to abandon the exercise. This is not China!
    I don't accept this result. This is not democracy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    So Gov is taking the real ill people to work, but can find money to waste on polling, which most people do not care about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Time to change election rules - formerly count spolied papers as a candidate, and if they win, re-run the election (wether PCC, MEPs, MPs, Cllrs of level or whatever, until a candidate gets a majority.

    And make a turnout of 2/3s electorate eligiable mandatory for a result to be declared....

    ....elections would soon change if they had to motivate us, the public......

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Last week, people queuing for several hours, long lines, high turnout figures, citizens demanding to use their right to vote in the USA.

    This week, deserted polling stations across England and Wales are an embarrassment to our governing system. Something is obviously very wrong with the democratic process here when the vast majority of the population actively decide to ignore or reject it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    People are more and more jaded as far as politics is concerned. I'd have hoped MEP elections where the BNP got 3 million votes would've woken all political parties up to the fact that centrist popularist politics just alienates everyone. And although I'd not class PCC's as that, the damage has been done and not fixed. I think swapping unelcted boards for elected people is a good thing but to late

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    An absolute sham of an election. No one was talking about it, media coverage was minimal and turn out was diabolical. I haven't seen one campaign leaflet or poster. Another daft idea from an ever increasingly daft government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    4. Tom
    Yay I get the first comment!
    Tom, you are comment number 4 - I hope those counting the votes don't think that the candidate in 4th place was won !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Your article makes it perfectly clear what is wrong with the whole idea of PCC - the political parties are tallking about winning & losing. It is obvious they will be attempting to use policing issues directly to influence public perception of government & opposition. We want policing based on principles not political machinations.

    I hope they count and publish spoiled ballots.


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