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 52.

    For the first time in 42 years of voting I spoiled my paper. I agree that this should not be a party politically based election. The low turnout is indicative of politicians getting things wrong and not listening to their constituents. Their arrogance really annoys me. MY MP should represent local views, not be "Whipped" into shape. Policing certainly needs to be independent of party politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    In Newport - County Town of the Isle of Wight - we received no information whatsoever about the candidates - not even a list of names. How are people supposed to make an informed choice? The vote should be declared illegal for just this reason. Many people are not computer literate and it is patronising to say that all the information was all available on line. No wonder there was a low turnout!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    I had quite a hard time finding information on the candidates in our local PCC election, only one of whom had even bothered to distribute any literature i.e thought he should do any work for the job. Two semed to think it was 'jobs for the boys' one was so flaky I think they were standing for a joke and there was another who seemd to be showing willing, so it was a no-brainer who I voted for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    what a waste of millions of pounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    They had this in Russia. Police directly controlled by the party. This is anti-democratic at it removes an important check on political power. I am not surprised that turnout was low. The people who see the value are NOT the general electorate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I have no sympathy with those who claim they knew nothing about the candidates. Find out, as I did. Expecting to be spoon-fed all time is a societal malaise. This election is important and involves issues that affect us all. Whining that you don't know, or can't be bothered is an abrogation of your duty as a citizen. You will, therefore, get the winner you deserve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I couldn't make up my mind who to vote for, Curly, Larry or Moe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    If a less than 20% turnout for voting is a mandate for PCC's then this government can never use poor voting turnout to decry union strikes again in the future.

    Democracy is in reality Hypocrisy

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    'Thorntonite' - can't help thinking that history is NOT going to be made by yet another group of politicians added to the pile. The low turnout may suggest that folk don't see a need, or anticipate any real change from this scheme.

    Apathy is a vote in it's own right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Every day is Budget Day with this government.Taking with one hand and giving with the other .I don,t understand do you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    And they wonder why we didn't vote!!

    We, the electorate, are fed up with Politicians, in the UK and Europe, wasting our money and doing things that are not wanted or needed.

    We need Goverments, not layers and layers of paper pushers.

    Enough is enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I for one would have voted if there were an option to scrap the idea of directly elected commissioners. This is not just an issue of voter apathy it's also a lack of consensus with the public.

    Policing and politics should not be confused. Policing is about taking tough decisions on safety and security, not short term vote winning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Hardly surprising. Nobody voted for the positions to exist in the first place.
    Only hope that the new commissioners earn their up to £100,000 a year and publicise who they are and what the public are expected to do to justify it.
    Can't see an article in the local paper costing too much. It'll be on expenses of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I do just have to comment on the fact people are saying "give us a vote on the EU" whilst slamming this. People complain the EU is run by unelected people in what is basically a big club. The current police boards are run by unelected people with big expense accounts and police commissioners are just part of an old boys network. Both of which have a far bigger impact on your life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    A good friend of mine comes from a country where people have their government thrust upon them, where their police and media are not mutually exclusive to the government.

    I am very disappointed with the low turn out, it shows a lack of respect for a system which maintains the freedoms which our families fought through 2 world wars to win.

    If you want to protest, cast a blank ballot paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I disagree with this policy and didn't vote. Even if the extremists do get in it shows this policy as the expensive farce it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    For the first time, I spoiled my ballot paper (there wasn't room to write "none of the above", so I wrote "none of the below" instead).

    I think the elections were daft and the last thing we need is a politicised police force.

    I'm not sure whether you can refuse a ballot in the UK, so I did the next best thing. It's the only way I could think of to lodge a protest vote!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    On Lucy Powell MP and her clear message to Govt. 18.16% voted, over 80% didn't. How can a Labour win in a Labour safe seat be a clear message. Complete and utter.... add your own word, if the Beeb will let you!

    How stupid do some MP's think we are?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    100 million pounds to run the election and an 84k salary to replace something that works well as it already is. Its all a bit galling when I may lose my civilian job with the Police because they need to find one million saving. The lack of info is completely decisive - crime is always a big right wing political issue so the only people really interested in voting will be Tory voters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    As a Christian disenfranchised from the Democratic process, all I can do I spoil my ballot. The 3 Candidates hail from parties that support.
    1) Abortion
    2) Infant Circumcision
    3) Gay Marriage (Not CP's do what you want)
    4) Mass Immigration
    5) Halal & Kosher Slaughter
    6) Multi-Culturalism
    The Independent candidates site wasn't working, what did he stand for?
    A Pathetic Sham, Certainly not democracy


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