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
    +5

    Comment number 72.

    do you think america covered these elections as much as we cover theirs ;) What a complete joke and a sham. Please make this the only year we have to put up with this circus.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 71.

    For the first time ever I spoiled my paper - for me it was a vote against the whole concept and process. Apart from believing that PCCs are ill conceived, this 'election' is an entire waste of money, the positions should not be decided by an election but by a job interview and all of this is a distraction from addressing the core causes of crime and decent Policing.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 70.

    I did not vote. We do not know anything about the candidates. What on earth has it to do with party politics? I thought the law was supposed to be independent?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 69.

    I am an officer and I know very little about my local PCC and I work within, so How is public supposed to vote for somebody they know little about. We do not know how the system will work with the PCC either. This is a waste of money what is wrong with policing is to much micro management and political interference so how does this help.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 68.

    Every day is budget day with this goverment .Taking with one hand-5000 jobs lost in police force. Giving with other-£ioom election & £100000 jobs. I don,t understand do you?

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 67.

    This campaign was never going to be fought on the basis of who would make the best police commissioner, but purely on party lines. So Manchester etc will elect Labour commissioners, Surrey etc. will elect Conservative commissioners. Political parties should have been barred from fielding candidates. The police are supposedly politically neutral, so therefore the commissioners should be as well.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 66.

    Police Commissioners are potentially a good idea but people are generally sick of politicians and anything even vaguely political so the low turn out isn't surprising really.

    The current crop of politicians of all parties really are the most uninspiring we've had in my lifetime. I expect a record low turn out at the general election.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 65.

    What drivel our polling station had 50 people in 8 hours what a waste of time and more importantly money ; disgusting

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 64.

    Not one knock on the door, not a single leaflet through the letter box, nothing on the local news and no canvassing while out and about. Sorry, but if you want my vote come and tell me who you are and what you represent. I don't use social networking websites and i am not voting for a political party.

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 63.

    Cameron considers a mandate of 50% of members is insufficient to justify industrial action when cast in a Union Ballot.

    However, a vote which appears in some cases to be as low as 3% for the successful candidate in the Police Commissioner Elections is a resounding success.

    The stench of hypocrisy is on the air.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 62.

    The coalition’s policy on the direct election of police commissioners was ill conceived, badly designed and poorly executed. So pretty much par for the course for this government!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 61.

    I think the percentage of electorate that voted is a good indication what people think about this.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 60.

    This is another example of the dictatorial democracy that we live in, a vote that was not wanted by the people but thrust on us; whilst ‘we the people’ do not seem to have a democratic voice or choice on the issues that really matter to this Great Nation.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 59.

    This is the first election I have not voted in in forty years.
    I have not seen a good enough explanation of how it will or can work.
    What if the police are being told to do do something etc. that they don't have the money for?
    In order for them to move their work to another area presumably other work has to be cut and who then is responsible, the police or the commissioner?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 58.

    First time I have not voted in an election, but with absolutely no information on local candidates and what they stand for then how was I supposed to decide? There has been no campaigning of any sort here as far as I can see. No flyers through the door, no posters, nothing. What a total waste of money...

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 57.

    What a great idea from Little Ol Me -Let's count the spoiled votes as a candidate - At present they would win every time! And I also agree that if the turnout is less than 20% is not a mandate for anything!

    I say scrap PCCs MEPs and the house of Lords and see how much the country can save there!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 56.

    @38 Keith D.
    My Grandparents and Gt Grandparents didn't fight in wars for what has become of our Country and its "Democracy". They went to their graves as disenfranchised non voters. The felt very badly let down and you could tangibly feel their pain when they spoke about, what they saw when going out or watching the News. This country has 3 parties with the same policies that are forced on us.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    1) Will it mean more Police on the streets?

    That's all anyone's really interested in.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 54.

    I recon with such a low turn out I could have mustered enough freinds and collegues to win Wiltshire hands down. What an oppotunity lost!

    Roll on the next PCC election; do you think there will be another one?

  • rate this
    +159

    Comment number 53.

    I voted just so I register a spoiled ballot paper. The Police are here to protect and serve the public, yet here we get the chance to put them in the charge of politicians. Where I am, every candidate (for which never received any info about) was a politicians of some sorts, even the independents. So no, I do not want the Police being run by Tory or Labour members.

 

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