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
    +45

    Comment number 412.

    I voted but voided my paper in protest. another set of quangos for derelict politicians and their cronies to suck more money into their bloated bank accounts.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 411.

    @394. General Rab

    E petition signed tup

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 410.

    Whats all this concern about allegedly bringing politics into policing . Are we talking about the same police which has been ruled by political correctness for years , selecting and promoting to meet gender and ethnicity targets rather than on ability?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 409.

    £100m to hold this!!!!

    What a waste of money. I've said this before and I'll say it again - Govts always find money when it suits them.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 408.

    I could see no way of registering that I totally disagree with the PCC being an elected position so I did not vote.None of the candidates have my mandate.
    Like so many referenda and elections the question that I want to answer was not asked.
    We are in danger of slipping down the same path at the USA with elected Sheriffs which I certainly believe is the wrong way to go.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 407.

    In my area there were 4 candidates - Labour, Conservative, Lib-Dem and UKIP. Since I don't want a politically motivated PCC, I spoiled my paper by writing NONE. The people running the polling station told me that at about 4 p.m. I was the 61st person to vote - from a possible 3000+.

    O M N I S H A M B L E S !

  • rate this
    -65

    Comment number 406.

    I voted yesterday, my husband and daughters voted and we read about the candidates on the choosemypcc website. Obviously we were in the minority. I spoke to colleagues at work and local friends and they all voted as well. If you don't use our democratic process you cannot complain that things aren't going well. Public apathy is just laziness in another form.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 405.

    398.
    nautonier You are one biased here my sad friend. the BBC reports the news, not necessarily the bits you like,but it is still the news. I noticed that the BBC being so biased to the left, have not commented on where the missing droves of the right had hidden themselves, for this waste of money election. Perhaps you would like to comment?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 404.

    Keep party politics out of local government and policing- it has ruined local democracy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 403.

    First time I have agreed with Copa Cobana aka Chuka Ummana. The money spent on these PCC elections is a total waste. With turnout in low teens what is the spread of votes when some one is elected on a turnout of less than 14%. From a Tory lifetime supporter An old man of 75. It can now only ever be UKIP in future - they are so thin on the ground even the BNP put more effort into catching votes

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 402.

    Sorry to throw a spanner into the works of so-called democracy, but when this country gets rid of the Whip System in Parliament then it will be democratic. The Whip System does not allow an MP to vote in the interests of his constituents, but he/she has to follow the ideologies of his party. That is tending towards dictatorship, not democracy. Independents rule in a democracy! Including PCCs!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 401.

    It's a dictatorship when the people in charge do what they want when it's clearly against the wishes of the members of public of a country.

    I have yet to speak to someone who thinks elected PCC are a good idea. It's the next step to police privitization.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 400.

    I didn't vote, and i genuinely couldn't care which of the faceless candidates in my area wins.

    I rarely see a policeman in the street/city centre, and I don't believe they'll have many actual powers anyway, so what's the point?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 399.

    What a farce! The level of turnout makes a mockery of the democratic process and gives none of the 'winners' a true mandate.

    There were 6 names on my ballot paper and I knew nothing about any of them apart from their political affiliations. With no canvassing, how can any of us make a balanced judgement?

    A shameful, shambolic exercise in futility and a total waste of money.

  • rate this
    -34

    Comment number 398.

    I see the biased BBC 'quango from hell' revelling in the left wing criticism of the public not being aware of the candidates etc.

    I see a number of Labour MP's have actually resigned their seats in parliament to become Crime Commissisoners so makes you wonder why labour hypocrisy? They will get a better gravy train salary & expenses?

    Biased BBC failed to inform licence payers properly on TV

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 397.

    A turnout of under 20% can in no way be considered democratic or anywhere near enough of a turnout to be able to effect policy. This idea was a shambles from the get go and the polling figures prove it. This government should be dissolved, they are not acting on behalf of the people who voted for them (which was not me by the by), their is no mandate for their actions, it should not be allowed

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 396.

    This was another early coalition idea like the Health service reforms that was thought up without any research or public demand. it has turned out to be a political retirement home for ageing and defunct politicians supported by senior retired police officers with large pensions. (I am a retired officer). You will not see any positive change in police service.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 395.

    The fact that 81,477 people in Wiltshire bothered to vote is surprising. Are there that many people who can be hoodwinked into marching to their nearest polling station just because a voting card falls through their letterbox? Some people can be coaxed into voting for anything since this election was completely pointless.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 394.

    266.Britainsnotpleased

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/41740
    Please sign it and hopefully we can send a message about this disgraceful situation
    ----------
    Done! - Thank you
    PS. if you sign it, please re-post this!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 393.

    This is a time of huge cutbacks in all areas of the State. Like all Government depts, the Police have legal obligations particularly around duty of care. At the moment they can't meet those so how anyone thinks there is going to be any space left for someone to give them other priorities is beyond me.

 

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