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
    +1

    Comment number 552.

    Checked all the candidates in my area and was seriously disappointed to find that it was the usual suspects from political parties or ex-police.
    What is needed to make this work are truly independent people with no political baggage or the slightest hint of any connection with forces they are supposed to manage on our behalf.
    A bit of information from them would not have gone amiss either.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 551.

    Here in Norfolk every candidate was politically affiliated, even the 'independent' was a Conservative councillor who was rejected as the official Conservative candidate! So I spoilt my ballot paper with the comment:

    "Politics has no place in policing, this will result in bias and incompetence"

    I hope others did likewise.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 550.

    There was no box marked "No thanks", but at 4.3% in my area, it looks like everyone ticked that box anyway.

    If only this would happen in the general election, we might actually get some changes round here.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 549.

    "It would be good to have some analysis afterwards and see whether there are any lessons to be learned."
    How about don't create expensive positions people neither want nor need, and adding a none of the above box on the ballot papers so we can give you that view, if we don't want a PCC how does voting for one help us get that view across?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 548.

    Plain and simple this should not be an elected position.
    Only way I would have voted is if there had been an option to choose for the election result to be invalid and the system dropped.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 547.

    502.Voice of the Voyager
    I voted by post out of principle, but Senior informs me he was the only one in the Church Hall with the Returning Officer pacing about outside complaining about the poor turnout.
    Seems this Goverment is as happy to waste Public money as the last – what a farce.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 546.

    I voted but I'm not happy that the (2 only) candidates were Labour or Conservative. It would be best if the candidates were juged purely on their intentions, and not on party affiliation. Having said that , the info on their aims was sparse to say to the least.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 545.

    I gather that the Government’s latest plan is to introduce directly elected dog catchers to bring an element of democratic accountability to this highly important civic function. Apparently David Cameron is intending to stand down as PM and put up for election in Chipping Norton: he always relishes a new challenge and feels that the new post will be more in line with his capabilities.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 544.

    Did try to find out about the candidates in my area. Info available very late, a couple of pathetic websites, none of them told me what finance/ management skills they had, no detail on previous jobs. No idea what people skills they have. Some seemed very much the local neighbourhood rent a mouth. Heard snippets on local news usually about candidates doing something they shouldn't. Didn't vote.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 543.

    I voted for one of the independents.

    All I can say is that I did my bit to make sure the police chief is non-political. Did you?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 542.

    In the last week I actually spotted one policeman in our village (in a car of course). It was one more than I counted for candidates in running for the PCC. I can only assume they were all politicians from the same worn out parties.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 541.

    Re 493. A full an unreserved apology from the BBC is all that is required. Why does this guy need money ? I hope he donates it ALL to charities working with victims of child abuse. Bet he won't. Where there's blame, there's a claim ! Welcome to Britain 2012 from the 'plebs' upwards.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 540.

    I did not vote, as I was not prepared to vote for a political party. All the candidates were standing a representatives of their parties. I want a candidate to represent ME, not David, Nick, or the other one whose name I can never remember.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 539.

    Very low turnouts of less than 16%? Hardly surprising, given the lack of information available about the candidates and what they stood for. What I'd like to know is what percentage of those alarmingly few votes were spoiled in protest.

    Or even better: How about a vote on something that actually matters, like membership of the EU? I think you'd see a larger turnout for that!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 538.

    413.davidbale

    Couldn't agree with you more. When will will see 'None of the above' on a ballot paper?

    How is it that governments like this one can get their own policies passed as law when the majority of voters did not vote for them. They have no mandate from the people to do anything other than maintain the status quo until there is another election.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 537.

    I voted, but I never received any information from any of the candidates for Devon & Cornwall. I went to the official website and some weren't bothered to post any details about themselves or their policies. I emailed all of the candidates asking why I should vote for them and some never bothered to reply. We hear politicians moan about voter apathy, but what about candidate apathy?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 536.

    Damien Green said the councilors who were heads of police were not elected to that position, just elected councilors. This is the justification he gave on BBC breakfast for spending £75m on the elections. The same goes for the Cabinet ministers - we did not vote for him to be police minister, just an MP.
    Not neccessarily against the elections, but we needed much more info of who was applying.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 535.

    29. Debs

    We had a turnout of 4.1% in the Thames Valley.

    -

    If the turnout was really that low, there is no way that the result can be considered viable.

    If you agree that this election was a farce, then do something about it...

    http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/speakout/pcc-elections-never-again

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 534.

    I wonder if the BBC will ignore the total amount of spoilt papers because it shows the true feeling of the country about this new job for the boys and the people dont want it but the tories do. We the people have spoken and as usual the people who are meant to represent us will ignore us. Time for a revolution both in politics and the BBC

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 533.

    Political apathy my name is Britain. What a waste of money and time. Really we need o have the police being regualted by experts and to find out what issues are in our area they need to run their own investigations

 

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