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
    +2

    Comment number 572.

    Only one candidate bothered to leaflet my home in W Sussex. Perhaps they're all embarrassed; they ought to be.
    Local interest in this seems to be about the same as the police interest in us.
    Not holding my breath for any big changes as the real problem is govt- Blair's cafe culture drink laws, + crims first victims last policies.
    Still, a good chance for a protest vote. Shame to waste it.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 571.

    The government want strike ballots turnout(votes) to be greater than 50+% of the membership to give it legitimacy.

    Well what's good for the goose.....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 570.

    562.alan



    Exactly.....I have not heard one person, other than a very small handful of members of the public (through HYS, not even in the pub!), even try to make a point of why the existing system was not fit for purpose and needed changing.....let alone how this change would be better.....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 569.

    For the first time in my life I spoiled a ballot paper, writing THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY across the front and writing in a vote to retain the police authority. I await with interest the number of spoilt ballots in Greater Manchester.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 568.

    With polls as low as 12% the government will push the positives on this election. So the winner will be elected with as low as 6% of the total electorate.
    The next time ministers highlight the turn out of 40-50% when workers vote to strike...please refer them to this farce!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 567.

    From my observations it is mostly the elderly who voted, those who believe it is a duty to do so. I would have voted had there been a ‘I don’t want’ box so I suspect that like many other I chose the only other option and that is not to vote, which is as much a democratic right as voting. The politicians need to listen very carefully. As I have said before the young will change it.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 566.

    I can easily believe the figure of £100 Million for this farce. The extra police officers and other crime prevention initiatives that this could of paid for might actually have made a difference.

    Damian Green should loose his job over this.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 565.

    As much as it went against the grain like so many others I refused to vote because of the politics involved. If these Commissioners are to be truly independent how come the Conservative candidate came first and the Labour candidate came second in Wiltshire ?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 564.

    Oh! Come on folks. Nothing can go wrong when police and politics are combined. Can it? Then again " turkeys voting for Christmas" springs to mind.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 563.

    I didn't vote. Not because I'm against the idea, but simply because I didn't know anything about any of the candidates. I wasn't going to blindly vote for someone just because they were from my preferred political party. I wanted to know what their aims/plans/hopes were, where they were from etc, but I didn't even know their names.

    I suppose I should have spoiled my vote, but I didn't think of it

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 562.

    What was wrong with the previous system? Why do they keep changing things all the time which usually makes things worse?
    Is it a public relief scheme for redundant politicians?
    Alan

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 561.

    I just voted - on the government e-petition which tells them that we didn't vote because we don't agree - not because we couldn't be bothered.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 560.

    I wrote "No Confidence" on my ballot paper and I believe this should be an option on all ballots. Not apathy, not the weather, the electorate are uncomfortable with this.The 42 "fiefdoms" should have been rationalised / re-structured (i.e. fewer) before enacting this "initiative". Another misconceived Cameron policy poorly implemented at public expense.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 559.

    I looked over the local paper's descriptions of the local candidates.

    Of the three flying a R B or Y political flag, one had no relevant experience whatsoever. That's just for my area.

    This is what concerns me.

    People voting for their favoured political party, and the commissioners being elected not on merit but on the colour of the flag they are flying.

    Police shouldn't be politicians.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 558.

    I think I get it now. It was a straw poll for the Tories to find out how unpopular they really are.

    At least it does prove what a great number of people have been saying about the current Government for a long time. They havn't got a clue and even if they did it is doubted they would know what to do about it.

    An expensive waste of PUBLIC MONEY. Get it Dave we are not all in this together!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 557.

    Whilst I voted and support the idea of the police being controlled by a directly elected person in charge, I feel it would have been far better to have directly elected chief constables. Also judges should be directly elected by public vote.

  • Comment number 556.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 555.

    In these difficult economic times, I object to politicians wasting our taxes on this cheap political gimmick. I do not accept the argument that commissioners will save money or improve efficiency. It appears to me that it is blatant vote-catching of the most tawdry kind. No wonder people are staying away from the poll.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 554.

    It concerns me that so many people and indeed so many people posting here seem to know nothing about the outgoing police authorities, their members, their responsibilities or even that they existed.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 553.

    #509 Steve H

    "A conscious act of spoiling the ballot is easily seen and can be accounted for in statistics about the count."

    Totally agree with your point and I've been doing this for years now as I'm totally disillusioned with politicians of all parties. Trouble is I'm still ignored because I don't see my council (Sheffield) reporting the number of spoilt papers.

 

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