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
    -3

    Comment number 592.

    From reading the comments here it appears a large number of the low turnout was spoilt ballet papers!! Read this on the BBC Politics page and thought it sums everything up -

    "Vox-pops in Swindon on the Police & Crime Commissioner election. Stopped 20 people. Only one had voted. And she couldn't remember for whom!"

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 591.

    call it apathy, despondency or whatever, i did not waste my time voting i feel that my democratic right has not been upheld for at least the last 3 administrations in this country,this election is one of the poorest thought out & shambolic affair in recent times,little or no info,no history,no idea,no vote,would the red tories have done any better,nah,doubt it,oxygen thieves all of them

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 590.

    Typical of the UK media that this a big story now when the whole thing has gone t*ts up. Negative, negative, had the media publicised the issue in the first place turn out would have been greater.

    That said, I agree with the majority who say we do not want to mix politics and policing, perhaps the idea might have been shelved if public outcry before the event had been greater... too late now

  • rate this
    -136

    Comment number 589.

    I voted
    why people think it is cool or fashionable not to vote is beyond me.
    people fought and died to get you the right to vote on issues that affect you and your nation and you throw it away out of hand.
    my view is if you didn't vote then you have no right to comment on any of the outcomes or future debates concerning the police commissioners

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 588.

    There are so many things we could and should get the vote on
    - the EU
    - immigration
    - planning
    for example.

    And let's increase the use of referendums and petitions, with recall powers for politicians and local govt managers.

    But this ill-conceived and executed idea is pure nonsense.

    Not a questionable response to a crisis, but yet another govt foul-up.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 587.

    Why didn't they just have a PCC role for each area, and people apply for the role, as they would for any other job? Then whoever holds the interviews appoints the most suitable candidate. Radical idea I know but it's worked in the past...
    Rather that than wasting £100m of taxpayers' money on letting the people decide, based on a couple of paragraphs in a flyer (IF you actually get one that is!)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 586.

    What a waste of time and money. I voted for my MP, let my MP sort out this lower level stuff. I have no interest in how my police commisioner is elected or even if we need one.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 585.

    I don't get so worked up like most people about who is the Conservative or Labour candidate, they are all as bad as each other at the end of the day. I would have voted but very little information was made available about the candidates, you had to make an effort yourself to find out. When they could have sent information through the post.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 584.

    I did not vote because I do not feel qualified to recruit anyone to this post. I don't know enough about the role or the candidates. I would much prefer it if a suitable panel, best qualified to make this appointment, were created and then used their skills to recruit the best candidate.

    The whole process is ineffective and a colossal waste of public money.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 583.

    alan 562...the reason for that is obvious. If you keep changing things, i,e, moving the goalposts then you have nothing to benchmark performance against. Its done throughout government depts on a regular basis, in particular the NHS. Its a con and all parties use it to give the impression that things are progressing, in fact they are getting worse, much worse in the case of the NHS

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 582.

    If the turnout is as low as the polls are indicating, will we have various politicians lining up to condemn the result and calling for the results to be declared invalid like they do whenever there is a low turnout in Trade Union ballots?, no?, thought not

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 581.

    Is it that Damian Green has upset someone at No 10 that he keeps getting disasters like the UK Border Fiasco and now this PCC election with the lowest turn out in recent history or is he the master of his own destiny? Something tells me Mrs May has a hand or at least some fingers in this somewhere...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 580.

    People are complaining that they knew nothing about the candidates in the Police elections - so no different to any other elections you vote in then!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 579.

    It was not very well publicised. I didn't know who the candidates were. Normally a couple of weeks before any election, I get leaflets in my mail. I got nothing.

    If people don't know who is running, they are not going to vote!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 578.

    I voted, but only because I believe that the PCCs will happen whether or not I want them to, so I may as well have some say in them. I too felt there was an incredible lack of information about what the post of PCC is actually FOR and what most candidates would actually DO. I voted for the Labour candidate - she seemed the only one with coherent policies and a stance I could agree with.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 577.

    During this election 'campaign', I did not see a single pamphlet, handout or poster from any of the candidates in my area. Neither did anyone I know. So what would people do if they bothered to turn up at a polling station yesterday? They'd vote along party lines, as they do in national elections, based not on candidate suitability for the post but on the candidates' party's stance on policing.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 576.

    II don't see a need for a police commissioner but I wasn't given a choice of 'Don't do it, it's silly'. So I made a choice. My first ambition would be to stop politicians from getting these jobs as they will just cause trouble. By staying at home, people have given the politicians a clear run. The turnout is saying 'Don't do it, it's silly'. Will the majority non-vote be listened to?

  • rate this
    -20

    Comment number 575.

    All eligible to vote who registered for postal vote got a letter - if watching Coronation St & other rubbish is more important to the electorate than spending a few minutes online checking out the candidates & voting & ensure police responding to local needs as directed by publicly accountable PCC- then shows poor state of mind of those who cannot be bothered as are wastrels lacking responsibility

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 574.

    I thought the police were supposed to have no political allegiance.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 573.

    What a train crash, everyone involved in this farce should face disciplinary action, 100 £££ of millions wasted. One ward in Newport had 0% turnout...

 

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