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

    Comment number 612.

    " thetropicalfish
    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."

    Your MP participated in a process with all the other MPs that decided PCCs were needed and that you should be given the opportunity to decide who it should be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    It didn’t help that the candidates were as pathetic and out of touch with the real world as the PCC idea itself.
    Reading the “CV” of one in my area consisted of him writing about who his parents and even grand parents were!

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    the party of the first politician to come out, stand in front of a camera, and say "well that was a farce" gets my vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    The only time our area received any information about the Candidates was when the Postal voting papers arrived recently.

    NOT very well organised at all!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    I tried weeks ago to find information on my local candidates. The official site had no information about them because it is "too early" to release that information.

    So I just didn't bother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Anything must be better than the previous system of having a faceless unelected bureaucrat in charge of a quango...

    It is also a lazy to carp that 'I have no information etc....' after all if you are reading this, I assume you can research on the internet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    (I'm not going to bother quoting your peurile post).

    As already stated by many people, the online information was useless, publicity about the elections was practically non-existant and in most cases the only candidates were those representing the major political parties, who people don't want as PCCs. Try reading the other posts, then your comments might be better informed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Im 43 & believe its my civic duty to vote as my father fought in WW2 in RN and many people fighting around world for democratic rights.I spolit my ballot as did not like any of the candidates in the Dorset Ballot.
    No Anglo saxon organisation in police, But black is permitted. Masons are allowed but BNP not yet the masonic vow of loyalty contravenes the 'Without Fear or Favour' vow of police.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    587. my_daughters_could_do_ better
    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?"

    Because if they did that, then people would complain that the person who got the job was 'in with the boys' or whatever.

    The police force is politicised anyway - are you telling me that chief constables don't support any party?

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    I voted for my area's only independent candidate. After the criminality politicians have been involved in over the years it is clear that it is absolutely imperative that politics is kept out of policing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    I don't get where the Home Secretary thinks the mandate is. Turnout suggests the public simply don't care for or about the idea. We're British not American (no directly elected prosecutors, judges or police). Law and order officials has traditionally been one step removed from direct politics and fiercely independent, held to account but not operationally controlled by elected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    There are many good posts here the main, lack of information, transparency, the same old faces, low turn out, waste of public "OUR" funds. Politics now in policing.. If anyone read the white paper, you will find these are powerful posts, many accountable to them.. them not accountable to many. Do you really think they (Central Government) really care?.. Well for one their arrogance says it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    In Wiltshire. All I knew about the candidates was the small write up on the PCC page (which I searched for). No canvassing, no leaflets and never saw the pamphlet about why we're getting PCC's (which the radio adverts kept telling me to expect).

    I think that PCCs are a waste of time and money and that politics should be kept out of policing. Said so on my ballot paper instead of a vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    PCC election In summary....

    1. Some 75% had no idea what they were voting for
    2. Many voters had no polling information
    3. Many candidates fighting on a Party Political basis (illegal - commissioners and police can't be political)
    4. Many candidates made false promises (deception) their remit clearly could not permit

    The whole PCC idea should be scarped

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    My girlfriend works with the police. She has spent the last year fighting to keep her job. Her department has been decimated. Public service has suffered.

    To watch perfectly good money being thrown away on this pantomime, is a bit of an insult. The money spent would have kept her and many others employed doing useful work for the rest of their lives.

    There must be consequences for this debacle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    (re 560) - I was running out of characters. I wonder, what proportion of the turnout was spoiled votes. Others like me turned out to vote "No Confidence". We do not need pompous political figures as "Mayor" or "Police and Crime Commissioner" - what else would a Police Commissioner be for goodness sake?

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Now that commissioners will shortly be in post their vehicle registration numbers will be circulated to all police officers so they don't have the inconvenience of being pulled over for a motoring offence (and what about the nephew's drug bust ... )

    If my job is at stake would I want to offend the person who can fire me?

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    No to the political control of the police? What police? I heard G4S were taking over. Should be OK then, if the Olympics were anything to go by. No I did not vote for this farce - another complete waste of time and money from a government who are totally committed to, um, totally committed to er, oh, yes, I know! Wasting time and money. Arrest that man officer; he's not a Tory!

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    I have voted at every election that I have been entitled to since I was 18 but I just could not bring myself to vote at this election as I do not agree with it. This has cost the tax payer £100m. I wonder what the salary of each commissioner will be. The head of my county council stood down to stand for this election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    1017: Sian Grzeszczyk BBC Coventry & Warwickshire political reporter tweets: I've just been told there are lots of spoilt ballot papers in Coventry #pcc awaiting a definite fig. Only 25,8632 people voted in Coventry


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