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 652.

    Nice of our politicians to let us participate in 'democracy'. After all this whole PCC farce was invented to prove we still live in a 'democracy'. I will believe that when we are allowed a referendum on subjects that really matter to us, that will have an impact upon our lives and those of our children. Give us our referendum on the EU!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 651.

    How could I make an informed choice when I was not sent any information other than a polling card. No list of candidates and nothing about what the candidates stood for. Pulling a name out of a hat would have been much cheaper and as democratic. What a waste of public money at a time we are all told savings need to be made. Heads must role for this total fiasco

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 650.

    Has anyone else noticed that the BBC has spent the last hour or so revising their turnout figures to exclude those who spoiled their ballots? When I checked at the start of the day they reported 81477 votes cast in Wiltshire (2683 more that the sum of votes for individual candidates). Now they've edited the page to report 78794. Come on Beeb, report the FACTS: 2683 ballots were spoiled/uncounted.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 649.

    Complete waste of tax payers money.

    Goverment should be ashamed of themselves on trying to change a system that 80% of the population are happy with ...the 'think tank' are obviously on another planet as normal !!!

    This waste of money should of been spent in getting the youth into apprenticeships and off the streets .... the goverment talk the talk but dont walk the walk over real issues !!

  • Comment number 648.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 647.

    No leaflets through the door, no canvassing, not even any information at the library. I have acess to online but many do not so to be called lazy for not finding information is unacceptable.
    Plus police should not be politically alligned, but blind and balanced like Lady Justice!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 646.

    I did not vote, not because of apathy but because all the candidates were from policical parties except 1 that was ex police. Politics should play no part in policing and the money wasted on these elections would have been better spent on officers to actually police the comunity.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 645.

    I am surprised to see so many comments. There are probably more comments here than the total number of Thames Valley votes.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 644.

    If the Government say that these commissioners - some of whom will have been chosen by fewer than 5% of the eligible voters in their areas - have a legitimate mandate, they will never again be able to criticise Trades Unions when they go out on strike following majority decisions in ballots in which not all their members vote.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 643.

    Parliament is imposing these pompous positions. Whats the point of democracy if you can only choose something you don't want.
    Which is becoming increasingly the case with the lot of them in Westminster!
    The low turn out shows that this Government is totally out of touch with the communities of this country.
    We don't all have time to have a coffee with the PCC and moan about the phlebs

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 642.

    I heard an elderly lady in the polling station yesterday asking if there was enough room to writ on her ballot paper, I think that says it all!!

    This election was badly publicised with the electorate having little or no idea what the candidates stand for. Many voters were excluded because they can't/don't know how to access the internet.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 641.

    I dodn't receive any information on how to vote, who the options are etc hence I didn't vote. Am assuming this shambles was another huge waste of taxpayers money?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 640.

    So we have another raft of jobs for clapped out politicians "elected" on about 12% of the vote. Most people don't care who runs the police as long as they are there when needed and it doesn't need to be politicised in this way. With appalling health "reforms" partially withdrawn budgets and now, this, the govenment is lurching from one foul up to the next. All in the name of "choice" of course.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 639.

    The Government of the day plus Labour and the rest of them should not have made this a political game. The Police are supposed to uphold and enforce the rule of law, they can only do this from a politically neutral position. The voter turn out should send a strong message of dissatisfaction with a 19 percent turnout a non-mandate statement, no doubt the spinners will be out in force.

  • Comment number 638.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 637.

    Party politics controlling police now, with no accountability to public, and a nice fat salary to go with it. Public had no say over this colossal waste of taxpayers' money. This isn't democracy, but the politicos bleeding us dry of both our money and freedoms.
    These people simply show once again that their favourite pastime is sticking up two fingers to the public.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 636.

    This has been an absolute travesty of an election. There was no public demand for it in the first place as has been confirmed by the pathetically low turnout.With the country going through a period of extreme austerity why is the government wasting time, energy and money (£75M) on such a scheme.I have been critical of people not using their vote in the past but not on this occasion.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 635.

    What would a Head of Marketing in a large corporate environment think, say, decide, do and advise, the morning after a product launch party to which 84 out of every 100 people personally invited had not gone?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 634.

    Without a mandate, the Tories agreed to the LD constraint of having “stand alone”,elections which has committed some £75 to £100 million of tax payer’s money, most of which could have been spared if the PCC elections had happened at the same time as regular elections. Such an insensitive approach to wasting tax payers money does not present either party in a good light to the electorate.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 633.

    What a nonsense! In these straightened times, to add another "job for the boys" and election admin expense. And they're even suggesting paying for (unread) flyers and publicity!
    We have more tha enough layers of pointless bureacracy. What's next, a waste collection supremo? Trust in the police may not be universal, but I at any rate trust them more than politicians.

 

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