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 772.

    This is a farce. The only thing I knew about the candidates was a small obscure notice board at the polling station with a couple of paragraphs about each of them. This was totally inadequate to make an informed choice. Considering the salary of this new position, these candidates should have made real effort, rather than to rely on party allegiance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    "729. Joyanblu
    For those criticising non voters. I knew nothing about the candidates, nothing about what they stood for and nothing about what they'd either done previously or intended to do."

    Did you abstain completely?
    Or did you spoil your ballot?

    I always submit my vote, and if I want to abstain I spoil the ballot to register my non-vote.

    Not turning up can be taken (wrongly) as apathy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    The whole thing's a farce. Politicising the police: yet more people to be paid high salaries when other areas like DoE are about to suffer swingeing cuts putting a quarter of its lower-paid workforce out of jobs. The turnout was incredibly low because people either don't want, don't care or were given zero information. How can this implementation even be sustained?

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    Does anyone else get the impression that the the country & Europe are ending up as a socialist state, all with their hands out."

    No. Though you and others do seem to have an all encompassing definition of "socialism" that roughly translates as "any opinion that differs from your own". Maggie Thatcher was often a socialist by such a definition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    We did not see one single candidate for our area come round on the campaign trail. We had to look up online to see who they were. We haven't seen a policeman in our area for 6 years - we believe a police car drove threw the main road some weeks back and that was at high speed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    Why oh why can we find money for police elections but we are told that a referendum on Europe would be too costly and not provided for in our Constitutional system? And then they wonder why turnout is so low.

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    Disengagement from the current politics is both inevitable and dangerous. Govt blaming us for not supporting their ideas - excuse me - I thought you were supposed to listen to us plebs? We want increased financial contribution from the very rich and large multinationals, no politically biased steering of policing, ability to expel dangerous people from the UK and other common sense items please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    I made clear on my ballot paper that none of the candidates were suitable. Policing should be de-politicised, but there is a very strong case for democratisation by subjecting ACPO (astonishlngly, an independent body) to greater scrutiny by strengthening local police committees, which should emphatically should not be scrapped. Please write to your MP to get this farce kicked into the long grass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    For me the problem was the lack of anything more than the bland election statements to make a choice from. Any that claimed wanting to fight cuts were clearly in it for politics not policing issues. None say what is a lower priority for them in policing. So platitudes of what is a priority are meaningless. Like anyone was going to say victims will be a low priority!

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    As the Manchester Central by-election also registered a very low turnout (the lowest in a by-election since World War II) the problem isn't so much with the PCC elections but elections in general.

    But this just really continues the trend that has been going on for decades now, namely the professional politicians of all parties are no longer representative of the electorate they serve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    @ 731 Britainsnotpleased

    The petition says "tried" instead of "tired" looks bad.

    Good spelling is a must if we are to have a convincing argument. The establishment laughs at us plebs, so we don't want to give them ammunition!

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    I didn't vote because I refuse to legitimize a government puppet.

    Whoever runs my police force will do nothing about real crime and continue to target the easy cash cow that is the motorist. They will have no power to build new prisons, so what exactly is their purpose?

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    Interesting & v telling to see that almost all these comments are critical of these elections. This should never have been politicised. I'm not interested in political allegiances, it's about getting the right person, with the right experience to do the job. Shame the whole thing has been hijacked by politicians wanting to raise their profiles & make more money. Are the posts even necessary?

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    I was going to spoil my ballot for these daft sinecures, but then I noticed that the system was Alternative Vote! So I voted properly to show my support for the excellent AV system - why the country voted against it that time is a huge mystery.

    Who did I vote for? Who cares!

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    Elections expert Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said there were indications of the worst voter turnout ever

    Most people are like me they know that the ordinary civilian has no influence whatsoever

    The only "PCC" who matters is the government and to a lesser extent the Council

    The miners strike in the 1980s showed us all who REALLYcontrols the police and who they represent

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    We received a polling card though the door, but no information. The local authority or GM police had no information on their website. This is the first time I've not used my vote since being legally allowed to vote 20 years ago

    How am I supposed to vote when I don't know what I'm voting for? It's not voter apathy - it's apathy of the authorities in getting information to the voters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    There is no wonder people don't vote. All parties are inefficient and self-serving. Politicians are careerists and nothing more; some are corrupt. People are too busy just trying to get on with their lives and simply haven't got the time to consider who they want as the police commissioner.

    To the government, just get on with the job and please stop prating around, all of you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    "PCCs will
    be responsible for appointing chief constables
    set local policing priorities and report annually on progress
    set the force budget and community safety grants
    be overseen by police and crime panels"

    I asume this is all done currently, so why do we need to change? Waste of money and a complete 'non-job'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    Not sure why the postal vote bothered to include a second choice as all the remaining candidates in Durham after I had voted for the only useful guy were politicians attached to parties. Didn't bother witha second choice.
    Politicians should have been banned from these farcical elections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    More politicians. Great.


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