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
    +5

    Comment number 812.

    these commissioners get 100 thousand a year, plus expenses, i nearly fell off my chair when i saw that. Taxpayers shafted yet again, how much longer are we going to allow this, politicians are there to represent us and not to use our money for whatever pleases them and their cronies. Utterly sick of this country

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 811.

    With the by-elections you could
    "Spin This" with ""Lies, damned lies, and statistics""

    Turnout @ 18-25% so therefore
    75-82% are quite happy with the way things are???

    Deep down people know the country is in a financial mess,
    we have no money, and we can't keep spending what we don't have.

    Likewise the people have spoken for PCC, very low turnout
    "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.!!"

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 810.

    Why was there no eco-socialist candidate, no libertarian socialist candidate, no 'legalise cannabis', no reform of repressive and unnecessary drugs laws candidate, no anti-blanket state surveillance candidate, and no pro-civil-liberties candidate in my area?

    And, why should we vote for our own repression, surveillance and brainwashing?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 809.

    This idea may take a while to catch on, but it is vital that we have a democratically elected "People's representative" keeping an eye on the police. The idea that they can be trusted with the freedom and liberty of the British people is laughable.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 808.

    Police commissioners won’t stop crime. Apprenticeships stop crime. Jobs stop crime. Investment and opportunities stop crime. Decent wages and houses stop crime. Unemployment, minimum wages and slums alienate people and make them feel useless and angry. Everyone in UK society needs to feel valued and included. Anything else is failure.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 807.

    So when do we get our day in court to overturn these appointments ?

    Workers are stopped from taking industrial action by the courts on far greater voter participation percentages.

    Yet we are being told with turnout as low as 12% in some areas this is a valid democratic process!

    As far as I can see these new roles are just more snouts in the trough of public funds.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 806.

    I live in North Cardiff. Not one of the candidates so much as sent a leaflet to our household, so I had no idea who they were or what they stand for. I don't vote when I have no information i.e. I stayed at home instead

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 805.

    Another rubbish Tory proposal. I haven't received any communication from any candidate. Never heard of any of them before so have no idea what they really stand for. The bits I have seen are so generic anyone could have written them. Given noone understands the impact of this change why are the PCCs getting a 4year term? The 1st term should be 2 years so we can see what happens and assess.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 804.

    If we had actually had some information on WHO we were voting for, and why we should be voting, it may have encouraged us to vote. In our area we got voting forms, but zero information on who the candidates were!!!
    You can't expect people to vote when they know nothing about what the candidates are offering!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 803.

    Anyone know who their policing authorities were, what they did or their aims were before this election? Did they have political motives? How much did they cost these run these boards? Who could you contact to complain?
    No?
    Well at least now you will have a name in the frame.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 802.

    The Tories had a perfect opportunity to boost their majority by mobilising the Tory vote properly in yesterdays bi-elections.
    The Tory faithful were so happy with their party's policies they just stayed at home.
    To be pushed in to 3rd in Manchester by the Lib Dems is a sign of what's to come. I thought people considered the Lib Dems as Lapdogs.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 801.

    Give us the people something worth voting for, then we would turn out to vote.

    Example: Vote to end and reverse immigration. Vote yes to forced repatriation. Turn out would probably be 70%

  • Comment number 800.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 799.

    Why am I being asked to vote for a police commissioner? Just conduct a series of test and assessments and give the role to the most able. For goodness sake.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 798.

    I would imagine in an ideal world we would not need these elections, as much cleverer people than us, like those in 'Common Purpose' would be free to appoint the commissioner for us. As with Chris Patten its much better that way Auntie knows best.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 797.

    Apart from the postal ballot paper, I have had no communication about or from any of the candates. If this is widespread across the country no wonder the electorate are ambivalent about these elections and see them as totally irrelevant.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 796.

    To all those who spoilt their ballot paper because they didn't know enough about their candidates, never heard of Google?? Yes there was a lack of general info so I Googled my area, found the candidates, read up on them and voted. As the Meerkat says - Simples!
    I don't care what the vote is for, my Grandmother was a Suffragette, there is no way I would disrespect her memory by not voting, ever!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 795.

    Do we really need another layer of bureaucracy in the Police Force? Could the cost of this not have been spent on our front line officers? Surley we have enough politicians already.

  • rate this
    +67

    Comment number 794.

    Pensioner struggling to keep one room warm I wasn't going out in what was a bitterly cold day here to vote for something I don't think is right in the first place and which hasn't been explained well. Had it been a vote on EU I'd have carried a hot water bottle under my jumper and worn extra layers of clothes and gone to vote but that really is important but this was a no brainer from the start

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 793.

    An old lad who fought for 'democracy & freedom' in WW2 told me, as always he went to vote, looked at the paper, realised he knew nothing about it really, found it a bit confusing, disagreed with the whole thing & therefore wrote something rude on the paper, put it in the box & went back home.

 

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