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 832.

    In Wiltshire, we had hardly information available to the electorate to enable us to make an informed decision as to who was the best candidate to take Policing forward. I am saddened that such an important role has been attained on the back of such a low turnout.
    The whole process has been a shambles and the £100m spent on it could have been spent on 3,000 officers. What would you prefer ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    811.David H

    ""Lies, damned lies, and statistics""

    Just like the Government - Totally out of touch with the modern world and reality.
    So much for being privately educated - these people dont know what a real day's work is or even getting their hands dirty - they only work 37 weeks a year

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    The PCC elections were not properly promoted, because they did not take place in London. Our London obsessed media are not interested, if it does not affect them in some way.

    Many problems with this country can be pinpointed back to the total London-centric nature of everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    11:15: Two more turnouts for you. Sussex saw 15.82% of people vote, while West Yorkshire saw 13.78%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    Every time the plebs call for action on an issue, all we get from the guvnors is "Oh no, we have to focus all our time and resources on the deficit" but they happily waste time and resources on this nonsense

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    As the electoral Returning Officers are obliged to state the number of spoiled ballot papers I spoiled my vote by writing "None of the below" and put a large X across the ballot paper. Damian Green has stated that if you don't vote you have no reason to complain about the outcome, I regard my action as a positive rejection of not only the candidates but the whole system of elected commissioners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    If police authorities abolished because we "don't know who they are":

    Most don't know their councillors, so abolish them: have transport commissioners, social service comm's, transport comm's, rubbish comm's, etc.
    Most don't know their MPs, so abolish them: have defence comm's, treasury comm's etc.
    (The PM is also not directly elected, so abolish him.)

    Result? Chaos, Incoherence & inconsistency!

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    I can understand people voting for a mayor who precides over the police force, and who would run a campaign to inform people about his policies. However, random names on a voting sheet mean little to most.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    Getting the details of candidates in my area was as simple as Googling "PCC election candidates", filling in my address on an official website and waiting for 3 days for a booklet to drop through my letterbox.
    If you can't be bothered to find out you don't deserve a vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    Another level of bureaucracy and expense that puts yet more politicians in positions of influence and power"

    Absolutely and a starting salary of £100k a year+pension+expenses.

    And as they are Politicians, I doubt very much they will be accountable when things go wrong. They are more slippery than eels and are most likely to defend their position than do right by the public

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    "Better give the plebs something to vote for, they might get restless and complain that they are not really in a democracy."
    "Good idea! What can we let them vote for? How about what colour toilet paper to use in Parliament?"
    "Nah. It had better be something 'realistic'. And a chance to add to our cronies. Let's let them vote for something that sounds useful but isn't."

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    I was a polling clerk yesterday and almost all who came to vote had little idea of the candidate they were going to vote for. I blame David Cameron, this guy couldn't organise a booze up in a brewery. He delegates everything and never checks up on the progress. It is obvious that he has never managed anything in his life., Time for the Tories to dump him and quickly if they are to be re-elected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    I spoke to a girl sat outside our polling station yesterday . she had three voters all day and that was at 16.00 I never voted because all the candidates were attached to political partys .

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    If this was a truly democratic election people should have first had a vote on if we wanted Police commissioners or not before we were forced to chose a person to do a job which I suspect most people have no faith or confidence in

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    Why should we get used to something that is not needed, we dont want, and is costing the country money we cannot afford which should go on those that need it and not lining even more policticians pockets.

    We will remember all this, putting pensioners further into poverty and the destruction of the NHS when it comes to the general election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    The rich, arrogant Old Etonian posh boys have had their chance.
    Result - total disaster.
    Lining the pockets of your friends and robbing working class/middle class families is typical of the stupidity displayed by 'Pasty George' and the 'Witney Plonker''and so recently exposed by Nadine.
    Thankfully it is only going to be one term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Nobody asked for it, nobody sees the point of it, nobody is interested. I have voted in every local and national election I could for the last 24 years but I didn't in this one. Pointless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    "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....."

    Which begs the question..... why couldn't they be bothered putting proper information on the official website? I think that shows how much these career poilticians actually care about the real issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Damien Green says on video that everyone was sent election papers. I would suggest that failure to deliver a ballot card to every household in the county should nullify the vote and NO I did not get one. Other HYS voters have reported not getting ballot cards too so this was not one oversight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    Why are the editor's picks hiding the real tone of this comments thread? Disgraceful.


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