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 852.

    To those of you who think that PCCs will introduce politics and unnecessary cost into policing, are you blissful in your ignorance?

    The outgoing police authorities were every bit as political as PCCs, more than half the members were councilors nominated by local councils. It was much more difficult for the electorate to control the authority. A 17 member authority was more expensive than a PCC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    This farce shows perfectly how out of touch this 'government' is with public opinion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    Clearly from the electorate's point of view a total waste of time and money. From the party politician's point of view a great opportunity for another nice little earner and from the Govt's point of view, an opportunity to politicise the policing of this country in a way that (maybe miners' strike excepted) it has never been politicised before. Private policing here we come . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    Didn't bother voting as we had received zero information. Items on the news referred to details being delivered to x million households. We are still awaiting ours !

    Biggest insult was hearing Damian Green this morning saying that it didn't matter if there was a low turnout. In that case why not just appoint the person and save the farce of the election costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    No information received about the candidates, when looking online only one truly independant candidate - who hadn't bothered to answer the questions fully.

    I didn't vote purely because of the lack of information about the role or the candidates, wouldv'e spoiled my ballot except it was dark and cold by the time I got home from work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    With this level of turnout being branded as 'completely legitimate' by government ministers will they stop moaning about union ballots when less than half the member ship vote? This makes union turnouts look very high!

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    Of course the election was poorly covered. The government are hardly going to promote an avenue to privatise the police are they...

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    This year we've been given the chance to vote for a new (and very stupid) voting system, and to vote for a police chief.

    Why couldn't they have given us a vote on the EU instead of these 2 time and money wasting exercises?

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    Very worrying. In spite of all that's happened I would trust the (professional) judgement of a chief constable more than a PCC who may have been elected on say 30% of the vote on a 12% turnout.

    There must also be doubts as to whether a PCC appoints / sacks a chief constable based on politics rather than competence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    'If you don't use our democratic process you cannot complain that things aren't going well. Public apathy is just laziness in another form'.

    I totally disagree - I have the RIGHT to vote and the RIGHT not to vote. If someone puts a plate of eels and plate of frogs legs in front of me and told me to eat one I'd refuse as I don't like either of them - same principle applies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    What a farce these elections are, a big NO to forcing politicians onto a police force, wasting huge sums of money which could have saved thousands of jobs country-wide, when simply letting the police getting on with it would have been fine.

    Will the Tories claim that the ridiculous turnout means that the elections should be discounted like they constantly say about union votes with low turnouts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    @Tim Putman...

    ...funny, I was only just thinking the same! It's certainly not the first time the editorial picks have failed to reflect the underlying anger that posters feel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.

    The Tories have always regarded the police as their private army so no suprise they want more control over it. Lets hope there candidates do not get in anywhwre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    Why was this allowed to become a political election? Why were candidates allowed to stand under a particular party's banner if they are to be "the voice of the people". The candidates should have stood as independents and had to openely state their guiding principles rather than simply drape a political flag across their shoulders. "The voice of the people spoke" - it said no to the whole process

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    I deliberately didn't vote. It was clear from candidates statements that none of them knew the real extent of their powers or what the post entailed. Just another excuse to waste money on politicians which should be used on frontline services

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    I voted yesterday, with good intention, however I know that only two others on my road voted. Very poor turnout due to the lacklustre way in which it was publicised. Very little information in the media. What is going on? Is the intention to make us think we have had a say, when it has already been decided! I can only hope my vote has counted, police and politics don't mix...

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    A single person, in my opinion, can't possibly take on this responsibility effectively.I would have preferred to vote for 6 candidates with combined authority but Parliament didn't ask US.I voted last night and the polling station team had said it was the poorest turn out they had ever seen.Candidates did not canvas in my district nor could I persuade my wife or son to vote in this election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    OM-NI-SHAMBLES !!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    Politics should be kept out of policing. No one ever got to vote on whether we wanted this. Few knew anything about the candidates (I searched on line for info).

    I can't see the point in this frivolous waste. I spoiled my paper - NO to PCC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    The PCC idea is totally flawed but shame on all those who whinge that they knew nothing about the candidates, so didn't vote. All those posting comments like that here have access to the BBC website pages setting out statements by each candidate. It's appalling that a majority of our citizens allow apathy and disillusionment to undermine our democracy. That will give the extremists their chance.


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