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 1392.

    how about giving us a vote on this......Withdraw British troops from Afghanistan now

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1391.

    I voted but I actually think it is one of the biggest waste of money this coalition is responsible for and as act of decency their should have been a place to put your X if you think the idea should be abandoned

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1390.

    I voted independent, but I know that whilst whoever gets the job may do some good it will be a drop in the ocean compared to the thorough overhaul needed to control the police.

    It has become a deeply incestious group and we have seen far to many conspiracies with "institutional racism", NoW scandal, Hillsborough, cover-ups, corrupt police, "stitch ups" - we need a high civilian presence within.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1389.

    It's been a farce from start to finish. Railroaded through Parliament on a Friday afternoon toward the end of a Parliamentary session, next to no campaigning from candidates, next to no information from government. And somehow it still cost £100m.

    I don't care what Damien Green thinks: I do not and will not recognise these results.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1388.

    To all saying you should vote. Suppose there will be a new official. You can vote on who you want to be the official, but not on whether the post should exist. How do register you don't want the new official?
    1. Vote for a candidate anyway
    This is clearly supporting the new position
    2. Spoil your paper
    a) counts towards turnout
    b) can be dismissed as error
    3. Not vote
    The only protest available

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1387.

    All this stuff about democracy is our duty really misses the point. I don't vote for the simple reason that the people standing for election, any election, aren't worth my vote. It won't make any difference anyway, so there is no point. For all of the difference that our vote makes, we might as well not have it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1386.

    It wouldn't have taken Dixon of Dock Green long to work out why the turn out would be so poor. I received 1 item at my home-address linked to the election - my polling card. No information on the candidates or why the change is being made. So how were the electorate expected to make an informed choice when precious little was done to engage them in democratic process.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1385.

    Anyone on line could have voted as it was very easy to find your candidate. Im sure many would have complained at the extra expenses if millions of info sheets sent,candidates charged travel costs. I voted as Im fed up with the police protecting themselves ie private travel on road 150mph said honing his driving skills.!! With a non policeman I would hope for this kind of thing not being allowed

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1384.

    I think the reason why people didn't vote is they don't really care. Will this make any difference to my life....no
    So why bother voting for something I don't care about. I don't agree with the PCC role as it is likely to be corrupted like the US system. In my view the best qualified person should have the job not the person who has spent the most on a campaign

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1383.

    Perhaps now Mr Cameron will realise what a waste of time, and more importantly, money this has been. Irrespective of who you vote for, if he can’t sell an idea to the people then it’s time for him to quit. He should hang his head in shame because he’s just wasted £100m.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1382.

    I chose not to take part, not in apathy or in ignorance, but as a choice that I do no wish to validate these elections.
    I do not want elected police commissioners. I want impartial, non-political professionals in charge of the police, not politicians.
    I'll hold the government to account at election time.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1381.

    I totally disagree with this election. Government seems determined to destroy our police forces - Winsor Rept and now PCC. People didn't vote because of lack of info, but because they don't believe in this election and don't care to see our dedicated officers demoralised any further than they've already been. Theresa May - hang your head in shame - the people spoke volumes by not voting!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1380.

    Surely this shows disenfranchisement and lack of faith in the "democratic" system and should be addressed properly?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1379.

    Very pleased this was a low turnout as takes away the legitimacy of the role and the authority inherent in it.

    This should be an apolitical role and yet the only people that really had chance of winning would be a main party candidate.

    Watching news coverage prior to elections I was surprised how few candidates new anything about the police or the role in general.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1378.

    It's just yet another job creation programme for third rate and otherwise unemployed politicians.
    Nice work if you can get it. The main qualification is obviously being a clever enough party hack to get nominated. Requirement to know anything about policing - nil.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1377.

    How can we make this better next time?

    1. Ask voters if they want commissioners (as we do for elected mayors)
    2. Explain what they do
    3. Hold elections at the same time as local govt elections
    4. Ban political party candidates
    5. Allow candidates to send out literature
    6. Give a "none of the above" option

    But then from a government whose ministers think police are "plebs" what should we expect?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1376.

    Quite an extraordinary exercise as the government are demanding 20% cuts to policing as well as being intent on privatising or 'outsourcing' police work to companies such a G4S. Mixed messages, mixed messages ... I'm not surprised at the low turnout, or maybe it's all part of a Master Plan few are party to ...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1375.

    This is yet another policy dreamt up a right wing Tory think tank. It's hard to believe, that in such hard times this wretched coalition can find the money to throw at this half baked idea.
    The reason is, they dont have to pay for it, we do!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1374.

    Deliberately not voting (or spoiling the ballot paper) is a legitimate form of democratic expression. It does not somehow disenfranchise the non voter from further debate.
    I agree that enfranchisement in this country was hard won - and such a hard won right is not worth wasting on this ill thought out idea that in my opinion will reduce policing effectiveness

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1373.

    we could all sign the e-petition on direct.gov.uk/petitions/41806 or link to it on post no 1121 mak ( not computer literate enough to cut n paste it) and register our no vote that way, if enough vote it may turn it around..

 

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