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 1432.

    Honestly, how long does it take to count a handful of votes?
    Yes, I did vote, so I retain my democratic right to complain afterwards.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1431.

    Not one single candidate or their representative came to my door or left a leaflet explaining what they were about. If they cannot be bothered to ask me for a vote, why should I bother to give one. Especially when it is for a role that I cannot agree was needed in the first place.

    I am someone who normally always votes in elections.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1430.

    I voted. I spoilt my ballot paper - first time ever. This election made a mockery of democracy - putting a candidate (about whom I know nothing) in a position (about which I know nothing) of authority in the police force (where party politics has no business). I am truly frightened by this government with its incompetence and misguided, haphazard reforms.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1429.

    Not voting because you thought the election was stupid, is stupid in itself!
    There was no clause that said a low turnout would void the election/scrap PCCs.

    The little booklet that came with your polling card told you where to get the information for an informed choice from.

    Now we are left with a bunch of "dictators" who don't represent the majority of the community, "installed" in a democracy!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1428.

    1360.Britisher
    'Always try and vote, even it you just wish to deface your ballot paper in protest. Otherwise, silence you'.

    So if I take time to go the polling station and spoil my card I can have a say but if I choose not to vote out of protest (not apathy or laziness) I have to keep silent? Can you climb down off your high horse and explain the difference please.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1427.

    @589. Dave

    People actually fought to give us the right not to vote. A mandatory vote is not democracy.

    With no "none of the above" box on all important votes and referendums, if you don't want to cast vote to any of the options why not do so?

    Most people don't know the police comissioner or what their role is. They don't want any of the current major parties in power.

    No need to polish faeces

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1426.

    Comment 589 Dave - I strongly agree that people fought and died for the right to vote, but this was a vote for 'jobs for the boys', which I cannot agree with. People also fought and died for the right to free speech and freedom of the press, both of which are now denied us.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1425.

    What now for the future of these elections? One sees government spin doctors are out in force with the defence that the public need to time to get used to these elections. Another interpretation on the low turn-out is that the public ARE voting by deliberately staying away to make the point that these elections have been forced on us in order to provide legitimacy to a process that nobody wants.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1424.

    STOP POLITICISING POLICING. Commentators that say the turnout was low due to apathy and laziness, or because people didn't know enough about the election and/or canditates seem to be missing the point. I knew all about the election, and all of my potential canditates -I voted as I'm fundamentally against 1 man (more than likeley with political affiliations) being in charge of the regional police!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1423.

    What's to choose between them? I looked at the candidates in my area (Oxford) on the police website - not one of them had submitted a manifesto. This is a joke of an 'election'

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1422.

    All elections should have a clause - below 50% turnout status remains as is - no commissioner. In other words the public also get to say whether they wanted this vote in the 1st place so combining a referendum!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1421.

    Voting for a police and crime commissioner is ridiculous, this is a job like any other. This whole process is to keep people distracted from voting on a real issue like membership of the EU, fundamental changes to the totally corrupt banking system or dubious foreign policy.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1420.

    What amazed me yesterday was the total lack of any news coverage on the BBC's Breakfast programme news bulletins. What happened yesterday was the National Broadcaster failed to live up to its duty; they should be examining their own navels as they are not fit to wear the mantel they have. Shame on the BBC.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 1419.

    I'm fairly well read (and educated), But nobody asked me if I wanted a PCC or why we needed one. I received NO information from any of the candidates, (what can they really do anyway?), so it just seems like extending political control rather than any attempt to do what most people want - MORE POLICE ON THE STREETS!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1418.

    First time I've ever not voted. I'd have spoilt my ballot as I dsagree with the whole idea of electing police commissioners but I didn't want to increase the turnout!

    Turnout in my town was 13.5% so I'm obviously not the only one who thought it was a waste of time.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1417.

    None of the 3 parties can be smug . even in labours stronghold , 18%-25% only bothered to vote in by-elections.

    Should make the results of European elections in 2014 very intresting. Because you would assume labour should do well if everyone is anti the coalition. Right ! LOL

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1416.

    I disagree with Damian Green when he says it's "clearly a democratic mandate". How can it be when 1. So few people voted in it, and 2. There was no option on the Ballot Paper of "I do not want a Police and Crime Commissioner." I wrote words to that effect on my Ballot Paper and I wonder how many others did likewise.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1415.

    With such low turnouts in these elections, and the attempt of those elected to legitimise their victories, with a fraction of these votes, as going through the democratic process, NEVER, EVER again can the current government comment or claim that ballots by Union Members when asked to vote, whatever the vote may be, in their issues are not legitimate, either.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1414.

    Although living in London conversations with friends indicate that it was not being cool or indifferent most stated they were not voting as this has been forced on the population and they disagree with the politicisation of the police force. A mandate of 5-10% (winning votes) is hardly a ringing endorsment. Perhaps people didn''t vote in protest for something they don't want or see as necessary!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1413.

    I voted. But I was concerned that the only way to find out about candidates was on the internet. Not everyone has internet access. A woman in front of me at the polling station (we were also voting for the city's first elected Mayor) said she knew nothing of the candidates for this election and was told "the parties are on the form"!!! She was clearly confused by it all.

 

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