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
    +4

    Comment number 1472.

    @458. chezza100 (and others) ". . .if you don't vote you have no right to complain about who gets the jobs . . . ."
    ===
    Where I live, if a labrador stood as a tory candidate it would be elected with a 10K majority. No chance of changing that any time soon so the only thing my vote does is add legitimacy to a process that I have no influence in. Give me a system where my vote counts and I'll vote.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1471.

    Damien Green is talking nonsense. We don't need to be warmed up, we need sensible, thought-through policies.

    Like many others, this was the first time I haven't voted. This has been a shambles from beginning to end. For me, its the poiticising of these posts coupled with the turnout that makes these positions worthless.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1470.

    I didn't vote....I partly didn't vote because I disagree with the whole basis of this 'initiative' and there was nothing on the ballot paper for me to register my protest.

    Not that it makes any difference anyway...I live in a solid Conservative town so voting for anyone else really is a total waste of time.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1469.

    "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."

    Look, if I've got the choice to vote for Stalin or Hitler - I'm not voting, ok!

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 1468.

    To all those saying a low turnout = 'no legitimate democratic mandate'...you're wrong of course.

    However, as a point of interest, what level does the turnout need to be for you to accept it as 'legitimate'?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1467.

    Why would people vote for another layer of administration in the police force, I thought the Tory Government said " The state is to fat" Why would we vote to politicise the police force,remember what happened during the miners strike and Wapping. Yet again, The Posh Boys Club get it oh so very wrong!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1466.

    I ripped up my polling card and so did my parents. It's a huge waste of tax payers money that could be alternatively used to pay for extra Bobbies on the beat.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1465.

    I showed the same commitment to voting as the candidates did to campaigning.

    ie. niether showed up.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1464.

    People were voting with their absence. Forces are cutting back on beat officers left, right and centre, in favour of what? Another set of grey suited beaurocrats who will cost far more than they're worth. A police commissioner won't help you when you've been robbed, which will become a more regular occourence due to the financial situation and the lack of REAL police. ConDenmNation as per usual.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1463.

    I saw nothing about this anywhere until after the voting had taken place. I live in London and it didn't actually affect me in the end because there wasn't an election in London, but to the people who are saying you should look up web sites to find out about it - how can you find out about an election you don't know is taking place?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1462.

    I did not vote because our three candidates were Conservative, Labour and Lib-Dem respectively, and there was absolutely no information supplied about any of them. Party politics has no place in the appointment of Police Commissioners.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1461.

    Who decided that "If you dont vote you cant complain!"
    What if I dont believe in any of the politicians?
    What if I dont think I can trust a signle one of them?
    What if I think that every politician is in it for themselves and will do anything they can to make their situation better?
    Can't complain? I've got plenty I can complain about!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1460.

    Once these PCCs are elected, will they have to go before Inverview Boards to ensure that they are suitable for the job. Being elected by a minority of the electorate in a poorly-understood low-turnout ballot is no guarantee that the "vistor" is actually up to the job!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1459.

    It really riles me when the 'Im a model citizen because i voted' brigade get on their soap box. You are no different from the politicians who dictate how I should live my life. I did not get a single leaflet of any of the candidates through my letter box; how im i suppose to know who they are and what they stand for? I should not have to read the papers to find that out. A sham of an election!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1458.

    Spoiling your paper is a valid contribution, it's basically choosing 'none of the above'. I don't agree with the entire idea of this position, it's just a tory smokescreen to try and keep peoples attention away from the poor job they are doing. Waste of time and money.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 1457.

    1500 comments and counting. Maybe more people here have opinions than can actually be bothered to get off their backsides, find out about candidates for themsleves, and vote?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1456.

    1429.RobG1983
    "Not voting because you thought the election was stupid, is stupid in itself!...Now we are left with a bunch of "dictators" who don't represent the majority of the community, "installed" in a democracy!"

    And how, exactly, would voting for someone you don't want in power have fixed this?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1455.

    I didn't vote because I object to politicisation of the Police. This is another badly judged policy from the current government & given that the winner will have received the support of around 1 voter in 13, they clearly have no mandate - but then nor do Cameron & Clegg to implement the policies they are currently forcing on us (for our own good don't make me laugh!).
    How can they sleep at night?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1454.

    We did not rush to vote for Police and Crime Commissioners! The relevant Minister, avoiding responsibility says: "Whenever you do something new, people in this country tend to be slow to warm up to it" This has got to go down in history as the most stupid comment of the decade!!!!! How long it will be before some newly elected souls will 'take a walk' leaving the role vacant, with no successor.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1453.

    Somewhat fed up with those criticising others for not voting and extolling the virtues of our democratic system...

    How IS this democratic. To create an expensive role at a time of austerity, to replace an entity already doing a good job which very few want. But pressing ahead despite the majority not wanting it, creating an inevitable winner.

    Should have been able to vote to keep as is.

 

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