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
    0

    Comment number 1492.

    The police in this country do a pretty well at a difficult job. We really do have one of the best police forces in the world. I'm not sure why they need another layer of bureaucracy above them, and judging on the turnout from these elections, not many other people think they do either.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1491.

    @1476.pietr8
    Maybe those elected will regret standing when they become the fall guys"

    I don't think they will become "fall guys". They are mostly Politicians who are more slippery than an eel.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1490.

    I love the comments about 'if you don't vote you've got no right to complain'.
    You really do have that back to front.
    So the turn out figures include spoilt ballot papers. I wonder what percentage actually made a selection?
    I wonder how many did anything other than tick their usual party's box?
    The whole thing is a joke and of course none of it's the govt's fault is it? It never is!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1489.

    why didn't we get to vote on wether we want the new system or not?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1488.

    I agree with some positively and some negatively rated comments:

    Not good that the main candidates are career politicians directly connected to the main political parties...a lot of people will automatically be put off from voting for good reasons.

    Many voters do not take personal responsibility for seeking out information on candidates and what they propose to do if they get elected.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1487.

    589.Dave
    "my view is if you didn't vote then you have no right to comment on any of the outcomes or future debates concerning the police commissioners"

    Except whether or not we want them in the first place, Dave.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1486.

    If more people had been aware there was an election in the first place, the turnout would probably have been higher.

    If you don't know there is an election, why would you search for information about the candidates?

    If you hold an election and don't ensure that people know about it, it's not democratic and the results are surely invalid.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1485.

    No one elected by a fraction of a 13-18% vote should consider that they have legitimacy. If a turnout is less than (say) 30% then the election should be re-run ONCE then if it still fails after better publicity it's clearly a vote of no confidence in the post or the candidates. If they had any guts at all there would be a "none of the above" way to register opposition to the candidates or the job!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1484.

    With the turnout so low the whole idea should just be pronounced 'null and void' and consigned to the bin.

    David & Nick we are watching you.The way you treat voters with contempt and ignore the wishes of the British Public. We have memories and will remember this when time comes for the general election. Don't bank on the UK economy recovering in time to save yourselves.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1483.

    1439.Matt
    Nor was labour voted in either! , and you expect England to be led by the coalition of the losers which would include Parties in devolved areas of UK, dictating to England.

    Hypocritical the Typical Mirror and Guardian readers are (which is what i suspect you are). .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1482.

    Just spent a good five minutes composing a comment on the PCC elections and it won't allow me to post it.. This is the second time this has happened to me. How dare you waste my time like this?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1481.

    AAH DIDDUMS

    13:08: In Dorset, the Conservatives are refusing to share the platform with Independent candidate Martyn Underhill when final declaration takes place at 14.15 GMT. They claim there's been negative campaigning.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1480.

    Very sad day for democracy today. As a lot of people on here have said you cannot complain if you didnt vote. I commend people who spoiled their paper because at least you used it! I would rather the police were held to account concentrating on issues that matter like anti social behaviour rather than going after the easy motoring offenses which look good on the statistics sheet!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1479.

    Why are the number of spoilt ballots not included in the turnout? The results being published don't even tell us how many were spoilt. Many people like me found that a spoilt ballot paper was the only sensible vote.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1478.

    During the entire run up to thisd election i received only one leaflet for a hampshire candidate. The leaflet didnt say anything really worth reading.

    How are people supposed to know who to vote for without any infomation available. Also, what is wrong with just having appointed pcc's, a system that has worked for a long time already.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1477.

    So some people can master the voting buttons on HYS and can read and make comments on it. But can't use their browsers to research PCC candidates. How pathetic.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1476.

    I'm with the majority that, for whatever reason, didn't vote.

    Waste of time.

    Nobody listens.

    Nobody cares - 'cept us.

    Nobody can do anything about it.

    Only the politians want it. Increasing democracy? - it's doublespeak.

    Maybe those elected will regret standing when they become the fall guys.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1475.

    If spoiled ballot numbers were publised as well as counted I would have turned out, its about time in any election there was a box to choose no candidate therefore effectively registering displeasure.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1474.

    "if you don't vote you have no right to complain..."
    Oh, yes I do! I emailed all of my candidates with the same questions. The only one to reply insulted me.

    I don't believe in making the police a political force but I can't vote against the PCC concept. If I can't vote against and there's nobody worth voting for, please tell me what am I supposed to do other than not vote?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1473.

    @ 589 Dave

    "... people fought and died to get you the right to vote.".

    Unfortunately this is a complete myth. Assuming you're referring to the two world wars: During the Second World War, 1.4 million British men volunteered for service and 3.2 million were conscripted. Figures for the first war are difficult to obtain but similar in proportion. Voting rights were a consequence of the war

 

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