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 1452.

    Would I employ someone on £100,000 a year if all I knew about them was their name, marital status, and a brief (googled) paragraph about "what they stand for"?
    Of course not!
    No wonder there was voter "apathy".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1451.

    It is a claim of Mugabe-esque proportions for the winners to maintain they have any sort of democratic mandate when 92% of the electorate did not vote for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1450.

    how does % of turnout effect the result of an election ? the ratio of votes is surely going to be about the same.

    why encourage the uninformed to make a decision

  • rate this

    Comment number 1449.

    No's 589 "Dave" & 458 "Chezza100" Please explain to me why I should not get to comment because I did not vote? I did not vote because I did not believe what any of the candidates had to say. I think all the candidates have applied to be commissioners for political & self interest reasons and not to help the local area itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1448.

    I voted for the only person who bothered to promote themself and inform me of their background and policies. This was an independent candidate. I would not have voted for a political party appointee, and was not surprised that the turnout was so low. The proposed commissioners are still under the control of a police authority, so will have very limited powers. Someone to blame maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1447.

    Its disgusting. Total waste of money and time. In Wiltshire another Tory was voted in, so there will be MORE cuts. We need another election and fast. Well done to Manchester and Cardiff on the Labour wins. The bottom line is that if you dont vote, you have no voice. AND there are postal voting systems in place. So there is no excuse. Still a total waste of money, when it could be spent on police.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1446.

    Very simply a huge waste of taxpayers money

  • rate this

    Comment number 1445.

    Abstaining was the only way to register objection to this unwanted election. The police service should not be politicised. With the high deposit required and no support for disseminating literature, independents face an uphill struggle to get their message across. In the south west where I live, two of the so-called independents are career politicians anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1444.

    The low turnout demonstrates public objections and apathy to the government process of politicising police authorities. Lets hope none of those elected last too long and this intransigent coalition leave the policing to those who know best............the police. Theresa May can be left to remove egg from her face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1443.

    "Low turnout" - I could have told you this before the polling stations opened! Its about time methods of voting changed.

    Until online voting becomes standard practice local elections will continue to post low turnouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1442.

    I only voted because my daughter wanted to vote but didn't feel safe walking to the polling station on her own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1441.

    if you want to see what people really think of this farce.

    and for mr Green,cameron and the redt,I fully understand what PCC's are about. I just dissagree with you clowns.
    politics has no place in policing

  • rate this

    Comment number 1440.

    Would the turnout be this low if we were offered a vote on continuing EU membership? I bet you even on the darkest, rain splattered, most foggy, icy November day in history an overwhelming majority of the electorate would make every effort to turn out to vote NO to continuing EU membership. And that is why we still have not been offered a vote ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1439.

    Lets get a few things straight:

    1, Nobody died fighting for the right to vote police commisioners
    2, The current government was not voted in
    3, The police are already a waste of money and it just got worse
    4, MP's are a waste of money, clueless and have little knowledge of the areas they debate (just look at our current energy industry)

    What is the point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1438.

    I beleive that a Tory won one of these positions with only a 15% turnout. Sure their principles will not allow them to accept the position. Because they beleive that a high percentage must vote, like they are proposing for strike ballots.
    Nice to know how hypocritical they are now looking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1437.

    On seeing my ballot paper my heart sank when I saw that we were being asked to vote for a political party, rather than someone who would just get the job done. I wasn’t going to vote as it only encourages these people – none of whom bothered to tell me what they would bring to the role. But in the end I voted for the party I believed would cost me least money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1436.

    1079. EyesOpen
    Only had party affiliated candidates, so I didn't vote. The Police has a proud tradition of being politically neutral. "

    Not really - the old police authorities were very political beasts, but not accountable and not really visible. The new PCCs will often be political as well, but more visible and accountable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1435.

    These elections are less legitimate than most strike ballots. As such following Tory propaganda about not accepting the results of illegitimate (strike) ballots, I shall no longer be accepting the authority of the police.

    (But I will still expect them to come when I am burgled because all candidates promised more police on the beat and a crackdown on criminals and concern for victims.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1434.

    To all those who say that if you didn't turn out to vote then you have no right to say anything, I say that the new commissioners have no right to say anything because they don't have a mandate, because no one voted for them, its not apathy its that we don't want them and therefore did not endorse the process by voting!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1433.

    Damian Green - Policing Minister, what a legend!
    Wish I was that incapable, I could get a job like he's got.


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