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 1592.

    #1583 wow how did you manage to work that one out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1591.

    Another omnishambles watch out for the tax rise or benefit cut to pay for it. If we really must have an election at least lump it together with a council election or something. But as a boss to safely employ someone for such a position I would expect a full CV, experience and to interview all I got was a bit of paper with party blurb and about 30 words about the candidate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1590.

    Think that these turnouts have more to do with the fact, (and please remember how much corruption we're hearing; particularly amongst all these larger than life organizations who have us just where they want us to be), THAT PEOPLE JUST DON'T BELIEVE A WORD OF ANYTHING ANYMORE!!

    And can you blame them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1589.

    @1515 Heethster
    The £100 million was spent on nice in-house dinners, where the high and mighty wined and dined on the very best of cuisine, and then the use of a nice shiny limo to take them home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1588.

    An expensive farce. We want to see effective policing, and accountability to the local people, not Ministers and central government. Zero tolerance poilicies from these hang em and flog em bunch will create a backlash which will make last years riots look like a womans institute jamboree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1587.

    Democracy for democracies sake... we knew nothing about the candidates, yet were expected to express an opinion on which one was best for the job... a CV and covering letter has been a time honored method for candidate selection, why abandon it now... what next a national referendum on who should be the PMs tea boy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1586.

    I am really surprised at how many people posting on here are proud of the fact that they are ignorant.

    Maybe it was better that they didn't vote after all. Can we prevent them from voting at all elections?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1585.

    To those that are berating us for not voting or spoiling ballot papers & saying that people fought & died to get us the right to vote
    To clarify, it was people like the Chartists and Trade Unionists that fought and died to win us the vote, while politicians, the ruling classes & the monarchy sent in the army to kill them
    The police & the army are politicised enough as it is - ask the miners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1584.

    I am happy and proud to live in a democracy but really do not understand why we are being asked to vote for a PCC.
    We vote for representation in the election of MP's so surely they have the mandate to represent us in selecting PCC's.
    This would have saved huge amounts of money and would have had a true and fair mandate.

    There can be times when seeking a popular public vote is not the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1583.

    I was simply unable to get to a polling station during voting hours. However, I suspect the poor turnout reflects (a) lack of understanding of the current and new structures (b) distaste for a politically aligned structure (c) poor publicity for candidates (d) apathy - or a combination of any or all of these.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1582.

    I didn't vote because I did not agree with candidates from political parties being involved. All the candidates were saying exactly the same thing anyway. This role should be an independently 'appointed' role anyway - we shouldn't need to vote for it. Yes, we want a say in policing, but we can have this say using the normal political process. It was just plain silly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1581.

    If the candidates cannot be bothered to even tell me who they are then I cannot be bothered to vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1580.

    I took the trouble to go and vote Yesterday for NONE OF THEM it was the first time in 40 years I spoilt a vote for any election as when I looked up how the framework which they are to work it be came clear that we were only voting to put some one on the tax payers pay roll who could not deliver without the Crime and Police Pannel which is like the old police authority

  • rate this

    Comment number 1579.

    "PCCs will be held to account by Home Office appointed PCPs - where is the democracy in that?"

    They are accountable to you. If you dont think they do a good job you can vote them out

  • rate this

    Comment number 1578.

    1522 In many respects I agree, they should not exist in their present form. The main problem is nobody polices the police. Referring matters to the IPCC is like me referring complaints to my mum.

    I do not know of any organisation/gang (mafia, triad etc) in the UK to have committed so many crimes, killed so many people...they lead the way in UK criminal activity, probably since the blitz.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1577.

    I have had enough of the 'if you didn't vote' you are undermining democracy. What would you vote if you had the choice of herpes, chlamydia or gonorrhoea. I guess given those choices you wouldn't have voted. In our region which do you want Self Serving Politician 1, Self-Serving Politician 2 or, and here is the real choice, Self-Serving Politician 3, was a similar exercise. Submitted a spoilt vote

  • rate this

    Comment number 1576.

    I voted. But only because there was a candidate who did not have ANY political affiliations. Even the so called independent was an ex tory councillor. The police should not be run on political lines. To those who say that you must vote or you can't complain, could you tell me how I can register that I do NOT want any of the candidates and disagree with the whole election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1575.

    Put a 'None of the above' option on the ballot paper and I might bother to vote! To me, these elections were about adding another unnecessary, expensive layer of bureaucracy. I find it insulting that local taxpayers are expected to fund a potential £100k wage for an individual, at a time when many households and businesses are struggling to cover ever increasing bills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1574.

    For those who bang on about searching the internet to find out about the candidates, don't you think that if these candidates were serious about representing the views of the public they would be banging on doors and asking them, not hiding behind the anonymity of a search engine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1573.

    In my opinion voting for the PCC, Local and General Elections is a pointless exercise - the candidates promise so much, deliver so little, go back on promises, do as they wish once they are in the position of power and are never truly held accountable for it. If I applied for a job and told them I was able to do this, that and the other and did none of it then I'd be sacked. What's the difference?


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