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 1612.

    I didn't vote because there was not enough information about the individual candidates or the role to make an informed decision. No leaflets, no coverage and the majority of candidates were linked to political parties anyway so more of a local election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1611.

    Claims of apathy infuriate me. The majority did not vote because this is not something we should be voting for. This should not be a political role, but that is what it will become. Rather than discussing who to vote for, discussions I was part of focused on whether not voting or spoiling the ballot paper was the most effective way of registering dissatisfaction with the whole process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1610.

    1579 - Pete - The Policing and Crime Panels - who have authority over the Police and Crime Commissioners - ARE NOT ELECTED AND ARE NOT ACCOUNTABLE TO ANYONE BUT THE HOME OFFICE - no-one votes them in and no-one can vote them out. Here is the home office propaganda - read between the lines:

  • rate this

    Comment number 1609.

    A complete farce.

    An unwanted and totally unnecessary farce.

    A farce at the tax payers expense.

    It's amazing how the government's austerity measures, "we're all in this together", don't seem to extend to their own whimsical ideas of how to waste public money.

    And why has this BBC article not mentioned Theresa May now it's all gone pear-shaped. She's in charge of this stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1608.

    Politicizing the police, army or other public service agencies is something regularly done in countries which most of us don't want to live in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1607.

    Even Zimbabwe could have organised this farce of an election better than this

  • rate this

    Comment number 1606.

    I beleive the vast majority of the public would prefer Officers on the beat than expensive Commissioners on a seat.

    With fewer police on the beat, we are more likely to get robbed, attacked, assaulted so all the Tories have done is give us someone to go and complain to when it happens.

    I suspect the next General Election will prompt a very good turnout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1605.

    I wanted to vote. I tried to find out about the candidates. All I could find was their names and where they lived. Not enough information to decide my voteso it was lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1604.

    Isn't it obvious why the turnout is so low? It's because most people can't see the point in the change, especially when all of the candidates are politically biased. I'm still waiting to see a ballot paper with "None of the above" as an option

  • rate this

    Comment number 1603.

    13:37 Mark Hutchings , BBC News tweets: Nearly 3,000 votes were spoiled in Dyfed Powys - 4.3 per cent of those cast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1602.

    When I went and spoiled my ballot paper yesterday I was a little worried that I was boosting the turn out for the PCC elections. I hope the returning officers will differentiate between mistakes on ballot papers and those, like me, who believe in voting but not on this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1601.

    I exercised my democratic right by not voting yesterday, it's not a case of apathy but defiance against an out of touch government willing to create expensive jobs whilst many people are loosing there's. Rubbing salt into peoples wounds at a time when families are facing a tough Christmas and these so called commissioners get a nice comfortable wage of 70k.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1600.

    We had only one leaflet come though our door. It was the same for other family members and friends I spoke to that live in different parts of the country. When I went to my polling station, there were double the candidates on the voting slip than what was said.

    If all the candidates had said what they planned to do if elected and much better organised as a whole, more people would've voted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1599.

    What a waste of money ,the public want more officer,s not a person who will do what the goverment say and live on a salary and expence account

  • rate this

    Comment number 1598.

    @1559. Linda: Aggregators and filters like 38degrees are the problem, not the solution - just as politicians consolidate and neuter the "extreme" (i.e. activist) fringes of any non-governmental body (ICHR &c) and merge regulators which become subject to regulatory capture (Ofcom &c). This election illustrates the same strategy: pen and control.

    And does a "Crime Commissioner" commission crimes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1597.

    I CAN complain when I do not vote because the vote is to decide which person gets elected into the highly paid job, which implies I have no chice but to accept the creation of this post which I do NOT!

    Democracy. Pffft.

    Stick an extra box on the form "none of the above" and see voter turn out multiply ten fold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1596.

    So many people saying "If you didn't vote you cant complain," Or "people fought and died to give us the vote"

    Let me ask you, who voted for a morally bankrupt coalition government?

    Where was democracy in action yesterday when the "independent" police force was taken over by the election of PCCs controlled by political parties?

    Democracy is dead and buried in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1595.

    the chartists the suffragettes, in fact universal suffrage is not even a century old. There is no excuse, the vote was won by the ultimate sacrifice. There is no excuse for not voting, everyone had the opportunity to have a postal vote. those who could not be bothered to vote, welcome back to serfdom .
    Any excuse is below contempt, sorry but that is how I feel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1594.

    British people get off your buttocks and get involved instead of sitting on the sideline blaming this countries ills on politicians. Local issues should be dealt with locally and you can get involved to help your community. This is the beginning of the process. Please get interested for your and your familys future. It's in your hands not politicians. Areas of the country need different solutions

  • rate this

    Comment number 1593.

    the right not to vote is as important as voting. They asked the wrong question - and assumed the voting electorate wanted this


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