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 1732.

    Why has no one voted because no one bothered to inform us. Sounds strange when we got our polling card a week or so ago, but here is the rub, if these candidates CAN'T be bothered to inform the people they want to represent other than vote Labour, Conservative, or whatever, WHY should WE the public be bothered to vote at all.

    I would suggest that the NEXT nation vote don't do it either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1731.

    Choosing not to vote is just as much a valid democratic option as voting. I didn't vote as I think we have far too many of these people claiming to represent us out of the goodness of their own hearts whilst feathering their own nests.
    How else can we register our disapproval?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1730.

    All those complaining they didn't know there was an election or who the candidates were seem to have overlooked they are blogging on the same BBC web site that has given us all that information over recent weeks and days. That's how I chose to vote for a candidate who was independent and not a politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1729.

    How can Tory MP's justify bringing in legislation that says any Union ballots that have a low turnout have no validity. Its quite laughable after the low turnout for PC. In a Ward in Newport no votes were cast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1728.

    well the reason the voters are getting smaller in the By-Elections and also in the Gen-Elections is that people have givern up the goverment is a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1727.

    "everyone can vote and shame on those who did not."

    How dare you??!?!!!?

    I have every right not to vote, and I will excercise that right whenever I feel that an election is pointless, or when I do not want to choose between any of the options on the ballot paper.

    Shame on anyone (you) who would deny me that right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1726.

    The top job in policing in this country is that of the Home Secretary. If she cannot organise, after 10 years of trying, the deportation of an undesireable what chance is there of her sorting out these Commissioners.
    Absolute jobs for the boys and of no use to our financially strapped society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1725.

    There was NO information provided to us as to who the candidates were or what they stood for, or why indeed we should vote for them, so no, we didn't vote.

    Someone who gets to elect the police chief in my area? Isn't that the sort of thing we elected our local council to sort out for us? Waste of money to have this election if you ask me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1724.

    I remember that a few years ago there was a bit of a storm about the police raiding Damien Green's Westminster office. Perhaps they were searching for good ideas on how to run the police force, in which case I'm sure they were sorely disappointed..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1723.

    1707. steven johnson

    Live in a town of 16,000,only see policemen passing through, or reacting to crime, closed our police station, why should i go and vote
    For exactly that reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1722.

    "The only time people really vote is if someone eats animal parts, sings or dances."

    That is the truth! Maybe we should have sent all the Police Commissioner candidates to the jungle with Nadine Dories - I bet then this whole shambles would have a totally different outcome where obtaining votes are concerned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1721.

    Thought provoking (dunno if I'd support it):

    Competition amongst private police & insurers for paying clients (local councils) would bring about a tendency toward a continuous fall in the price of protection... thus rendering protection increasingly more affordable, whereas under monopolistic conditions of the state, the price of protection will steadily rise...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1720.

    Will the media and mp's stop spouting voter apathy, lack of knowledge and cold weather as reasons for low turn out.

    I think most of the public did not vote because they disagree with the proposed changes!

    There will be a review of the low turn out, but i think they will focus on timings and lack of information rather than true cause of low turnout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1719.

    History shows that politicisation of the police is very dangerous. I think the British electorate sense this and have actively or passively rejected it.

    Nazism was able to take hold in Germany in the 1930s directly through the politicisation of policing.

    I treasure democracy and fervently believe policing should be separate from political control. For the first time ever I spoiled my ballot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1718.

    458 Chezza100
    I read the comments of both my candidates and came to the conclusion that neither of them were up to the post - and neither was I convinced that any one person should be in sole control.
    So my only option was to spoil my paper which would have been included in the turn out stats or not to vote - I chose the latter and it seems I wasn't alone

  • rate this

    Comment number 1717.

    Not only a terrible policy but on a political level, what an own goal by the the Tories.
    Never again during this government, will they be able to question the legitimacy of a Union (their nemesis) ballot over industrial action.

    And what does Oily Dave say?

    Its the fault of the national media apparently? (veiled criticism of the BBC there)

    Worst government ever? Got to be close.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1716.

    its almost certain that an e-petition to get rid of the police commissioners would get more votes than the actual elections, anyone fancy proving me right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1715.

    When a trade union polls for a strike the government says only 35% isn't a mandate . these guys will actually only get less than 10% of the electorate choosing them as 1st preference. Hardly legitimate mandate. Apparently £75 Million was spent on the election. Where did the money go ? Saw nothing , heard nothing , told nothing. So who trousered the money ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1714.

    I didn't vote because I don't think there should be a PCC. I don't believe disinterest is the reason for a low turnout; I don't think a lot of other people want it either! I've chatted with friends and work colleagues, and a lot of them responded in the same way as I have.

    If there had been a 'no' vote I would have had no problem making my way to the polling station!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1713.

    I didn't vote. The government is in control of the police are they not, so this position is more of a formality? As such voting for the government should be enough to ensure the police stay in line. Infact the candidates are no different than closed door voting, and the winners are not much different either...absolutely pointless.


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