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
    +1

    Comment number 1652.

    1,500 deaths in police custody, not a single police officer brought to prosecution. Jean Charles De-Menzies Gold Commander promoted to Assistant Commissionaire by now Lord Blair, Simon Harwood walking away without conviction after what he did to Ian Tomlinson.

    - When this none sense changes I might have some faith in the PC's, but I fancy it will become even more collusive and closed shop!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1651.

    Sign the epetition to register the fact you did not want these elections at https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/41806

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1650.

    Ridiculous to say that if you didn't vote you have no right to complain about the people who did get in. If you did vote for the victor, do you have no right to complain about their policies, after all you chose them? Democracy is about the right to make choices, one of which is to not vote in an election designed to allow the government to absolve itself of responsibility for crime rates.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1649.

    @ Dave: If there was an option to vote for 'None of the above' or for 'No police commissioner' I would have gladly turned up and cast my vote. My reason for not turning up has nothing to do with being cool or fashionable. Do you still think I have no right to comment?!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1648.

    The only reason I knew the election was taking place was becasue a polling card came through my letterbox. I received absolutely no information about the candidates. Information was promised by the local authority and never arrived. My own research shows that the local conservative wishes to pass some local police services to G4S. How many police forces will suffer because of ruined or non votes?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1647.

    1610.
    Noel
    4 Minutes ago


    "1579 - Pete - The Policing and Crime Panels - who have authority over the Police and Crime Commissioners"

    So? if you think the commissioner kow tows to the PCC , you can vote him/her out

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 1646.

    Having looked through quite a number of these comments I live in a pathetic country with pathetic people who do not care or take any interest in the country, their families or their communities never mind themselves.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1645.

    I know a lot of people in the area I live wanting to vote, but couldn't as there was no information about it anywhere and no polling cars or details coming through the post?!! sooo... how are you meant to vote?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1644.

    Most people probably didn't want a Police Commissioner. In my area I'm not sure that even the candidates wanted the job. I've not had a single leaflet through the door. I've not seen a single poster. There has been nothing on the local news other than to say the election was happening. I had no idea who the candidates were, never mind what they stood for. If they can't be bothered, why should I?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1643.

    By this measure, China is far more democratic.

    (What are we paying MPs for if not to overlook the proper funcitioning of the police?)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1642.

    All of the candidates in my area were completely unknown to me (i didn't even get 1 leaflet through the door).

    I suspect most candidates were affiliated with one political party or other, i don't want politicians heading the police here thanks.

    I didn't go and vote because i knew without heading out that the option i want wasn't on the ballot paper (none of the above).

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1641.

    complete waste of taxpayers time & money in this time of austerity

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1640.

    I love the way some people are saying, You have the right to vote and it's your fault and how easy it was for them to look up the candidates online. My father has never used the internet, does that make him thick in your eyes in mine he's the hard worker whom provided for the family for years, so now having fought for country etc you say he go online to know who and what for. Have some respect.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1639.

    I chose not to cast my ballot, and with around 85% of the country,I DID vote. By not casting the ballot I elected to say that I do not think that the role of PCC is Valid, I do not think that we need to add another £100k to the local budget, and I do not think that it will make a difference. I don't vote for just anyone. Please don't lecture me on what I should do with my RIGHT to vote!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1638.

    Pure rubbish! the politicians can't even run local governments right why would I want to put them in charge of the police force as well!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1637.

    For those who agree this vote was a waste of resources and trying to grab more power for the politicos, sign the e-petition at no.10. - My vote was a "No" vote. That will show real democracy. #noneoftheabove

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1636.

    I think there are two points: 1. Do we consider legal elections where less than a certain percentage turned up? If no, then the elections are null. If yes, they are valid, which brings to point 2. People that can not be bothered to turn up to vote automatically give up the righ to chose and implicitly agree with the majority.
    So yes, I think the elected PCC do not need further legitimisation.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1635.

    1606.JPublic
    'I suspect the next General Election will prompt a very good turnout'

    That may be so but when it is likely that the outcome will only ever be blue or red (or either with a tinge of yellow) then this country will continue to go down the pan.

    Sad but true

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1634.

    Re589 Dave At last look your statement of FACTS n TRUTH have been voted down -73 A frightening state of affairs but generally sums up as to how folk have had a gut full of 30years + 0f LIES, DECEIT.Sadly this allows the political class to continue to expand their ranks at publics expense serving themselves best by the repeatedly confirmed,No,one's cares! Oops sorry iment bovverd sad innit?UK RIP

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1633.

    "The national media have not covered themselves in glory [with respect to the PCC elections]." a No 10 source said. I hardly think that No 10 has covered itself in glory over this but it’s interesting that the Government has already started to try to shift the blame over this latest chapter in the ongoing omnishambles saga.

 

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