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 1752.

    Why not make a change such that any position (MP/MEP, Councillor, Mayor PCC, ...) is only filled if the turnout in an election exceeds 66% and the "winning" candidate receives at least 33% of the total possible votes. Let's see whether anyone actually notices if no-one's doing these "jobs".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1751.

    1680 Karl Flavell - One of the most important things to me as a voter was that the individual was to hold with police to account and thoroughly independent.

    The idea of the best candidate getting the job is great, but a panel or an individual would have to make an "opinion", which is highly subjective.

    Who are the panel and do they select someone from their "boys club"? We would never know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1750.

    Chris Mason says "Indifference and ignorance", perhaps but I suspected there would have been a large proportion of people spoiling ballots or not voting because that simply disagree with the concept. I still went to the polling station to vote for the Parish Council, however I choose to boycott the vote in order to contribute to a low turn out and help oppose this huge waste of public money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1749.

    A few people on here saying that those that didn't vote have no right to complain about the results, but that's just rubbish.

    I didn't vote simply because I don't believe these elections should have happened. I do not want some politician with no knowledge of policing running my local police force, I want that to be in the hands of someone who has many years of experience in policing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1748.

    999 call to Tory led police force - "Please have your credit card details ready to allow us to process your emergency more efficiently".

    999 call to Labour led police force - "I'm sorry but we have already responded to our quota of emergency calls to white, heterosexual males. Please call back at the start of the next financial year"

    Politicising the police - DISASTER!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1747.

    Personaly I had no faith in any of my local candiates to make any positive changes. As I don't have option of place a vote for none of the above, I am not going to waste my time voting for the best of the worst. Instead of berating those who don't vote let us have the option to say "actually none of you are worthy of my vote!"

  • Comment number 1746.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1745.

    I voted yesterday, for an independent candidate. I am saddened that what is essentially a good idea (giving the public a democratic ability to have an influence on the way their community is policed), has been hijacked by political stooges across the country. Political affiliation should have played no part in this, it will now descend into the standard party political posturing we all despise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1744.

    15% turn out means NO credibility and NO mandate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1743.

    WHAT A FARCE. Also, I don't see how this gives the public 'greater control over how they are policed', as if that were advisable anyway.

    The only ones with greater control are the politicians - just what we need.

    A lot just turned out to spoil their ballot papers - and they included spoilt papers in the 'turnout' figures! I want to know the percentage of spoiled papers. 30%? 50%?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1742.

    Welcome to Nazi Britain, do as you are told, or else.........

  • rate this

    Comment number 1741.

    The fact that most candidates are political party candidates devalues the whole thing. It makes you not want to vote as you get the impression any party candidate will not be independent and not be focused on local issues. It will just be another forum for political point scoring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1740.

    As long as at least 1 person in each force area turned up to vote, a commissioner would be elected.

    Therefore if 90% of electors stay away, it just means that the remaining 10% have much more individual influence over the result. Given this, I am surprised that the majority of elected PCCs so far are party-political candidates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1739.

    I did vote, but seems my Vote didn't count.

    Although the Vale of the White Horse is changing and Tories vote is slowly getting smaller.

    So some good came from the lower voting figures proved to me the fact)
    that I had long suspected.

  • Comment number 1738.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1737.

    For 1 thing I didn't have £5000 deposit, and for another I didn't believe in having the Ballot in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1736.

    My rural county (that used to have councillors on the police committee) now has a commissioner drawing support from the urban areas. Presumably she wants to be re-elected; to do this she has to keep her selection committee sweet, so I expect that despite her "no fear or favour" oath, she will be well aware of what her selection committee thinks - and they have not made a "no fear or favour" oath.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1735.

    For a job of this importance a rigorous recruitment campaign should take place with someone that can demonstrate relevant experience and that they are right for the job. The low turn out shows we know nothing about these individuals and what makes them qualified to manage million pound budgets? Should the chief constable not do this who might have a better understanding of policing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1734.

    I didn't vote as there was no option to say "I don't want a PCC"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1733.

    Elections are about choice. What choice was offered? I went online to look at each candidate and surprisingly each one wanted to reduce crime! All these people saying you can't complain if you didn't vote..RUBISH.
    A massive statement has been sent by the lack of turnout. Politicions are here to represent the people, but what do we know? they know whats best for us; so they think!


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