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
    +3

    Comment number 1672.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1671.

    Dave (comment 589) and chezza100 (458) say that I shouldn't complain. However, they miss the point of why I didn't vote. The Police need to be seen to be devoid of any political ties. Candidates all had overt political affliations, which for me, undermines the entire process of having a Commissioner. The risk is that they may pander more to their party rather than doing whatever is "right".

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 1670.

    I beleive with such low turnouts for these elections they must declare the election null & void.

    No one can or should claim a mandate for holding such an important position in society if a vast majority of the public have not voted.

    This may not just be voter apathy but a clear sign the public do not agree with these changes to our Police and it should not be dictated to us by Westminster.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1669.

    It is essential that when the voting figures are published the number of spoiled ballots is included. When I went to vote at 1pm yesterday a total of 7 people had turned up - at least two of us only going to spoil our ballots in protest at this shambles

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1668.

    I have voted in every election since I was old enough to vote but I didn't vote yesterday. I don't believe the Police should be managed by political parties. I also believe that NOT voting is as much a democratic option as voting is. The low turn out suggests that I am not alone in "voicing" dissent over the change.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1667.

    Surely a 13-20% turnout doesn't give anyone a mandate - in my region (Thames Valley) it was little over 13%. If I could have been bothered to go out and vote last night, seeing the ballot paper would have been the first time I saw any of the candidate names. I received no information so a huge waste of tax payer's money

    What was this poorly executed experiment supposed to achieve?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1666.

    An extra layer of expensive bureaucracy that we can't afford - I bet these Commrs will be on huge salaries with expense accounts to match. It purports to make policing more democratically accountable but really turns the Police Service into yet something else that Cameron & Co can privatise in great chunks with less opposition. Where was the option for "Stop! I don't want this"?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1665.

    Zero turn-out in Bettws ward in Newport - BBC reports:

    "...Conservative councillor Matthew Evans, who is the leader of the opposition on Newport council, said the fact nobody had voted at a polling station "doesn't show anybody in a particularly good light"..."

    Well done Matthew - now go and tell your boss up in the big house in London about this (and the overall turn out).

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1664.

    1654.outhousemouse
    'Why didn't YOU stand for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner in your area as an independent instead of moaning about the process being dominated by political parties'

    I'll answer that on their behalf........BECAUSE HARDLY ANYONE EVEN KNEW THE VOTE WAS HAPPENING, LET ALONE HOW TO APPLY YOURSELF

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 1663.

    No wonder BBC journalism is in disarray when Chirs Mason talks so much twaddle. Make no mistake, this is NOT democracy. This is gerrymandering, porkbarreling and a host of other derogatory terms about dubious US practices. Taking away the Police Commissioners will only ensure that the public will HAS been heard, not that democracy has been eroded. We didn't ask for them and we don't want them.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 1662.

    @589 Dave "...why people think it is cool or fashionable not to vote is beyond me."

    The point is, we didn't ask to, nor should we have HAD to vote on this. Policing should not be politically driven, and thus this vote was a waste of time and money.

    The low % turnout figures and high % ballot spoils are shortly going to show that.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1661.

    Comments gathered here it would seem people used their democratic right to vote or not vote by not voting. It would seem they know wheat they were doing therefore it would seem PCC have no mandate.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1660.

    Elsewhere in this article ....... Damian Green: "Whenever you do something new, people in this country tend to be slow to warm up to it"
    How disconnected from the electorate is this guy!
    Not much different to the rest of his gang, I hear you say.
    6 candidates in my area - not one visited my immediate area - and one miserable leaflet thru my door. I agree - less than 20% - null and void.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1659.

    At least you had the chance to vote. Us Londoners didn’t get a chance because Boris decided he fancied adding another title to his ego. He of the “had to be dragged back from holiday during the riots” fame.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1658.

    Expected response from Mr Green , its all our fault we should have got on the comp etc , oh and its the usual response on our part to anything new ,, could we please have a minister who is as keen on our electricity price hikes and water bills they seem to be strangely silent on the really big things in our lives .

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 1657.

    Given that the Conservative Politicians are always questioning the madate of trade unions to take strike action when the turnout in an industrial action ballot is below 50%, it is totall hypocracy for them to claim a PCC elected with turnout as low as 18% has a genuine mandate to make key decisions about the way policing is undertaken.

    Their stance strikes me a double standards.

  • Comment number 1656.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1655.

    This sorry apology for a ballot has all the hallmarks of Government by Chaos that we've come to expect from the Westminster Coalition. They are demanding a 20% cut to policing and introducing backdoor privatisation or 'outsourcing' of police work to companies like G4S. They could have invited a few local criminal bigwigs to take part as well - that might have brought out the punters in November!

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 1654.

    Dear 1626. KnapperDog.
    Very simple question to you. Why didn't YOU stand for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner in your area as an independent instead of moaning about the process being dominated by political parties.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1653.

    This was the first time I have not voted since I was 18 - I am now 56. Not voting this time was a deliberate decision. Running the police should not be driven wholly by party politics and my voting would have given the whole process some credibiity. It was a waste of money and Theresa May should resign.

 

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