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 1772.

    So Dave you’ll need a plan B how about-
    ‘Nationalise’ the Police – one single force UK Police?

    41 down to 10 chief constables 3m saved?

    Add in savings by centralised procurement for kit – all the same no rebranding just new logo as kit replaced

    Board of 10 completly independents overseeing the Police and majority of policy set by the Home Office, doing what it was designed to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1771.

    When Boris became Commissioner for the Met as part of his duties as Mayor one of the first things he did was sack the top Cop at the Met because he disagreed with him and replace him with a Tory orientated top Cop. Is this the start of things to come in other counties now that this farce of a vote is over?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1770.

    As many have said the low turn out is not apathy it's silent protest. Everybody I know and have spoken too about this and the comments on numerous web sites clearly indicate that this lunatic idea, possibly imported from America, is abhorred by a great many thinking people lots of whom are traditional Tory supporters. This is the the first time I haven't exercised my franchise in 44 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 1769.


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

    Better scrap all the equality legislation formulated by parliament that gave us 5 foot tall policemen then

  • rate this

    Comment number 1768.

    I'm very upset with the people who decided to waste my tax payers money on this shambles that just employees yet more politicians. The nation as spoken, this is vote is null and void due to spoilt papers and non attendance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1767.

    Not being funny but didn't even know about it. How could I with no card through the post etc? I think this would explain a major reason for low turnout...How are you supposed to find out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1766.

    I am nearly 65 and this is the first time I haven't voted - a deliberate decision. It's not enough to vote and spoil a ballot paper that 'vote' is still included in the percentage of the population that did vote! I voted with my feet - always works. As someone has already said - less than 20% turnout should void the election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1765.

    The politicians arguing that the public need to be better informed is a bit rich since they were the ones supposed to be doing the informing. The truth is there is NO democratic mandate for this nonsense and that is why people couldn't be bothered to turn out. I did vote but deliberate spoiled my paper as a protest. No one wants a politicised police force - what's next - locally elected sherriffs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1764.

    This set of elections is certainly setting records:
    Lowest ever turnouts for a democratic election
    Lowest share of votes by a winning candidate
    1st election where no one voted at a polling station that was actually open.

    Conservatives, the only party incapable of running an election, perhaps they should let us all have another on something we do actually want and care about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1763.

    cameron predicts a better turn-out next time. His arrogance and incompetence astounds me, the lowest recorded turn-out for any vote and dave wants to carry on wasting public money on his farcical idea. How out of touch are these people. You can excuse the low turn out on the timing or voter apathy, but we all know it's because the majority of us do not support this idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1762.

    You can't understand why people don't vote given the sacrifices of our ancestors? Why should anyone vote for a "least worst option"? If one would rather not have ANY of the candidates then how else can one show dissatisfaction?

    Low turnout can be blamed on a number of things but one of those reasons is surely that we simply disagree with the premise of a party funded police commissioner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1761.

    The Dyfed Powys Commisioner has just announced he will represent 'the people of his patch not the party'

    So why did he stand as a Conservative candidate, why not an independant ?

    Stinks the lot of it

  • rate this

    Comment number 1760.

    I think people are lazy and just want to vote with their backsides, which sums up what they think about all this. I was horrified to read that these commissioners will get salaries of £65 to 100 K per year! it would be good to see some effective changes, if they don't happen, well I shall just say, well did you vote? If you didnt, then stop complaining, same goes for elections in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1759.

    Electoral Commission is to launch a review of the Police Commissioner elections in the wake of the low turnout. The Commission says it regard the turnout as " a concern for everyone who cares about democracy".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1758.

    I wonder just how scummy Westminster can become before the People finally get rid of it? Never mind 'totalitarian creep', this is a totalitarian avalanche! MPs today seem to have no meaningful concept of shame or honour, they just don't seem to give a damn how low they sink and how much people reject them, so long as they grab more power for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1757.

    I am so glad Damien Green has his finger on the pulse and realises the low turn out was because it was some thing new. There I was under the impression I did not vote because I do not believe in an American system for controlling the Police and always thought that was the job of the Home Secretary. This just lets the Home Secretary hide behind another layer of Beurocracy and avoid responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1756.


    Price of protection? I know of a few organisations that have done that in the past (and probably still do it), i also know how they like to drum up business and how they compete with other such organisations...

    Are you insane?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1755.

    If there had been a "none of the above" option, would the turnout have been higher?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1754.

    @JoSurrey 1709 - You are absolutely right. Whenever I want a job I simply tell the company my name and tell them to do their research on the internet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1753.

    I'm guessing that many people who didn't vote yesterday are now wishing they had.
    My only comment is to find out what your local Police & Crime Commissioner does between now and May 2016, and make sure you vote then.


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