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 1872.

    #1867...0-0 draw penalty shoot out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1871.

    The government are showing their commitment to reducing bureaucracy and cutting red tape in a most peculiar fashion. This makes the Eurocrats look like good value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1870.

    Expect more cover ups for deaths while in police custody.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1869.

    We are heading towards an Orwellian totalitarian state....we are more or less there now!!! People are too obsessed with their X-factors and Jungle celebrities to notice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1868.

    That the turnout is very low just proves that we are sick and tired of being lied to by MP's, etc. That, on top of the scandalous expenses saga, when only a handful of MP's went to prison, is it any wonder we don't vote? This, on top of one of the candidates, John Prescott, being an adulterer and a has-been, doesn't actually fill people with any confidence whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1867.

    What if they gave an election and no-one came?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1866.

    If you don't vote you can't complain.....but if you did vote the you can't complain either because you should abide by the results of the vote, so that's an argument you can never win. Democracy is about the will of the people, well I think the people have spoken so lets end this now before it costs us any more money and wastes time that could be better spent elsewhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 1865.

    This shambolic "government" ought to be made to resign for wasting millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers money on this mess.

    This is NOT the USA, we do NOT need to elect police officers or mayors!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1864.

    I did not vote in this election because I believe an experienced police officer is in the best position to guide an effective police force. Sadly the only way to record my preference is either to deface the ballot paper or not vote. Either way my voice would not have been heard. There should have been an option "I do not want a Police Commissioner"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1863.

    The next time Cameron, Maude, Osborne and co complain about unrepresentative union ballots in support of strike action in the public sector with far more representative figures than these PCC elections we'll quote these apparently perfectly acceptable voting figures back at the government. A clear case of double standards. One rule for us but different rules if it is something we oppose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1862.

    To all those who keep going on along the lines of " so its democracy", "we can vote them out" etc ....

    The thing is once politics enters something its like a disease that brings all sorts of symptoms with it, like spin doctors, back room deals, party politics and who knows what.

    Are the police completely free of politics, no, but my view is this will only make it more a rubbish pit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1861.

    What a waste of time and money. I went to vote last night and the clerks looked relieved to see someone. I spoiled my ballot paper in protest at politics gone mad. The first time that I have ever felt the need to protest. When will the politicians wake up and realise they are here to serve us and not to ignore us. We should be cutting down on bureaucracy, not increasing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1860.

    'I wonder why this HYS was not aired until after the vote?
    BBC political micromanaging again maybe'.

    Or maybe its because the HYS topic is called 'low turnout'. The clue is in the name.

    Also, I think you give too much political clout to a discussion board on the BBC. Not sure Mr Cameron would have read this and changed his mind - he does what the hell he wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1859.

    @1709. JoSurrey:
    >good research opportunity
    >the open Internet
    Pick one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1858.

    Heaven forbid we should take a cynical view of this fiasco but perhaps the idea in the first place was to keep information under the public radar. In this way the turnout is bound to be low and this favours party political candidates. Surely the last thing any of the parties want are independants creating problems for them, now and in the future !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1857.


    They'd be seen as ineffective wouldn't they?

    Would they? They may be quite good at keeping "crime" down in their area and up in others to ultimately take over in other areas.

    They may have more underhand methods than the current public police have.

    The council purses would also be paying a proportion towards profit which they currently do not, so the price could only increase!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1856.

    So far the government has tried to exert it's political influence over controlling factors such as the media .i.e. the BBC and now the police. Who will be next and is anyone other than me feeling worried/scared yet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1855.

    1844. whambam
    Electoral Comm chair Jenny Watson giving information about review says: .. What is important now is the lessons are learnt: Will talk to voters candidates returning officers to understand what worked and what didn't. Commission to undertake thorough review, will present findings to Parliament in early 2013.

    So more money squandering then..not as though there's better to spend it on

  • rate this

    Comment number 1854.

    ->Newport councillor Kevin Whitehead, Independent member for the city's Bettws ward, said it was "staggering" that a polling station had failed to register a single vote.

    ->"It's just apathy. I think apathy rules when it comes to politics in general," he said.

    Many probably choose not to vote for lots of reasons.

    This is not the same as apathy.

    Officials do need to understand the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1853.

    Elections cannot be deliberatley rigged in this country but they can be created to make it as difficult as possible for those who might vote but are unable because of the lack of information about those standing for election, the actual job (Political post ) it self, the cost to the tax payer, the out come apart from ( I want to reduce crime) statement OBVIOUS.


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