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 1812.

    1490.insert_name_here - Those that spolt their papers have a right to complain. BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY got off their bottoms to protest.

    For all i know with the non votes , it could be the wrong colour balloon was shown or bad weather ie a drop of rain ahh diddums

  • rate this

    Comment number 1811.

    For elections such as this, an online voting system would do a great deal to boost participation. Switzerland has a very efficient system that permits citizens to vote on key issues, quickly and easily - so the technology exists.

    Perhaps it is time to bring our electoral systems into this century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1810.

    I voted but was disappointed in the candidates available to vote for. I would have liked to see people with no party affiliations who could provide an independent voice.

    So if you don't agree with the candidates why vote for one of them. If someone offered you a broken leg or a broken arm would you see that youhad accept one of them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1809.

    I voted and spoilt my ballot paper why? £100,000,000 a £100,000 salary is ridiculous,we are meant to be saving money they spend it like its theirs well it's not theirs its mine and yours, and I dont need politicians to keep wasting it on things THEY think is important, so you think this could not have waited until the election ballot papers came out and we could have done this at the same time

  • rate this

    Comment number 1808.


    If there's more crime, they'd be viewed as ineffective & the council (their customer) would contract their competitors who achieve lower crime rates.

    I wonder what may be the most effective way to push a competitor out of business so a company could expand into the new area on the market then...
    The more honest companies could lose to the less, and those then lose to the worst.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1807.

    I wonder if the turnout in Police Commissioner votes would be higher if prisoners were allowed to vote?

    Even more interesting if they could stand....

    Headline reads "Nervous O'Toole and Brassknuckles were just pipped in the voting by Pearly Gates...."

    (Apologies to Wrong Arm of the Law 1963)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1806.

    I have better things to do than taking part in some stupid voting session for this charade. It's a totally ridiculous concept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1805.

    Ah, the naivety of those that think the Police aren't politicised already astounds me. Also, the Police Authorities were a toothless and undemocratic bunch, the introduction of PCCs will be a vast improvement on this - their effectiveness should not be judged by the turnout at yesterdays ballot boxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1804.

    Police are not perfect, as we well know, but in my view will only get worse as politics are brought to it.

    This was the worst idea anyone had.

    I don't trust politicians as they always have an agenda, they are incapable of playing it straight and to most of us the police , warts and all, are the only thing that is reasonably dependable. Now even this is polluted by the political class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1803.

    Once in the job we can see how well they do it, and either vote them out next time or keep them in. That is democracy. Perhaps we could vote for a BBC Director General eventually.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1802.

    If you don't agree with the general concept or the particular candidates you have the option to differentiate yourself from lazy/apathetic stay-at-homes by transporting yourself to the polling station and exercising your democratic right to spoil your ballot paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1801.

    First time in 23 yrs I have not voted. Why don't the government own up that they got this wrong? Huge waste of money on something not wanted or needed. I voted Conservative at the last election and I think the in general the coallition have done ok in unprecedented bad times globally. So rather than blame the voters for not liking new ideas, Man Up ! and admit your mistakes !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1800.

    For those who say not voting takes away your right to an opinion, misunderstands that if there was an option for neither candidate people would vote more. Not voting is still a form of a vote. There are times when just not enough information is available and if I voted at the moment with what I know, the information would not be enough for me to choose wisely, therefore I decide not to vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1799.

    It's staggering how out of touch Politicians are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1798.

    I'm very proud of voting. And yet when i went to vote here, i realised that i knew absolutly nothing about any of the candidates. Political control of what should be a neutral position seemed ridiculous. And yet all of the independents i have never heard of.

    So with great regret, i defaced my ballot paper and x'ed all the independents. At least i voted. But this was a shambles and waste of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1797.

    For posters proudly proclaiming that they voted out of respect for past generation who fought and died for the right to do so..... You might reflect and give those admirable martyrs credit for knowing and understanding the need for what they wanted to vote for. How many people know exactly what their new PCCs will be required to actually do (not talk about) and who really wants them to do it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1796.

    I voted but was disappointed in the candidates available to vote for. I would have liked to see people with no party affiliations who could provide an independent voice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1795.

    The electoral turn out can now be used intelligently. The percentage of the whole Policing for the year in a given area can be allocated according to the percentage of the electoral turn out. This can reflect the amount of interest the local population want to reduce crime,
    mmart move. Now with these figures real savings can be made and Police Commissioners can earn their bonus. Cynical? No.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1794.

    what we voting for. not much of a choice. when we do vote we vote for the best Lie just show's how much of a Joke we have become as a nation even the EU laugh's at us thats how much of a joke we have become
    but it is time to change that and that needs to be done fast. the goveremnet in power now is one big joke

  • rate this

    Comment number 1793.

    "..don't have them in the middle of winter.", "..asking people to schlep to the polling station on a miserable day in November". Good grief. Given all this, how do countries like Iceland maintain a democracy, it being incompatible with poor weather?

    In their 2009 elections, held in April when the average maximum temperature is 6C, there was an 85% turnout.

    And doesn't winter start in December?


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