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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  • Comment number 1912.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1911.

    The record poor turnout and deliberately spoiled papers should be seen for what they were: a protest against the concept of the new roles and the intention to politically control the activities of local Policing. There need to be checks and controls but not like this.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1910.

    This is the first time I have not voted... it cuts me to the core actually but I was laid up in bed ill - usually that wouldn't stop me from voting but my plan was to spoil my ballot so I stayed in bed.

    I really think we need to introduce a quorum level for elections - turnouts of 15% and lower - with high numbers of spoiled ballots counted - do not represent a democratic mandate.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1909.

    Why do people state, "people fought and died to get you the right to vote" and then moan because we do not vote. The main point is "the right to vote" it is not compulsory to vote. The only candidate I knew about was the Tory, so if I did vote it would be wasted because I am not voting for who I think is the best but the only candidate I know about. Voter Apathy, no. Candidate Apathy Yes

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1908.

    A complete farce and waste of money. The only problems the police have faced is useless goverments and out of touch and weak judges and magistrates. We need a vote on the EU which is alot more important.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1907.

    For the first time since i was given the vote, i didnt use it. I have always said that voting is a duty as well as a privelege. It wasnt apathy that stopped me, nor was it that i disagree with the policy (although it does leave me a liitle uneasy). No, I didnt vote because where i live we were given no information on any of the candidates with which to make an informed decision.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1906.

    Went along to my poling station to ask for any info on the candidates before voting. Couldn't oblige so I didn't vote. I wanted an independant candidate to vote for as I firmly believe politicians and police do not mix.
    The ideal candidate must have police experience. The whole execise was a waste of time, apart from telling the government to leave well be.
    Omer 12

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1905.

    I didn't receive any information from any candidate,or a voting card, nor was I told where to vote. It was sloppy. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1904.

    I find it interesting that there are so many comments on this thread which indicate people are not as apathetic as the press make out. I would have liked to have seen an additional option on the ballot paper for people to vote that they felt the PCC role is unnecessary. I wonder how many voters would have chosen this option?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1903.

    First time I've ever declined to vote - because I strongly disagree with this new political, costly & unnecessary role. Not about a lack of info - it was there to be found. Nothing wrong with the existing Police Authorities - a mix of local knowledge, experience and views - as opposed to one politically motivated & influenced individual. Should be void with such a low turnout & spoiled papers

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1902.

    Like most of you, I decided to vote my disapproval of this by not voting. I know nothing on how a Police Force is run, that is why we had Police Commissioners. The only reason I can see for this change is if the crime figures go up in an area, the Government can say it is not their fault.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1901.

    All elections should have a "no confidence" option so that voters can register their disapproval of the whole framework and/or candidates. I suspect in this case "no confidence" might have actually won most of the phoney "elections".

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1900.

    Worcestershire, I voted because we had an Independent candidate who bothered to distribute his profile. Police experience over years said it all to me. If I have got to vote on this I will: Keep politics out of the police! I did a granny run after voting myself, taking those who wanted to vote of a "certain age" and all who thought it important to have an experienced police officer in the job.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1899.

    What a farce these Police Elections have been. Turn out pathetic.
    I along with many did not want the elections, we received no information other than a polling card.
    To find out anything about the candidates you needed to access the internet, no everyone has a computer.
    I decided not to vote in the end as out of the 3 candidates for West Mercia there was not one I could support.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1898.

    Having a political party sponsored Police Commissioner is absolutely wrong. In Dyfed Powys we only had a choice of Tory or Labour, neither had police experience. What the job needed was somebody who was a proven administrator with real experience not a career politician or ex soldier. A waste of time and money.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1897.

    There was nothing wrong with the old system of Police Authorities. Should the majority of elected PCCs be 'Independents', that is the public telling the political classes that they are concerned about further political influence over the police and things should have been left as they were.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1896.

    I voted yesterday, but only very reluctantly. At a time of austerity I failed to understand why this government chose to spend millions trying to fix something which wasn't broke.

    I was also concerned why party political involvement was deemed necessary in this election. Surely the police should be totally independent of political parties.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1895.

    Heard them all on the TV recently? DC and T May and Ed Milband etc all say 'I think that...." Will they ever learn that what they think doesn't matter it's what the population thinks that counts and they should be following the poupulation. They are there to serve us not the other way round. Getting elected seems to give an instant dose of megalomania and this whole farce reflects it. Fed up!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 1894.

    How arrogant the public decide that the elections are meaningless and poorly run and so don't turn out like lemmings to vote and the Tory boys say its because we don't understand the role. Message to Tories we do understand and we have decided the elections are pointless and undemocratic. So don't patronise us and instead don't bother us with political nonsense when we are fighting for our jobs

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1893.

    1840.NotMeHonest
    "you had your chance, and you wasted it"

    No I did not.

    I had no chance to say I did not want these elections.

    And there was no candidate that earned my vote.

    I've wasted nothing.

 

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