Day: 18/11/2012

Police Commissioner elections 2012 – what went wrong?

What went wrong? Well, everything.

When they right the historical accounts of David Cameron’s premiership, there will be many contenders for the chapter title of “Farce”, but I would like to humbly submit the police commissioner elections of 2012 for that honour.

I meant to write an overall analysis of the nationwide results yesterday (and I did manage a local analysis for the Thames Valley), but every time I came to write it all I could see was the turnout figures. The people of England and Wales managed a shocking 15% average turnout (in some places much worse).

Theresa May may well be:

…confident that the turnout at the next election will be greater because people will have seen Police and Crime Commissioners in their posts…

but the verdict from the electorate was that they didn’t want to see them in those posts in the first place. I can’t say anything for certain, but I’d certainly hope that the next Labour government would make sure that these are the last as well as the first elected police commissioners.

Looking at the map of the results, there’s a mixture of red and blue, but also a surprising amount of grey. Yes, a lot of independents won out over party candidates, which I take as part of the public’s distaste for May’s blatant politicising of the police.

I’m not sure that this is necessarily a good thing, to be honest. I know that at least one (Winston Roddick — North Wales) is a Lib Dem in disguise, and given the quality of the independent candidates in the Thames Valley, I worry who may have just taken the reigns of twelve police forces across the country.

Campaigning has been disastrous. Part of it is the huge areas, often very many parliamentary constituencies in size. It was always going to be difficult for candidates to cover so much ground, a problem which wasn’t helped by not giving candidates a free mailshot (if anyone can tell me why, I’d be eternally grateful).

Beyond that, holding an election in the middle of November was a stroke of idiocy. It’s been cold, dark, gloomy and miserable. Poor weather hampered both campaigning and turnout, with activists struggling to get around voters and those same voters were in no way encouraged to venture out of their warm homes to the polling station.

I’ve heard the argument that the US manages to have a country-wide election, so why should it make a difference in the UK? Well, for many reasons. Chiefly that these ill-conceived roles were unwanted, poorly-understood and anonymousWhereas the US presidential election is…not.

The Electoral Reform Society have described these elections as “a comedy of errors“. The Electoral Commission has launched an inquiry into what went wrong. The public is utterly disinterested, and 41 individuals now have the unenviable task of enacting budget cuts without a clear mandate, and after almost certainly having made promises to keep up police numbers.

Surely, amid this democratic humiliation and chaos, someone should be questioning the person behind this policy? Someone needs to be asking the difficult questions of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, as to how this could have happened.