Friday, 16 November 2012

PCC Elections and the Absent Voter

There'll be a lot in the mainstream press in the next 24 hours or so about the appallingly low turnout for yesterday's PCC elections. There will be soul searching and blame-dishing. Was it because all the candidates basically said the same thing? Was it because the LibDems pushed the elections from May to November when no-one wants to vote? And there will be point-scoring, especially from the more left-leaning arguing that the PCCs have no mandate as a result of the low turnout. (Although where that leaves Lucy Powell in Manchester, I'm not sure.)

So why am I adding my own three-penny-worth to it all? Well, from where I'm sitting I think it's quite clear what went wrong and I'm not sure that the press will necessarily pick up on all this because, in some cases, it was there fault.

Here we go:

  • compared to a typical parliamentary election or council election, the candidates for PCC were almost invisible. Yes, you could read their manifesto on a website or call a freephone number and have it sent to you. But that takes initiative. The British voter is used to being bombarded with election literature. They may hate it but some of it does leech into the brain and at the very least acts as a reminder to vote.
  • too many people bought the 'politicisation of the police' argument that was being pushed by the 'liberal' press. Most people are blissfully unaware that the police forces used to have police authorities running them and that those authorities were stuffed full of all manner of political placemen, none of whom had been elected to do that job. Grant Shapps has been tweeting today that even with the low turnouts PCCs had a larger mandate than what preceded them. Maybe more should have been done to put that message about before - maybe our beloved state broadcaster, who has a mission to educate, had a role to play there?
  • and yes, it was difficult to distinguish between mandates that were so bland as to be almost meaningless and that meant you had to try reading between the lines. This one was a former police officer - would he really take on the vested interests? This one seemed to be a bit of an eco-freak - did that mean she would have the usual Green attitude to expenditure. And so on...  But this is probably inevitable first time around and, at the very least, there will be things to vote against if it turned out your PCC didn't do such a good job after all.

Maybe these elections haven't been such a great success and maybe things could have been better. At least we can learn from the mistakes and  keep an eye on our new PCCs to make sure that if they don't do what we want we come out in force to get rid of them when their time's up.

UPDATE 17/11/12: Since writing this, several stories have started to spin around the internet reporting that a number of the elected 'Independent' PCCs are actually members of the Liberal Democrat Party. I confess I don't know whether this is grounds for disqualification, but, if true, it certainly brings into question their suitability to undertake a public role in which being trustworthy is a key quality.

No comments:

Post a Comment