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National flop in PCC elections

Words: Charlotte Cox and Caitlin Gray.

The first ever Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election in the UK saw the worst turn out of any election since the second world war.

The voter turnout ranged from 13-20% nationwide. The Guardian’s Deborah Orr argued: “It’s arrogant of the Conservatives to establish these new police commissioners – the electorate has not provided a mandate for this.”

In the majority of cases, the public were simply not informed about the elections that were taking place and what impact they would have on the local communities. Many have complained that there was not enough publicity or political attention given to the by-election.

Or, alternatively, do the public just want the authorities to do a competent job for them without any of the responsibility of the decision making, thereby removing themselves from the accountability?

Overall, Orr argued that it was a “comedy of errors from start to finish”. The Conservatives have argued that the by-election is a display of democracy by giving the public a chance to decide upon their local leaders, yet the amount of votes cast told a different story. So, do the public care about democracy, or are they just apathetic to the subject?

In Norfolk, independent candidate Stephen Bett won the election with 3,378 votes over the closest opposition, Conservative candidate Jamie Athill.

Although he ran as an independent candidate, Bett was a Conservative party member for 27 years, and represented the Tories at county council level.

Having worked for the Norfolk Police Authority for 16 years, Bett resigned as the chairman to stand in the elections. Bett stated his belief that “politics should not be a part of policing. We should do what is best for the people and the constabulary of Norfolk.

I feel that I have shown in the past 17 years that I have done that and I would like to do it through these very, very tricky times”.

With an established track record of working with the Norfolk police force, Bett clearly impressed the public enough to win.

However, turnout in Norfolk was incredibly low, at just 14.5%, despite efforts to publicise the election. £5,000 was spent to produce a video raising awareness, which was filmed in key locations across the county, and featured a rap by local author and journalist, Keith Skipper, under the guise of Duzzy Raskel. Skipper stated: “I don’t think people can complain if they haven’t voted.”

However, the statistics get worse in other areas across the UK. In Bettws Ward, part of Newport in Wales, no votes were cast.

There were rumours that the polling station was held in a rundown cricket club, and the Conservative councillor Matthew Evans, who is also the leader of the opposition in the area, blamed the lack of turnout on the time of year, saying: “it’s cold and miserable”. He also said that the fact that no one has voted “doesn’t show anybody in a particularly good light”.

All in all, Britain’s current attitude seems to agree with Andrew Rawnsley, who jibed: “There’s an election … get me out of here.”

20/11/2012

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