#PCC Elections: Picking through the crumbs of a lack lustre bun fight

#MyPCC wordle

So the Police and Crime Commissioner elections have been and gone, did you notice? Do you really care? As one newspaper headline proclaimed yesterday it truly was a “Dismal day for democracy as voters trickled to the polls.”

Fewer than 15% of voters (overall) turned out in the 41 police areas. The original concerns about election advertising (amongst other things) appear to have been wholly justified. Subsequent to the election, it’s hardly surprising that the Electoral Commission have announced an enquiry into what can only be described as an expensive mess. Yet another politically derived malaise indicative of the now popular ‘omnishambles‘ descriptive, used when talking about our ConDem government.

It was a day of records and firsts – none of them good…(Nick Robinson – BBC Political Editor)

I also find it somewhat ironic that Ministers have said; “a lack of familiarity and understanding of the role may be behind the low turnout” – No shit Sherlock and who’s bloody fault was that?

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…(Jenny Watson, Electoral Commission)

Unsurprisingly, given the predominant political colour of this county, Conservative Julia Mulligan was elected as the PCC for North Yorkshire. She beat Labours Ruth Potter in a two-horse race by 47,885 votes to 34,328 in a low turnout of just 13.3% with 6,400+ spoilt ballot papers (see BBC news). Not what you could really call a resounding mandate from the people, is it?

I intend to work really hard to make sure I represent people fairly across all parts of North Yorkshire and without political prejudice…(Julia Mulligan)

The words and sentiment are highly commendable but surely, shouldn’t working “really hard” be expected from someone receiving a salary of £70,000.00 pa? Despite the fact that many are still arguing, the £70k salary isn’t actually public money being well-spent.

Ms Mulligan conceded that it was her “job to get out there and make sure that people see that this will make a big difference in their local areas.” It’s a pity that the work she is promising for the future, wasn’t  apparently reflected in her pre-election efforts. The public relations and canvasing work that should/could have been done, to help the public better understand all the issues, all appeared to be sadly lacking.

A Facebook comment from a supporter of North Yorkshire’s loosing candidate says it all when considering what these elections actually meant to the general public…

I found it hard to persuade friends to go and vote for a an elected position they did not want. The large amount of spoilt ballots and low turnout proves how unpopular the whole exercise was and it looks like none of those elected have anywhere near a popular mandate for their actions.

When Ms Mulligan takes up her new post on the 22nd of November, I hope and expect that she will confirm the current Chief Constable’s temporary post. But what will happen during the future years of her tenure is anyones guess? Are the public going to get the results they want and not least, will they receive true value for their enforced but unwanted £280k salary investment?

PCCs and the democratic deficit: And so the inquest begins. Why were the people of England and Wales so emphatically indifferent to being given the power to elect their police and crime commissioners…(Mark Easton – BBC Home Affairs)

Like many others, I still remain unconvinced about Ms Mulligan’s ‘vision’ of future policing in the county. Her party on the other hand have actually achieved their aim; despite all the rhetoric and assurances about localism and power to the people, all they really wanted were scapegoats. One of the highest rated commentators to the Mark Easton article (above) summed things up by saying…

Whilst I agree with the general sentiment of the article I would suggest that the public position is even more negative. It’s not that people need to be persuaded that a PCC is a good idea. It is more that they have made up their mind that they do not want political interference in law enforcement. That is my position & I chose to spoil my ballot to give that message…(see here)

But in many ways Ms Mulligan has been set up for a massive fall by her own supporters and her party. The PCC is little more than a convenient political scapegoat, they are people who the government can blame for any problems and issues surrounding our policing. When the public question the politicians about policing they will simply adopt their best sloped shoulder stance, shrug their shoulders and retort; “don’t blame me, that’s what you elected a PCC for.”

The less the public can actually blame a government for when it goes wrong, the greater chance of those politicians remaining in power for longer. Another PR and marketing campaign that might deliver politically but one that has been based upon little more than rhetorical hot air – simples!

Although Labour and the Conservatives roughly split most contests which is probably a good thing thankfully, independents also won a reasonable percentage of the PCC posts (see here).

Twelve independents have been elected as Police and Crime Commissioners as candidates without party labels fared well across England and Wales…(bbc.co.uk)

That said, there is still a distinct lack of true independence in the representation, let alone any policing knowledge and/or apparent experience amongst so many of the elected candidates nationally. That in it self is a very worrying factor. Luckily for those (who actually care) in Co Durham, no doubt they’ll be celebrating knowing that at least they won’t have the latter issue to contend with (see here).

So here we are, two days after something that so few wanted, that hardly anyone (in real terms) engaged with and that (hopefully) won’t actually have that much (real) impact upon policing in the future. At least not when considering the overall good of the service and service delivery to our society.

Democracy is changing before our eyes – more elected posts, more voting systems, more choice as the two-party system continues to break down and, above all other things – more unpredictable than ever…(Nick Robinson – BBC)

Once again we have (mostly) followed an (arguably) failed American model, simply because of some suspect sales literature designed and penned by self-interested staff at a think-tank. That said there are winners; no doubt Blair Gibbs is sitting somewhat smug in the new job he ‘earned’ for himself because of it?

As a result of the experience and knowledge gained in a thirty year police career, whilst maintaining a close interest in all the issues (and many of the subsequent observations) on the PCC proposal, I can now confidently conclude; we’ve been sold a pig-in-a-poke!

My vote was a “No” vote: …We wish to express that this was not an act of apathy, or an uninformed electorate, but a deliberate decision…(sign the e-petition)

British policing (as we know it) has actually been sold down the river and it’s unlikely to ever recover from all this political tinkering. The whole debacle is also likely to leave a very bitter and sour taste in our mouths but I guess now, we’ll just have to suck it and see?

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