The votes have been cast and counted and Su Mountstevens, the only Independent candidate in Avon & Somerset, has been elected as our first Police & Crime Commissioner. The turnout was, as predicted, awful as a result, I believe, of 3 factors:
- The role is new and perhaps slightly contrived. There was no great public clamouring for PCCs; they were pushed through by the more wonkish end of the Conservative Party. I bet they thought that given ‘law and order’ has historically been seen as home turf for the Tories, they would clean up and take many of the posts. Oops;
- There is a general malaise in the country about all forms of politics. All 3 main parties are deeply unpopular with the electorate. Labour are blamed for the financial crisis and the Conservatives and LibDems are blamed for making it worse. The well has been further poisoned with continuing tales of expenses misdemeanours;
- The Government bears much of the blame by reneging on its undertaking to fund a leaflet for each of the candidates. These were new roles and needed explaining to the public. In Avon & Somerset there are 700,000 households. It is beyond the means of most candidates to fund production and distribution of literatire across such a wide number. Most people who told me that they wouldn’t be voting blamed a lack of info. They simply didn’t know who to vote for
I have some sympathy with the Government view that turnout will increase as the public gains increasing awareness of the responsibilities and powers of the PCCs. And the next elections will be in May. Why on earth did the LibDems insist on holding these elections in cold, dark November?
So, back to Avon & Somerset. Su Mountstevens romped home in the end with 125,704 votes to Ken Maddock’s 67,842. Given that there was no opinion polling issued, it must really have been anyone’s guess as to how this would pan out. It must have come as something of a shock though to Conservative Ken that he didn’t win the vote in any District except fot the tiny West Somerset. He didn’t even win the vote in his home fiefdom of Mendip. Why? Because no-one likes him. To use the language of the Police. Ken had form, and lots of it. I won’t repeat his crimes against Somerset here; they’re well-known.
I spoke to plenty of Conservatives who said they wouldn’t vote for him and it seemed to me that the better people knew Ken, the less likely they were to vote for him. It begs the question ‘Why didn’t the Conservatives choose a real candidate?’ – one that even they could like. It lends credence to the rumours that Ken was promised the Tory nomination for PCC as the price for getting him out of leading Somerset County Council. Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of him in Somerset politics. Perhaps he’ll do a ‘Livingstone’ and accept that he doesn’t have another election in him.
Su will do a fabulous job as PCC. She is a Magistrate, Member of the former Police Authority and businesswoman. We may not have asked for this role but we can be assured that it has gone to a sensible individual who will acquit themselves well. The march of the Independents goes on. PCC in Somerset, PCC in Dorset, Mayor in Bristol. Where next?